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The IPCC countdown - first salvo (Ross McKitrick)

By Don Aitkin - posted Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Over the next few days one thing will grip the attention of those interested in global warming - the release of the IPCC's Summary for Policy Makers and (I now understand) the report of the science working group. Already salvoes are being fired by the believers and the dissenters. The ABC had a news item the other night about the abolition of the Climate Commission, but the whole tenor of the report was how shocking and bad this decision was, and how the next IPCC report would tell us how wrong we were - or something like that. Not a word that the Climate Commission had published some dodgy stuff, or that the IPCC had a real problem.

I thought that I would summarise a few of the salvoes going the other way by the sanest and most sensible of the dissenters. They come from different disciplines, but they write clearly and, in my view, with little passion. They all like data, facts, observations, and they all distrust the heavy reliance the IPCC places in the GCMs, about which I wrote the other day.

Today's dissident is Professor Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph in Canada who, along with Steve McIntyre, is a demolition expert on shoddy methodology and over-egged claims in climate science. What follows is a summary of what he has written recently in the Canadian Financial Post.

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The IPCC's view of the science, consistently held since the 1990s, is that CO2 is the key driver of modern climate change, and that natural variability is too small to count in comparison. This is the "mainstream" view of climate science, and it is what is programmed into all modern climate models. Outputs from the models, in turn, have driven the extraordinarily costly global climate agenda of recent decades. But it is now becoming clear that the models have sharply over-predicted warming, and therein lies a problem.

As the gap between models and reality has grown wider, so has the number of mainstream scientists gingerly raising the possibility that climate models may soon need a bit of a re-think. A recent study by some well-known German climate modelers put the probability that models can currently be reconciled with observations at less than 2%, and they said that if we see another five years without a large warming, the probability will drop to zero… What's more, the U.K.'s main climate modeling lab just this summer revised its long-term weather forecasts to show it now expects there to be no warming for at least another five years. Ironically, if its model is right, it will have proven itself and all others like it to be fundamentally wrong.

McKitrick then goes on to argue that there is a high probability that 'we will witness the crackup of one of the most influential scientific paradigms of the 20th century, and the implications for policy and global politics could be staggering'. There are five points to take away from this situation, he says.

First, something big is about to happen. Models predict one thing and the data show another. The various attempts in recent years to patch over the difference are disintegrating. Over the next few years, either there is going to be a sudden, rapid warming that shoots temperatures up to where the models say they should be, or the mainstream climate modeling paradigm is going to fall apart.

Second, since we are on the verge of seeing the emergence of data that could rock the foundations of mainstream climatology, this is obviously no time for entering into costly and permanent climate policy commitments based on failed model forecasts…

Third … the "mainstream" view of climate science is contained in the spread of results from computer models. What is commonly dismissed as the 'skeptical' or 'denier' view coincides with the real-world observations. Now you know how to interpret those terms when you hear them.

Fourth, we often hear … slogans to the effect that 97% of climate experts, 97% of published climate science papers, and all the world's leading scientific societies agree with the mainstream science as encoded in climate models. But the models don't match reality. The climate science community has picked a terrible time to brag about the uniformity of groupthink in its ranks.

Finally, the IPCC has proven, yet again, that it is incapable of being objective. Canadian journalist Donna LaFramboise has meticulously documented the extent to which the IPCC has been colonized by environmental activists over the years, and we now see the result. As the model-versus-reality discrepancy plays out, the last place you will learn about it will be in IPCC reports.

This is clear, and measured stuff, and it is hard to disagree with it. McKitrick starts with a graph from the draft IPCC report from several months ago, a visual demonstration of his text that models and observations don't hang together. I thought that we should wait for the new one.

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About the Author

Don Aitkin has been an academic and vice-chancellor. His latest book, Moving On, was published in 2016.

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