IPCC Fraud Solutions

Concern is often expressed about the way the IPCC has been conducted, and I want to suggest a constructive solution. Recently, a climate scientist was critical of freedom of information inquiries reported at ClimateAudit, but made some points that help to illustrate the errors in the current state of thinking. Below is my solution, after extracting quotes from a couple of Michael Tobis’ posts, made in a slightly different context.

Most established climatologists didn’t seek controversy in their career choice. The model of the culture as secretive, manipulative and selfish is not a good explanation of the facts.

Formal processes are intrinsically expensive, and they also reduce the attractiveness of the work, implying greater compensation.

Such a change will in fact attract different people as well as different methods. Something will be lost in the process, and an eye to preserving as much of the collegial culture as possible is also worth considering.

Am I saying, “we are in trouble, send money”? Not really. I don’t think climate science is first order important as of now, as the big picture is pretty clear. It’s those of you who don’t trust us who should be willing to invest in the matter.

I suggest recruiting people from other sciences who don’t have a dog in the hunt. But I’m afraid you’ll get the same answer you always do. The sensitivity to CO2 doubling on a century time scale is about 3 C. Sloppy methods or not we have this thing nailed. Now you can let us keep thinking about our angles and pins, or you can hire somebody to replicate our work.

But if you insist on your sport of sniping at our informality, if you insist that we become more formal, you need to invest a lot of money to train us and/or replace us, because we weren’t trained as MDs or pharmacologists or (a few exceptions like myself notwithstanding) as engineers.

The state of academic science is what it is for a number of reasons. Climatology is unexceptional except in having to deliver some very disconcerting news. You may argue that the nature of the news is such that climatology becomes higher stakes and needs to be reorganized and formalized. I have a great deal of sympathy with that position, and in that regard among others I’m an outlier within the field. Note, though, that such endeavors are expensive and prone to failure.

The ‘opus’ that exists, the response to a need for an organized presentation, is the IPCC WGI reports. For all its flaws, the IPCC consensus process and its reports are an interesting and useful achievement.

The network of trust on which human progress is based is badly frayed these days. I don’t think Climate Audit has made matters any better, but I understand that trust can;t be manufactured on demand. All I can do is state that I have complete confidence in the intellectual competence and moral integrity of those leading figures in the field I have been privileged to work with…

It’s a problem. People are demanding forms of “proof” that aren’t well suited to the problem area. Atmospheres are complicated and interesting beasts; atmosphere-ocean-ice systems (of which we have only one non-simulated instance) the more so. They aren’t unknowable, but predictions about large experiments on a specific system will always be contingent.

Suppose rather than sneering at what is wrong you make some suggestions as to how to set it right, what scale that would require, and who should pay for it.

That said, I believe that the concept of an outside audit is sound and I advocate one for the field of economics, so I can’t consistently argue against one for climatology. I’d be interested in constructive ideas as to how we could improve our credibility if our understanding is sound, or test our understanding if it isn’t.

In my view the UN IPCC report is simply a review of the literature, useful but unsystematic, incomplete and unremarkable apart for the hype surrounding it. Medical science conducts reviews all the time, and they have found that some guiding principles of Evidence Based Practice are essential:

1. The review must be systematic. The type of evidence to be used is explicitly stated by the commissioning agency and the procedures adhered to, with a view to minimizing personal bias.

1. The review must be without conflict of interest. It must be done by people with nothing to gain from the promotion of specific studies.

3. The review must pay particular attention to the relative quality of evidence contributed by each study.

In respect to the third point, a number of different systems have been set up. Adaptation of one of the most well known, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Oxford, leads to a hierarchy of evidence something like the following, highest level first:

Level 1. Blind and randomized studies with publicly archived data and code.
Level 2. Comprehensive and independently tested studies with publicly archived data and code.
Level 3. Observational evidence and correlation studies with publicly archived data.
Level 4. Theory, models, and case studies.
Level 5. Expert opinion.

The application of such a system to climate science is not necessarily regulatory, but methodological for evaluating existing evidence in focussed systematic reviews. This would not be expensive, or require an overhaul or massive retraining of climate scientists as Michael Tobis fears. It would provide a positive incentive for studies to be structured in ways that have been proven to yield more reliable results, with less personal bias. It would help to build a climate of trust.

For example, a review commission might stipulate that all evidence is to be level 3 and above, requiring at least publicly archived data. This would eliminate a great deal of studies cited in the IPCC review. It would however provide a strong incentive for archiving data the next time around.

A blind trial of climate models need not be any more expensive than comparison trials as they are currently conducted. As an example, accuracy of a range of niche modeling methods were evaluated in a blind trial reported here.

It would be recognized that the IPCC is just another review, and an unstructured and biased one at that. Its main in-scope goal is to find a human influence on climate, and the range of reasons for climate change are out-of-scope, creating a systematic bias against natural explanations for climate change. This predeliction is clearly stated in its reward of a Nobel Peace Prize for:

“for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”

So my solution is not one thats tend to one extreme or the other, from cries of “fraud” to blind acceptance of IPCC as gospel truth. The solution is just to keep it in perspective, and for those who are financially impacted by the implications to conduct their own structured reviews of key components of the case, and let these be a guide to their policy decisions.

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Introduction to Carbon Credits

The carbon credit scheme was set up to allow EU countries or companies that fail to meet designated emission reduction targets to avoid paying penalties by purchasing carbon credits. Carbon credits are issued on projects around the world that result in reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases. They are also a traded by brokers to facilitate exchange. For example the Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX) has become first exchange in Asia to trade carbon credits. India has apparently generated some 30 million carbon credits and has roughly another 140 million to push into the world market.

Trading

A ‘trade’ occurs when carbon credits are secured and then surrendered or acquitted through an accredited carbon broker, carbon exchange or carbon registry. For people that want to reduce their carbon footprint, carbon credits can be purchased and (sometimes) exchanged with other environmental organizations. I have noticed a slew of websites appearing on the net that sell carbon credits to people that want to offset the carbon emissions produced as a by-product of the goods and services they consume. But what do you really get for your carbon credits? Origin Energy for $17.50 sells a gift certificate and a promise to offset 1 tonne of carbon in recognized carbon reduction activities such as energy efficiency projects, renewable energy or low-emission generation, carbon sequestration and industrial abatement like fuel substitution.

Credits

Credits can be exchanged between businesses or bought and sold in international markets at the prevailing market price. For example Origin’s Carbon Reduction Scheme can be used to finance carbon reduction schemes between trading partners and around the world. Credits are awarded to countries or groups that have reduced their green house gases below their emission quota. The quality of the credits is based in part on the validation process and sophistication of the fund or development company that acted as the sponsor to the carbon project. Once purchasing an allowance of credits, each unit gives the owner the right to emit one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or other equivalent greenhouse gas.

Price

Prices change and exchange rates fluctuate. Carbon prices are normally quoted in Euros per tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent (CO2e). The price range people were getting used to was about Euro 15 or maybe less per tonne of carbon. Unfortunately, there’s a hitch in this scheme that threatens to totally derail it: carbon prices are plummeting due to an excess supply. This time last year credits fell to less than 9 cents. Never mind, the UN will restore confidence in its beleaguered Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon offsetting scheme and drive up the cost of carbon credits, according to a new report released on 24 June 2008.

Science

What happens if the science of the IPCC is flawed, as we often find here on this site? The idea that modern “science” is somehow pure and immune from bias is simply not realistic. There is a tendency to believe what suits one politically regardless of the science and I for one am no different. So bias is unsurprising since the member countries Australia, Canada, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, all of which have had a hand in editing the science and the political statement, are whittling away anything contrary. If only the climate science community was as as conscious of human bias as the medical community and adopted the standards of Evidence Based Practice in reviews of the evidence supporting their claims. If the science turns out to be flawed I expect carbon credits will continue to be a commodity, only you can’t eat them like hog’s bellies.

Selling

If you want to make money on carbon credits you need to be a seller. You can become a seller by investing in new low-emission machinery and apply for an allowance. The cost of the seller’s new machinery would be subsidized by the sale of allowances. Another seller might be a company that will offer to offset emissions through a project in the developing world, such as recovering methane from a swine farm to feed a power station that previously would use fossil fuel. Waste disposal units, plantation companies, chemical plants and municipal corporations can sell the carbon credits and make money, even selling them on eBay! Then again, you could become a management consultant and scout for buyers to sell carbon credits to.

Then again, with an alternative energy bubble in play, we could be looking at the start of the next major bull market. Good Luck!

Article with links to more information.

Greenhouse Thermodynamics and GCMs

The recent state of knowledge of global warming report released by the IPCC claims to have direct evidence of the enhanced greenhouse effect (EGE) responsible for global warming. In Chapter 3 Section 3.4 p40 of WG1 they make claims (1) the available data do not indicate a detectable trend in upper-tropospheric relative humidity, and (2) there is now evidence for global increases in upper-tropospheric specific humidity over the past two decades, which is consistent with the observed increases in tropospheric temperatures and the absence of any change in relative humidity.

Water in the upper atmosphere is important as, according to the theory, increases in greenhouse gases set off a positive feedback loop that amplifies the temperature increase, by increasing in water content in the warmer air and decreasing infared radiation is released to space. Notably, all global climate models (GCMs) show warming in the upper troposphere according to the EGE.

Now claims of direct evidence of the mechanism for global warming are particularly important, as they provide proof that increasing temperature is not due to some other mechanism. I have been looking into the veracity of this claim, here and here.

But despite the IPCC claims of no change to the relative humidity, the figure from the NCEP here shows it to be falling strongly, at all levels of the upper atmosphere and particularly in the upper troposphere (UT). A very readable paper by Minschwaner and Dessler (MD07) provides a clue. They show that while increasing temperature slightly increases water vapor and specific humidity (and thus a positive feedback increasing climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling), the amount is much less (-30%) that generally shown by the climate models that assume constant relative humidity. Their modelling shows that the increase in specific humidity is not enough to keep up with the amount needed to keep relative humidity constant for the increasing temperature, and so relative humidity falls. The paper says the models get it right about the positive feedback, but wrong about relative humidity, and so the effect is exaggerated.

While MD07 explains increasing specific humidity and falling relative humidity, and a positive feedback loop if temperature is increasing, does it provide evidence of the EGE as a cause of present day global warming? If temperatures and water vapor in the upper troposphere were actually increasing, while surface temperatures have been increasing, then this would provide the evidence for EGE they seek.

The problem is, temperatures in the upper tropospheres are not rising, as shown at the right hand side of the graph above, from Douglass et al. 2007. Despite claims by the IPCC of evidence of EGE, the only place where temperatures really rising in the upper troposphere is in the climate models themselves! The problem with rising temperatures with elevation, and erroneous constant humidity, is a double deviation from the actual observations!

Usually evidence of something means evidence in the real world, not evidence in a computer model.

Which brings me to another point — is there any evidence of EGE? While they claim small spectral differences demonstrate EGE, there are also other gaping inconsistencies between models, the literature and observations. For a start, the models assume constant relative humidity, MD07 claims this leads to exaggeration of CO2 sensitivity, and in the real world
relative humidity is decreasing. The same goes for UT temperature, and specific humidity. For there to be increased feedback, there has to be increased temperature. Reading the IPCC gives you the sort of uncomfortable feeling like a weather report that says it is sunny when its raining outside.

Two claims made in the IPCC Chapter 3 Section 3.4 p40 of WG1 are obviously false: (1) that the available data do not indicate a detectable trend in upper-tropospheric relative humidity, and (2) there is now evidence for global increases in upper-tropospheric specific humidity over the past two decades, which is consistent with the observed increases in tropospheric temperatures and the absence of any change in relative humidity.

Use of dubious evidence and false claims to support a theory indicates the degree of confirmation bias operating in global warming. Even though the science is contradictory, evidence of an enhanced EBE would be so convenient. It gives credibility to a whole raft of phenomena bundled up as anthropogenic global warming. It has the effect of leading the unwary to think that somehow the science is settled in this area, and there are no other possible explanations for recent warming. It may even lead to convictions! At least then it would go before people who differentiate models and reality.

Greenhouse Thermodynamics of Water Vapor and the IPCC

Following on from the line of investigation started here, I examine the quality of evidence the IPCC presents for global warming due to the enhancement of the greenhouse effect. The summary for policy makers apparently sums up the current state of knowledge, referencing the relevant chapter section (3.4):

The average atmospheric water vapour content has
increased since at least the 1980s over land and ocean
as well as in the upper troposphere. The increase is
broadly consistent with the extra water vapour that
warmer air can hold. {3.4}

Turning to the summary of Chapter 3 of the AR4: Chapter 3 Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change where the evidence for this claim is presented it is stated:

Similar upward trends in upper-tropospheric specific humidity, which considerably enhance the greenhouse effect, have also been
detected from 1982 to 2004. (Chapter 3 p4)

Turning to section 3.4 there is an extended discussion of the problems
of direct measurements of specific humidity via radiosondes (weather balloons)
and of controversy within the field e.g.

Changes in upper-tropospheric water vapour
in response to a warming climate have been the subject of
significant debate. (Chap 3 Sect 3.4 p39)

However, despite acknowledging a variation in the literature on this issue, and the availability of direct data that does indicate a detectable trend in upper-atmosphere, the conclude:

To summarise, the available data do not indicate a detectable
trend in upper-tropospheric relative humidity. However, there
is now evidence for global increases in upper-tropospheric
specific humidity over the past two decades, which is consistent
with the observed increases in tropospheric temperatures and
the absence of any change in relative humidity. (Chap 3 sect 3.4 p40)

The evidence for this conclusion is from the following line of reasoning:

In the absence of large changes in relative humidity, the
observed warming of the troposphere (see Section 3.4.1) implies
that the specific humidity in the upper troposphere should have
increased. As the upper troposphere moistens, the emission level
for T12 increases due to the increasing opacity of water vapour
along the satellite line of sight. In contrast, the emission level
for the MSU T2 remains constant because it depends primarily
on the concentration of oxygen, which does not vary by any
appreciable amount. Therefore, if the atmosphere moistens,
the brightness temperature difference (T2 − T12) will increase
over time due to the divergence of their emission levels (Soden
et al., 2005). This radiative signature of upper-tropospheric
moistening is evident in the positive trends of T2 − T12 for the
period 1982 to 2004 (Figure 3.21). If the specific humidity in
the upper troposphere had not increased over this period, the
emission level for T12 would have remained unchanged and
T2 − T12 would show little trend over this period (dashed line
in Figure 3.21).

In other words, if we make some obviously false assumptions of no large change in relative humidity (its falling) and increasing temperatures in the upper atmosphere (also falling), then we can conclude that the specific humidity is increasing in the upper troposphere.

As further evidence, direct measurements of specific humidity are falling, here
is the actual specific humidity measured at the upper troposphere of 300hPa, courtesy of Anthony Watts.

Does anyone else find AR4 Section 3.4 breathtaking in its misrepresentation of the evidence? The claim that “the available data do not indicate a detectable trend in upper-tropospheric relative humidity” contradicts direct evidence, and goes on to use false assumptions to make its unqualified claims. It should be noted that Brian Soden (who has published a guest commentary at RealClimate.org), the cited reference for the in the passage above, is a lead author on the chapter.

I will add it to my examples of bias I have found from my examination of evidence related to the AR4 so far.

These include:

  1. Rahmstorf, who claimed climate responding faster than expected on the basis of
    a dubious graph with no statistical test;
  2. Harries who claimed to detect the greenhouse effect from CO2 spectral brightening
    but whose later (unreported) publications were much more equivocal;
  3. Soden, who claims to have detected increase in specific water vapor from
    spectral brightening using blatantly false assumptions.

Even though the AR4 report has been applauded by the major scientific institutions of the world, a cursory review appears to reveal huge biases.
At the very least, the literature deserves to be reviewed in a truly systematic way, focussed on quality of evidence, by an unbiased panel of experts. Such a review would be commissioned with emphasis on meta-questions such as: Is it systematic? What is the system of guidance given to the authors? Is it unbiased?

Greenhouse Thermodynamics and Water Vapor

Anthony Watts has
uncovered some data
from the NOAA website that appears to show water vapor levels have been decreasing for the last sixty years.

Strangely, a number of recent peer-reviewed publications claim that water vapor is increasing:

Water Vapor Feedback is Rapidly Warming Europe

Elevated surface temperatures due to other greenhouse gases have enhanced water evaporation and contributed to a cycle that stimulates further surface temperature increases, according to a report in Geophysical Research Letters. The research could help to answer a long-debated Earth science question about whether the water cycle could strongly enhance greenhouse warming.

The following paper finds a positive trend but contradicts the findings over Europe.

Trends and variability in column-integrated atmospheric water vapor

The main region where positive trends are not very evident is over Europe, in spite of large and positive trends over the North Atlantic since 1988.

The following also finds positive feedback:

Enhanced positive water vapor feedback associated with tropical deep convection : new evidence from Aura MLS

The moistening of the upper troposphere by deep convection leads to an enhanced positive water vapor feedback, about 3 times that implied solely by thermodynamics.

Is water vapor increasing or decreasing? Is feedback positive or negative? The graph below by Ken Gregory shows a clear decreasing trend at all atmospheric levels.

Water vapor levels are another worrisome variation between the ‘consensus’ view as represented by the IPCC reports and real world data.

The decline in water vapor with an increase in greenhouse gases is one clear prediction of Miskolczi’s theory of semi-transparent atmospheres. In contrast, decline in water vapor is not predicted by the theory of infinity thick atmosphere which maintains that temperatures increase for every incremental increase in greenhouse gases, and in fact the ‘consensus’ is that water vapor increases in a positive feedback loop.

Miskolczi states:

Since the world oceans are virtually unlimited sources and sinks of the
atmospheric water vapor (optical depth), the system – depending on the time
constant of the different energy reservoirs – has many ways to restore the
equilibrium situation and maintain the steady state global climate. For
example, in case the increased CO2 is compensated by reduced H2O, then the
general circulation has to re-adjust itself to maintain the meridional energy
flow with less water vapor available. This could increase the global average
rain rate and speed up the global water cycle resulting in a more dynamical
climate, but still the energy balance equations do not allow the average surface
temperature to rise. The general circulation can not change the global radiative
balance although, changes in the meridional heat transfer may result in local or
zonal warming or cooling which again leads to a more dynamical climate.
Note that there are accumulating evidence of long term negative surface
pressure trends all over the southern hemisphere, (Hines et al., 2000), which
may be an indication of decreasing water vapor amount in the atmosphere.

Miskolczi concludes:

On global scale, however, there can not be any direct water vapor feedback mechanism, working against the total energy balance requirement of the
system. Runaway greenhouse theories contradict to the energy balance
equations and therefore, can not work.

One should not be surprised. It has been proven mathematically that “Most Published Research Findings Are False”.

Update: Anthony Watts posts a followup post containing graphs showing rising specific humidity at the surface, and falling humidity at the higher (greenhouse relevant) altitudes. The obvious questions is why do the esteemed climate scientists above create the impression in their publications that increasing water vapor levels are proof of an increasing greenhouse effect? It’s very worrying.

Another Theory of Global Warming

Here I have started to explore a new theory of global warming, not from greenhouse gas buildup in the troposphere, but from changes in stratospheric temperature caused largely by ultra-Plinian (stratosphere reaching) eruptions. A brief article entitled A Stratospheric Compensation Model of Climate Change, is in the May 8 issue of Australian Institute of Geologists Newsletter, pages 12-13.

The main lines of evidence presented for this theory are:

1. A correlation between the inverse of the global mean stratosphere and surface temperatures. This is illustrated in the figure below, showing both the short term cooling of the surface after sudden warming of the stratosphere due to two large eruptions, El Chichón (Mexico 1982) and Mt Pinatubo (Philippines 1991), and an apparent longer term warming with a delay as shown by the smoothed lines.

aig-001.png

Figure: Monthly global surface (HadCRU in gray) and inverted stratosphere (-0.9*TLS in black) temperatures. Smoothed temperatures illustrate the correlation and potential stratospheric cause of recent surface temperature changes.

The warming after these volcanoes is usually attributed to two El Ninos, with no plausible causal mechanism, however I have seen the increased probability of El Ninos after large eruptions occasionally mentioned in the volcanism literature, (see here).

2. Theoretical support for the stratospheric origin of surface temperature changes from Miskolczi’s semi-transparent model of atmosphere. He has an equation, stratospheric compensation, that suggests an inverse delta between the stratosphere and the surface.

The idea is (but I don’t know what Miskolczi thinks about it) that while the temperature of the troposphere is constrained (due to optimization of greenhouse effect), the temperature of the stratosphere and surface can pivot in a see-saw motion while maintaining the same overall energy output of the planet as a whole. This is illustrated in the figure below, and contrasted with the tropospheric theory of warming.

Slide11.png

Figure from Douglass et al. 2007 “A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions” annotated to compare forcing of the GHG theory (red arrow) and stratospheric compensation theory (blue arrows).

3. Other back of envelope calculations to show that the major asymmetries of temperatures, between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and the glacial-interglacial periods, are possible without recourse to warming by troposphere greenhouse gases. Here I look at changes in albedo and emissivity that would be needed and if they are possible.

This is an exploratory article, based on some calculations to verify that such a theory is workable. I have since developed a more detailed model that I am presently writing up. It is taking somewhat longer than I had hoped, but in a few weeks I hope to have the basis of a comprehensive volcanic theory of climate change in place. What seemed at first to be an intriguing possibility, is actually looking interesting.

Predictions of the trajectory of temperature in the future from the stratospheric compensation model are:

“Baring major eruptions that produce immediate (~2yr) cooling and longer term warming, surface temperatures will gradually return to pre-CFC 1970 levels (-0.6K) depending on the pace of recovery of the ozone layer.”

Chaitén Eruption June

Heads up for a new volcanism blog by Erik Klemetti with a very succinct description of new developments with the ‘bad boy’ of Chile, Mt Chaitén.

The newest reports out of Chile are indicating that the eruption at Chaiten has reached levels of intensity not seen since the eruption first started over six weeks ago. I have to admit, that isn’t a good sign in terms of keeping the volcanic edifice in one piece. There have been frequent, small (m3) earthquakes along with “rumbling noises,” which might indicates that the domes are collapsing to form pyroclastic flows. Alternately (and need I remind you, very speculatively) it might be the the edifice itself beginning to show the wear of this long eruption and the emptying of the magma chamber.

The most troubling to me is this part of the report: [The military flyover] spotted two new craters. Officials said they saw bursts of gas coming from different areas around the base of the volcano. This suggests that there is enough pressure under the volcano to start opening new vents. Whether or not this leads to the formation of a ring fracture – the series of fractures around edge of a caldera that facilitate collapse – is pure speculation, but at the very least, this is a new stage of activity at Chaiten.

Over at The Blackboard, Lucia finds a huge statistical contribution of volcanic eruptions to climate variation.

How does the 2.1 C/century compare to periods with no volcanic eruptions?

Unfortunately, the historical period of time with no-volcanic eruptions and no-jet-inlet to bucket measurement noise is quite short. However, if I calculate the standard deviation of 8 year trends for the period from roughly the 20s-40s, I get a standard deviation of 0.9 C/century. This is less than 1/2 the value computed by Gavin. But, I’m not at all confident it is correct, as the period is very short.