Thursday, March 07, 2013

Climate change deniers trade in disinformation

A draft of the next major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been leaked on line by a small-time climate change denier, doubtless seeking to enter the big time.

Childishly grabbing one out-of-context sentence from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), US Republican blogger Alec Rawls claims the report supports the idea that any warming is due to natural effects. A riot ensues on the internet, the major well-paid climate denial bloggers pitch in and Fox News is ecstatic.

Then Professor Steve Sherwood, one of the report's authors and director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, responds saying: "Oh that's completely ridiculous. I'm sure you could go and read those paragraphs yourself and the summary of it and see that we conclude exactly the opposite, that this cosmic ray effect that the paragraph is discussing appears to be negligible."

So I did, and here's AR5's actual conclusion: “The lack of trend in the cosmic ray intensity over the last 50 years provides another strong argument against the hypothesis of a major contribution of cosmic rays to on-going climate change."

So there you go – I have single-handedly refuted the key plank of climate denialology in one short hour – assisted, naturally, by every single respectable and qualified climate scientist in the world.

AR5 is a highly technical summary of all the current climate change science. That a minor right-wing blogger with no scientific qualifications was able to get the draft by signing himself up as one of 800 "expert reviewers" underlines just how flawed the review process is. Indeed our very own climate sceptic eccentric Lord Monckton (qualification: a degree in Classics from Cambridge University) is signed up as an expert reviewer.

Rawls has done us all a favour by publishing this draft before the reviewers get their hands on it. Whilst the IPCC can ignore low-level bloggers like Rawls and Monckton, the politically appointed big guns brought in by, for example, the US and Chinese governments will have plenty of influence.

AR4, the first global report to state that man-made climate change is an undeniable fact, was changed at review to say it was 90% certain. In fact the IPCC has been accused of frequently underestimating the speed of climate change, because including all respectable studies creates a certain levelling effect.

For example, the 2007 report concluded that Arctic sea ice would not completely melt until 2070 at the earliest though even there was plenty of evidence of a faster trajectory, which has proved right with ice-free summers likely by 2030.

Meanwhile more information emerges about shady corporate funding for climate change deniers. Documents leaked to Desmogblog expose the role of the Heartland Institute in channeling corporate cash to climate change deniers.

For example Fred Singer, a history professor at a Jesuit University who is notorious for his role in the Channel 4 documentary The Great Climate Change Swindle, gets $5,000 per month, plus expenses.

In Australia, Robert Carter gets $1,667 per month. He is a paleontology professor at the University of New South Wales, but also has time to work for Heartland AND be a Senior Policy Advisor at the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing free-market Australian think tank.

Craig Idso, another US blogger, writes for the Heartland-sponsored Nongovernmental  International Panel on Climate Change, a shadow organisation that exists solely to challenge IPCC reports. Idso is now researching carbon capture and storage. You could ask why, if emissions are not a problem? Still it is likely to be a lucrative new field with funding from the US coal industry.

In spite of modest salaries and constant departmental cuts, not one respectable climatologist has been bought into the ranks of the deniers. That tells us that money only buys distortion, misinformation and downright lies.
Penny Cole
Environment editor

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