More Questionable IPCC Sources

Now, this is really silly…

According to a report in the Telegraph, the IPCC AR4 included references to a climber’s magazine article and an MA Thesis to support its claims about glacier loss and global warming impacts.

The IPCC WG2 report, Chapter 1, Section 3.2 on “Observed effects due to changes in the cryosphere cites a “loss of mountain climbs” as evidence of the effects of global warming on the cryosphere. It cites Schworer (1997) and Bowen (2002).

Schwörer, D.A., 1997: Bergführer und Klimaänderung: eine Untersuchung im Berninagebiet über mögliche Auswirkungen einer Klimaänderung auf den Bergführerberuf (Mountain guides and climate change: an inquiry into possible effects of climatic change on the mountain guide trade in the Bernina region, Switzerland). Diplomarbeit der philosophisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Universität Bern.

Bowen, N., 2002: Canary in a coalmine. Climbing News, 208, 90-97, 138-139.

I understand that these contained “anecdotal evidence” provided by hikers and climbers about glacier loss. *shakes head* — but — are there no actual studies of ice loss that one might use instead, you know, for the sake of scientific credibility?

From the article:

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information.

However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them.

The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master’s degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007.

What’s really head-shake inducing is the following:

It can be revealed that the IPCC report made use of 16 non-peer reviewed WWF reports.

One claim, which stated that coral reefs near mangrove forests contained up to 25 times more fish numbers than those without mangroves nearby, quoted a feature article on the WWF website.

In fact the data contained within the WWF article originated from a paper published in 2004 in the respected journal Nature.

In another example a WWF paper on forest fires was used to illustrate the impact of reduced rainfall in the Amazon rainforest, but the data was from another Nature paper published in 1999.

When The Sunday Telegraph contacted the lead scientists behind the two papers in Nature, they expressed surprise that their research was not cited directly but said the IPCC had accurately represented their work.

Like, did denialist moles infect the IPCC and purposely use sloppy citations just to embarrass the IPCC?

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot…

Of course, WUWT is talking this up:

It’s worse than we thought! Now the IPCC has been citing magazine articles, like this one from Climbing Magazine, issue 208, shown at left. We’ve heard the title before, according to their index“Canaries in a Coal Mine,” – Feature on global loss of glaciers.

Seriously though, the WG report has over 640 references so if two are questionable, it’s 0.3% which is not all that shabby.  Still. Were those references really that significant that they warranted inclusion considering the sources?

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48 Responses to “More Questionable IPCC Sources”

  1. Ugh, this is beyond stupid.

    Schworer and Bowen were both cited in a table and their work was not discussed at all. Give me a break.

    • In principle I agree but why cite the work then — if it’s not important enough to discuss in the body of the work, it seems to me that it could have been left out. Of course, the people involved in creating the chapter probably didn’t think that skeptics and deniers would go through it with a fine-toothed comb looking to manufacture concerns.

      • If they did not expect that, then they are truly stupid. More likely, they did not expect the press to notice complaints by skeptics. However, Climategate lowered the stature of the IPCC and raised the stature of the skeptics. It is much easier for skeptics to get their side heard in the press now.

        • Stupid? I would say instead politically naive or too trusting that people read in good faith.

          This train wreck of “gates” is all about appearance not substance, as all such debates are.

          • Not true. The IPCC has screwed up big time by allowing in citations to politically motivated “gray literature” with their alarmist claims. It seems clear this was a strategy the IPCC thought was politically expedient. Plus it was good for Pachauri’s business. I understand he got some research money to study the Himalayan glaciers.

            Pachauri was still claiming the AR4 was based on peer-review research only as late as 2008. See

            When you watch that video remember than the real scientists are trying to figure out why temps have not risen as much as expected.

            This train wreck of “gates” you are watching is the meltdown of the current IPCC. I expect a new one will arise. Hopefully, it will be led by people who are more circumspect in summarizing the peer-reviewed climate research.

            • The problem with your comments are as follows:

              – The WWF, while an advocacy group, did cite peer-reviewed literature.

              – The IPCC “strategy” is something you fabricated all on your own for I see nothing to back it up except your assertion.

              – Pachauri’s foundation got research money but there is no evidence that it would not have received money if that singular citation was not used in the IPCC report. Can you prove that or just make insinuations?

              – If 99.5% of all citations are peer-reviewed, isn’t it just splitting hairs if 0.5% are gray?

              • – WWF mis-cited peer-reviewed literature

                – The IPCC strategy is clearly seen in Annex 2 which passed in 2003. Why was gray literature needed? The only possible reason is because it contains claims that would not pass peeer-review.

                – Pachauri’s foundation got research money to study a threat that does not exist. Some of the Himalayan glaciers are grwoing.

                – It is not splitting hairs but the more alarmist claims in the IPCC report are the ones which get the most press and those claims come from the gray literature.

                • – mis-cited is a matter of opinion

                  – the Annex clearly states that there is a need for the IPCC to sometimes cite non-peer reviewed or published literature. You are writing into that document your own conclusions about motives without adequate evidence

                  – the threat is supported in like, gobs of peer-reviewed literature and evidence but the 2035 number was wrong. The threat remains valid, and just because it is not in our lifetimes doesn’t mean it isn’t real for future inhabitants.

                  – with the exception of the 2,035 error, the other gray citations got more press coverage from denialist organizations…

  2. So long as the information is accurate, why should anyone care the source?

    What evidence have you that the information is not accurate? What peer-reviewed journal is that claim of yours based on?

    • Here’s the thing about anecdotal evidence — it holds little weight in scientific terms as there is no value in it unless it can be backed up with actual empirical evidence. It’s like asking all your grandparents about the old days — great for telling stories and for oral histories, but not really of much value in scientific terms. Think about the anecdotal evidence for the MWP — better we have actual scientifically analyzed proxy evidence than use them. Just MHO.

      • The sad thing is that there IS more than anecdotal evidence: where a table shows references to peer reviewed literature on the cryospheric changes.

        • I agree — it is sad. They could have taken out the two references with no loss of real important evidence, but the inclusion of those two pieces of evidence make the rest appear suspect to those who don’t understand.

          This is the problem when some issue gets politicized — optics matter more than substance in the public sphere. The substance is that the cryosphere is clearly affected and will clearly be affected by climate change. The optics are that the IPCC used flaky evidence to back up its claims. It will be very difficult to overcome the optics no mater how much substance you show was there all along.

          The lesson from this is that the documents will be placed under deep deep scrutiny and thus every statement and every reference will be as well in an attempt by deniers and the like to find insignificant errors and overstatement and blow them up out of proportion. The IPCC has to be very careful from now on with its final documents so that they are peerless.

      • Ah, but the deniers love the anecdotal evidence for the MWP, you hear them screaming all the time “but wine in England!”.

        On a more realistic note, perhaps for this particular metric this was what they had — since most of the work on mountain ice is focused on glaciers and not icefields, however vertical they might be.

        • Then, if that was the case, better to leave it out than use references that are not of top quality. That’s what we’ve learned about the WWF citations. The WWF papers did cite scientific peer-reviewed literature, which the review authors and chapter authors should have used instead. Damn. This is undergrad-level stuff — finding original sources to use instead of secondary.

        • Wine in England is not anecdotal evidence, it is phenological evidence… as is Vikings farming in Greenland, etc.

          • Built on anecdotes.

            • Rattus,
              Phenological evidence is similar to material evidence in a court of law. Material evidence, like DNA, is among the strongest evidence available.

          • You have not provided evidence that those anecdotes about wine in England and farming in Greenland are the result of a global phenomenon, and not just the result of regional warming. That is what is needed to take this from anecdote to sound argument.

            • Susann,
              The phenological evidence is mainly northern hemisphere. This is true. But the southern hemisphere has more ocean and less chance of evidence. Plus there may be phenological evidence in SH that I am unaware of.

              The phenological evidence is far stronger than a temp reconstruction by Michael Mann.

          • If it’s such important evidence, please note that vineyards in England are now MUCH further north than they ever were during the MWP…

    • By the way, the “climbing magazine article” author is a physicist (Ph.D. from MIT), and climate change researcher with two books on climate change to his credit.

      Put this in perspective: The guy’s a much greater expert than Anthony Watts is.

      Why shouldn’t his work be cited? His work is cited by the best glacier researchers. He’s pretty good, it appears.

      Anecdotes, expert work, and a pile of peer-reviewed studies — the contrarians don’t even have anecdotes.

      • The climber is giving anecdotes without any way of knowing the cycles the glaciers go through over a multi-decadal period much less what the glaciers were like 1900. His article is not science and should never have been cited.

        Is this really what the IPCC defenders have been reduced to? Defending non-science because it appears in AR4? How disappointing.

        • Ron, where did you find a copy of the article?

          • I doubt that Ron has found a copy of the article, since it does not appear to be online. I’ve sent off a request to the author for a copy and asked some questions about his methodology.

            BTW, I’ve read “Thin Ice” and it was a fascinating look at the work which Thompson has done as well as a very good introduction to climate science in general, since he covers quite a bit of the history. Well worth reading.

            • Mark Bowen has posted a copy of the article (with updates and corrections)on his website.

              Not bad, it has a lot of anecdotal evidence, some stretching back to the 1880’s of the loss of ice in the Andes, on Kilimanjaro and in the Himalayas. He also relates a good chunk of the work of Lonnie Thompson, whom he has accompanied on several expeditions.

              AFAIK, the science, and he discusses it a lot, is well represented. The IPCC has nothing to be embarrassed about in citing this as a source.

        • Ron, if you actually took the time to read the IPCC report instead of FOX news you would see that in fact there are 640+ citations in the WG2 report and so, much good peer-reviewed science to consider. That you spend your time on the couple of lesser citations is telling.

          • Susann,
            I read the portion of the AR4 written by WG1. The actual physical science part is far more interesting to me than the supposed changes. Changes will happen whether the warming is natural or man-made. The big question is how much of the warming is natural and how much is man-made.

            The claim about the Himalayan glaciers is interesting to me because it illumines the IPCC’s desperation to scare people into action. Scientists are supposed to be skeptical. But I do not see a scientific attitude anywhere close to the IPCC.

            • Ah, that must be why they decided to NOT take glacier dynamics into consideration, and thus come with a low-end prediction of sea level rise only. They simply were not skeptical enough!

      • Ed. while I agree in principle with you, the reality is that denialists and contrarians are here to stay and scientists must realize that they will do what they can to discredit the IPCC, regardless of the merits of the case. In these circumstances, the IPCC needs better political advisors to make sure nothing gets through that can harm the process. It’s not enough that the author of the climbing mag is a bona fide researcher — the citations used in the assessment reports should be of the highest quality. I know scientists don’t want to have to worry about optics, and they shouldn’t, but they must be aware of the climate of doubt the deniers are busy trying to foster and try not to provide them with any fodder.

        • These references are of the highest quality. None of the contrarians has found any error, and more important, none have suggested any research to indicate the opposite.

          I think the claim that Einstein can’t be trusted because he is only a patent-office clerk is bizarre, and unworthy of this discussion.

          That is their claim, at the heart.

          • Ed, not true. The claim is the mountain climber wrote a non-science article based on recent observations. These are meaningless when discussion long-term trends and the presence or absence of natural cycles in glacier growth. If Himalayan glaciers are anything like arctic sea ice, then cycles are to be expected. The arctic sea was ice free in 1944 and the Northwest Passage was open just like it was in the summer of 2007. But alarmists do not like to be reminded of history or cycles and so they embrace an non-science based on anecdotal evidence.

            The IPCC never should have lowered their standard to accept gray literature in 2003. What was the motive? Why would the IPCC do that? What was the need? If the need was so great and so easy to understand, why did Pachauri say in 2008 that the IPCC relies only on peer-reviewed literature?

            This thing stinks to the high and icy Himalayas and no amount of French perfume is going to cover up the smell.

            • Again, Ron, I’m interested in where you found the article. You imply you’ve read it. Have you?

              What, specifically, are you complaining about in the Climbing article?

              No, Himalayan glaciers are not like arctic sea ice, by the way. They cycle, but that doesn’t nullify the observations of people who study them.

              You claim the information is in error, but you don’t say which information, and you don’t specify anything but black (beyond gray) literature as your source.

              You’re making me wonder if this blog should ever have lowered its standard in accepting evidence.

              What stinks? Do you even know?

            • the IPCC had to let gray literature in, mostly because there was so much information that was not available in the peer reviewed literature. This applies in particular to WG3 (there’s still little peer reviewed research on mitigation approaches and economics in this area), but also to WG2, which had to deal with regional observation. For some regions we have a lot of published observations in the peer reviewed literature, for some not so much.

              Regarding arctic sea ice: you are comparing apples with pears. In 1944 one(!) ship indeed navigated the Northwestern Passage. It was a specially build ship (a reinforced schooner that even could handle being completely stuck in ice), and took several months to navigate the passage. Currently, the Nortwest Passage can even be navigated by normal ships. To claim the arctic sea was “ice free” is to repeat fairy tales. It wasn’t.

              Could you be so kind to refer us to the exact quote of Pachauri in 2008?

        • . . .denialists and contrarians are here to stay and scientists must realize that they will do what they can to discredit the IPCC, regardless of the merits of the case. In these circumstances . . .

          We don’t have to let them, you know. We can call their bluff.

  3. Using questionable sources is not the only way the IPCC biases their reports. I just read this:

    “On the other hand, the community is sometimes reluctant to include troublesome critics in its efforts. For instance, when the IPCC recently set up a special working group to address natural disasters, the US government nominated ecologist Pielke. The IPCC declined to appoint him.”

    Pielke is an ISI highly cited researcher, one of the most respected and prolific climate researchers on the planet and the IPCC does not want him. Interesting, no?

    • Ron, you are confusing Pielke Sr and Jr. The latter has an OK number of publications and citations, but isn’t on the ISI list. Neither are ecologists, Pielke Jr is actually a political scientist.

      Oh, and Pielke Sr may be a ISI highly cited author, but his recent work is far below par. His Klotzbach et al article referred to a previous paper by his group (Lin et al) that actually (after correction of an embarrassing sign error) turned out to contradict Klotzbach et al, as well as a prior paper (Matsui&Pielke). Moreover, Sr has been heavily involved in Watts’ surfacestation project, which has now been shown to be a load of hot air (Menne et al, 2010).

      • Marco,
        You are correct. Because the article did not say Sr or Jr, I presumed it was Sr. They both have blogs. When I went back and checked, the article linked to Jr.’s blog. My mistake.

  4. Susann,
    You should do a post on Climategate investigations. It was originally reported that Phil Jones broke the law but could not be prosecuted. It is now being reported this is wrong. See

    Also, Penn State has completed their investigation of Michael Mann. Results will be announced this week.

    It will be nice to have a place to discuss both of these cases as new information is released.

  5. There might be global warming or cooling but the important issue is whether we, as a human race, can do anything about it.

    There are a host of porkies and not very much truth barraging us everyday so its difficult to know what to believe.

    I think I have simplified the issue in an entertaining way on my blog which includes some issues connected with climategate and “embarrassing” evidence.

    In the pipeline is an analysis of the economic effects of the proposed emission reductions. Watch this space or should I say Blog

    Please feel welcome to visit and leave a comment.



    PS The term “porky” is listed in the Australian Dictionary of Slang.( So I’m told.)

    • I visited and left a comment. Wondering how soon it’ll be struck:

      There has historically been much more CO2 in our atmosphere than exists today. For example, during the Jurassic Period (200 mya), average CO2 concentrations were about 1800 ppm or about 4.7 times higher than today. The highest concentrations of CO2 during all of the Paleozoic Era occurred during the Cambrian Period, nearly 7000 ppm — about 18 times higher than today.

      So, is it fair to say you think humans are a pox on the Earth and should be wiped out?

      Humans weren’t around in either of those previous eras or periods you cite, nor could human activity including civilization as we know it survive.

      Are you just giddy from reading Malthus, unhinged from reading Swift, or joking? I’m not sure. Please advise.

      • Ed thanks for your comment.

        I never strike comments off my blog unless they contain obscenities. Havent had to strike yet.

        This means my mind is open to sound reasoning.
        Sadly on every AGW site that I have commented on, I have either received abusive replies including personal attacks or the comment never gets past the moderator. Sadly I have never received a logical informed facts complete with references that support AGW.
        But as I said my mind is open, but I expect reason, not faith.



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