I’ve been casually picking my way through Roger Pielke, Jr.’s The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming. His general take is mine also: global warming is happening, but the the “official consensus” misstates and overstates important facts. Here’s an excerpt from Pielke (from pp.181-3) dealing with reporting on the issue of storm-related damages over time. It’s long been known that one of the major drivers of increasing storm costs is simply increasing urbanization. For example, if a hurricane hits a lightly uninhabited coast or island, the economic costs are low; if the same storm hits a heavily inhabited place, the costs are high. The question is how much of the increasing costs are driven by that, and how much are driven by increasing storm frequency and strength as a consequence of warming. That’s a legitimate question, but that’s no guarantee that the answer will be legitimate. Pielke’s research, and that of others (Muir-Wood the World Meterological Association, and others), demonstrates that urbanizing is the dominant factor–holding that constant, storm losses show no increasing trend line. So how has that research been used by others?
Remarkably, not only did the Stern Review ignore the growing peer-reviewed literature on disasters and climate change, but within the Muir-Wood analysis selectively used the shorter time frame to generate an estimate of escalating damages due to greenhouse gas emissions. In early 2010 Muir-Wood was scathing in his criticism of the Stern Review for misusing his research, saying it went “far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence.”
The full report from our Hohenkammer workshiop as well as the workshop’s consensus statements (signed onto by Muir-Wood) directly contradicted the Stern Review’s analysis; however, neither were cited in the review. Motivated by this obvious misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change, I examined the Stern Review in depth and found several additional and significant errors in its treatment of disasters and climate change, including an apparent uncaught typo in the economic effect of hurricane damages that inflated them by an order of magnitude. The effects of various errors and mistakes in the review’s total estimate of the economic damage from human-caused climate change add up to as much as 40 percent of the review’s total estimated losses from all of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions…
The following year, in 2007, the IPCC released its Fourth Assessment Report, and it also relied on the Muir-Wood study from our Hohenkammer workshop as the “one study” to highlight in its summary review of disasters and climate change. Ignoring the longer period looked at by Muir-Wood as well as the analyses we did of the entire twentieth century, the IPCC selectively concluded that “once losses are normalized for exposure, there still remains an underlying rising trend.” Even worse, the IPCC included in its supplementary material a graph that plotted temperatures alongside disaster losses, smoothing the data and scaling the axes in such a way as to suggest a relationship, despite the fact that none had been shown in the peer-reviewed literature. The figure is cited indicating that the Muir-Wood study from our workshop is the basis for the graph, although no such analysis appears in that paper. In early 2010 Muir-Wood revealed that the IPCC knowingly miscited the graph…
Furthermore, the IPCC somehow neglected to mention the many other peer-reviewed studies examining a wide range of places and time periods that found no signal of anthropogenic climate change after adjusting for societal factors, and while it cited our workshop report, it failed to report its conclusions about the present impossibility of attributing disaster losses to greenhouse gases. Either the IPCC was very sloppy, or it went to great lengths to suggest in a misleading manner a connection between rising temperatures and increasing disaster losses–or both.
It turns out that several reviewers of the IPCC report had in fact raised questions about its treatment of the issue of disaster losses. One reviewer questioned the IPCC’s suggestion that our normalization work had been superseded by events, and asked the IPCC directly, “What does Pielke think about this?” The IPCC responded on my behalf, explaining, “I believe Pielke agrees that adding 2004 and 2005 has the potential to change his earlier conclusions–at least about the absence of a trend in US Cat[astrophe] losses.” The problem with the IPCC response to the reviewer was that it was a complete fabrication. Just two months before I had published a paper…showing clearly that the events of 2004 and 2005 did not change the overall picture at all. The IPCC included misleading information in its report and then fabricated a response to a reviewer, who identified the misleading information, to justify keeping that material in its report.
Mr. Heath keeps chiding me, most recently at Dispatches, for not being well-grounded in the climate change literature. But if the literature contains such serious scientific misrepresentations, even outright fraudulent claims, on what basis can Mr. Heath be so certain of the truth of what he is reading? And as a pre-emptive strike, I must say that I’m not going to be impressed by any responses that take either of the following tacks: a) Despite those errors, these reports have to be accepted in their overall claims; or b) well, ok, those may be in error, but everything else is trustworthy.