The UN IPCC's Artful Bias
Omissions, False Confidence and Misleading Statistics
the Summary for Policymakers
science summary -- Working Group 1 of the Third Assessment Report)
E. Wojick, Ph.D.
(Click here for author information)
Summary of Findings:
The UN IPCC WG1 Summary for Policymakers
(SPM) of the Third
Assessment Report is not an assessment of climate change science, even
though it claims to be. Rather, it is an artfully constructed
presentation of just the science that supports the fear of human induced
climate change. It is as one sided as a legal brief, which it resembles.
Line by line analysis of the SPM reveals that all of the
science that cuts against the theory of human interference with climate
has been systematically omitted. In some cases the leading arguments
against human interference are actually touched on, but without being
revealed or discussed. In other cases the evidence against human
interference is simply ignored. Because of these strategic omissions,
the SPM voices a degree of certainty that is entirely false.
Glaring omissions are only glaring to experts, so the
"policymakers" -- including the press and the public -- who
read the SPM will not realize they are being told only one side of a
story. But the scientists who drafted the SPM know the truth, as
revealed by the sometimes artful way they conceal it. This deliberate
distortion can only be explained by the fact that the UN IPCC is part of
an advocacy process, organized by the United Nations Environment Program
and supporting the Kyoto Protocol.
What is systematically omitted from the SPM are precisely
the uncertainties and positive counter evidence that might negate the
human interference theory. Instead of assessing these objections, the
Summary confidently asserts just those findings that support its case.
In short, this is advocacy, not assessment.
The UN IPCC WG1 Summary for Policymakers is available at:
Specific examples assessed in this report:
Specific examples of glaring omissions, false confidence
and misleading statistics in the UN IPCC WG1 Summary for Policymakers
include the following:
1. Likely sources of bias in the surface temperature record of the last 150 years, which are well known and considerable, are ignored. The amount of warming is claimed to be known with a false degree of confidence. We do not, in fact, know for certain that the earth has warmed at all. (Details here)
2. The profound inconsistency between the recent warming in the surface temperature record, and the absence of warming in the satellite record, is simply shrugged off.
3. The enormous, and growing, uncertainty as to the effect of aerosols on climate is masked in the discussion, and is deliberately suppressed in predicting the future. If included, the UN IPCC 100 year prediction would include the possibility of no warming or even cooling.
4. The fact that the vast majority of all greenhouse gas emissions are natural is ignored.
5. Advances in climate science that do not support the theory of human interference have been ignored.
problem of errors in the surface temperature record.
1. The discussion on UN IPCC WG1 SPM page 2
(the first page
of text) begins with this headline:
"The global average surface temperature has increased
over the 20th century by about 0.6°C."
Not "may have", or even "is likely to have',
but simply "has". False certainty. Any suggestion of doubt is
omitted, but there is plenty to doubt.
2. The text itself says
"The global average surface
temperature (the average of near surface air temperature over land, and
sea surface temperature) has increased since 1861. Over the 20th century
the increase has been 0.6 ±0.2°C (Figure
1a). This value is about 0.15°C
larger than that estimated by the SAR for the period up to 1994, owing
to the relatively high temperatures of the additional years (1995 to
2000) and improved methods of processing the data. These numbers take
into account various adjustments, including urban heat island
This is the only reference in the text to any possible
problems with the temperature record. It says they have been "taken
into account", with special reference to the urban heat island
effect. False certainty. The discussion of these problems, how likely
they are to be significant, and how they have been taken into account,
has simply been omitted. In fact how well they have been taken into
account is highly contentious.
3. Figure 1a at least has more detail, albeit finer print.
It says this adjacent to the figure:
"The Earth’s surface temperature is shown year by
year (red bars) and approximately decade by decade (black line, a
filtered annual curve suppressing fluctuations below near decadal
time-scales). There are uncertainties in the annual data
whisker bars represent the 95% confidence range) due to data gaps,
random instrumental errors and uncertainties, uncertainties in bias
corrections in the ocean surface temperature data and also in
adjustments for urbanization over the land. Over both the last 140 years
and 100 years, the best estimate is that the global average surface
temperature has increased by 0.6 ±0.2°C."
This at least mentions specific problems. But notice the
placement of the parenthetical expression in the pivotal second
sentence, just before the list. This seems to say quite clearly that the
error bars give the 95% confidence level for the uncertainties listed.
This is simply false. The error bars give at best the 95% confidence
level for the pure error of sampling, which assumes the sample is random
and there are no measurement errors of the sort listed in the very
sentence being modified. This comes as close to outright lying as
anything we have found so far.
The truth is there is no way to correct for most
measurement errors, including the urban heat island effect. The
magnitude of these errors, which may be quite large, is simply unknown.
The supposed corrections that have been made to date are merely
Nor does there seem to be any reference to the fact that
this is a "convenience sample", not a random sample of the
earth's surface, as required by sampling science. Unless it is the
innocent sounding phrase "data gaps". Reference to data gaps
suggests that sometimes a station did not record, or the data is bad,
not that there is in actuality no data for most of the earth, most of
the time. So the fact that we merely have a convenience sample is either
omitted, or cleverly disguised.
Moreover, the number of items in the convenience sample is tiny. It is preposterous to claim to know the temperature of the entire earth from such a sample.
simply do not know if the entire earth has warmed or not. The most we
know is what has happened in certain places and times, and likely
measurement error makes even this information highly uncertain.
profound dilemma for climate change science
It should be noted that there is a widespread misconception
that a National Academy of Science panel resolved this issue in January
2000. In fact the panel concluded just what I have said above -- that we
do not understand how this contradiction can arise, if both temperature
records are correct.
To simply gloss over this profound scientific uncertainty
is a major omission indeed, perhaps the greatest omission in the UN-IPCC
The IPCC has suppressed the profound significance of
only in the WG1 SPM text, but in the modeling as well
not only in the WG1 SPM text, but in the modeling as well
Discussion of aerosols in the UN IPCC WG1 SPM begins on
page 5 with this headline:
The highlighted phrase reflects a false certainty. Whether
or not human emissions will affect climate is obviously a matter of
great debate. What follows, however, are some incredible omissions.
The role of aerosols is explained as follows:
This text states quite clearly and correctly that an
ability to predict future climate (if that is even possible) requires an
understanding of the effect of aerosols. The last sentence says that
"current estimates of the radiative forcing" of aerosols are
shown in SPM figure 3 (page 8). This sentence is false. In fact not only are
the estimated uncertainties in aerosol forcings not shown, they are also
excluded from the projections of future climate. These are major
SPM Figure 3 (Fig.5 above) shows estimated forcings for five classes of
aerosols. For four of these classes there is also a vertical error bar
which the legend explains "indicates a range of estimates, guided
by the spread in the published values of the forcings and physical
understanding." In addition, each class is labeled with a
"Level of Scientific Understanding." One class is labeled
"Low" and the other four are labeled
No explanation of these uncertainty levels is provided.
However, in the UN IPCC's 1995 Second Assessment Report an earlier
version of this same figure appears as figure 2.16, on page 117. Here it
is explained that the levels `low' and `very low'
are "our subjective confidence that the actual forcing lies within
this error bar." In fact the levels are called
`levels of understanding.'
In plain language, this means that the chances that the
aerosol forcings actually lie within the error bars are very low in most
cases. Conversely, it is very likely that the actual forcings lie
outside these error bars. What then is the likely range for these
forcings? We are not told, in fact the very issue, which was at least
alluded to in the IPCC SAR, has now been entirely omitted.
The truth is that the possible range of forcings is very
large, much larger than the error bars show. Therefore the range of
aerosol forcings is much larger than the ranges for the greenhouse
gases, which are shown to have a "high" level of
understanding. If the correct error bars for aerosols were shown -- bars
that display the likely range of forcings -- they would be seen to
overwhelm the greenhouse gas forcings.
In short we simply do not understand aerosol forcing. In
fact a recent paper in the journal Science claims that the
range of possible forcings is as much as twice the very large range that
is not shown in the TAR. This indicates that our understanding of
aerosol forcing is diminishing as research proceeds. (See
"Reshaping the Theory of Cloud Formation" by R. J. Charlson et
al, Science, June 15, 2001.)
If, as the UN IPCC states quite clearly and correctly, an
ability to project future climate requires an understanding of the
effect of aerosols, then we simply do not have that ability. Yet the
IPCC does project future climates, based on various scenarios.
How does the UN IPCC deal with our profound lack of understanding of aerosol forcings? The answer lies in an incredible footnote on page 13, specifically footnote 11. In the text before footnote 11 the IPCC says this:
Footnote 11 amends this 1.4 to 5.8°C projection as follows:
So the UN IPCC has simply ignored the very large aerosol
uncertainties. No reason is given, but if these uncertainties were
included, some of the scenarios would yield projections of future
cooling, not warming. Perhaps the UN IPCC does not want to admit the
possibility that there may be no warming at all, or actual cooling. In
any case it is clear that entire issue of aerosol uncertainty has been
omitted from the WG1 SPM, including changing the language of the key
figure. Far worse, however, is that the effect of this uncertainty has
been deliberately suppressed in the model projections of future climate.
It is hard not to see this as scientific fraud.
The discussion of GHG emissions on UN IPCC WG1 SPM page 7 contains these three parallel paragraphs:
1. Parallel construction requires that there be a sentence
explaining the fraction of CO2 emissions that are anthropogenic, but
there is none. It would read as follows -- About one twenty fifth of
current CO2 emissions are anthropogenic. The important fact that the
vast majority of CO2 emissions are natural has been omitted.
2. In addition, not even mentioned is water vapor, by far
the most important greenhouse gas. Natural emissions of water vapor are
so enormous that human emissions do not even measure in comparison. If
this were explained there would also be a sentence saying -- virtually
no water vapor emissions are anthropogenic.
The UN IPCC has ignored scientific advances that undercut
the theory of human interference, including the profound chaos science
that is presented in the Third Assessment Report itself.
Advances in climate science that do not support the theory
of human interference have been ignored in the UN IPCC WG1 SPM. These
include the role of clouds, solar variation, lunar influence, orbital
cycles, decadal oscillations, and more. If anything, the science today
provides less support for the theory of human interference than it did
in 1995, when the IPCC Second Assessment Report was done.
Perhaps the most egregious omission is the emerging
understanding of the chaotic nature of climate. Not only is this science
very important, but it is presented in considerable detail in the TAR
itself (see below). About one half of Chapter 14 of the WG1 TAR is
devoted to discussing the profound significance of the fact that climate
processes are chaotic and therefore unpredictable. But the SPM does not
even mention the word "chaos".
Likewise the UN IPCC WG1 Technical Summary (TS), which was
written by the same people as the SPM, has but a single sentence on
chaos, tucked away on page 78. It says:
"The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic
system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future exact climate
states is not possible. Rather the focus must be upon the prediction of
the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by
the generation of ensembles of model solutions."
In plain language the kind of prediction the UN IPCC is
doing is not possible. The best that might be done is to provide a
probability distribution for possible futures, but the IPCC does not do
this. The profound fact of chaotic climate is simply ignored.
What makes this omission so egregious is that the chaotic
nature of climate is discussed in the WG1 TAR itself, which the SPM and
TS are supposed to be summarizing. Here are some statements from the
expert review draft TAR, Chapter 14. (The order has been changed for
Draft WG1 TAR, Chapter 14 -- some statements regarding
chaos and climate:
"In sum, a strategy must recognize what is possible.
In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are
dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the
prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible. The most
we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability
distribution of the system's future possible states by the generation of
ensembles of model solutions. This reduces climate change to the
discernment of significant differences in the statistics of such
ensembles. The generation of such model ensembles will require the
dedication of greatly increased computer resources and the application
of new methods of model diagnosis."
In short, it cannot now be done. Not only is prediction
fundamentally impossible due to chaos, but the statistical substitute
for prediction that may be possible cannot now be done. The uncertainty
is complete. Chapter 14 also says this:
"The climate system is particularly challenging since
it is known that components in the system are inherently chaotic and
there are central components which affect the system in a non-linear
manner and potentially could switch the sign of critical feedbacks. The
non-linear processes include the basic dynamical response of the climate
system and the interactions between the different components. These
complex, non-linear dynamics are an inherent aspect of the climate
system. Amongst the important non-linear processes are the role of
clouds, the thermohaline circulation, and sea ice. There are other
another broad non-linear components, the biogeochemical system and, in
particular, the carbon system, the hydrological cycle, and the chemistry
of the atmosphere."
"A strategy to advance our understanding must deal
with the underlying chaotic nature of the climate system and the
significant non-lineraities. The chaotic aspect of the climate system
poses significant challenges to predicting changes in the occurrence of
"An overriding challenge to modeling and to the IPCC
is prediction. This challenge is particularly acute when predictive
capability is sought for a system that is chaotic, that has significant
non-linearities, and that is inherently stiff."
"However, as the temporal horizon grows, then the
challenge shifts as chaotic elements begin to affect the evolution of
the system. The predictive environment shifts from one of precision to
one of statistical significance."
"There is a growing recognition in the scientific
community and more broadly that: The Earth functions as a system, with
properties and behavior that are characteristic of the system as a
whole. These include critical thresholds, switch or control points,
strong nonlinearities, teleconnections, chaotic elements, and
unresolvable uncertainties. Understanding components of the Earth System
is critically important, but is insufficient on its own to understand
the functioning of the Earth System as a whole."
Chaos is a fundamental uncertainty in climate science, but
the UN IPCC ignores it.
Dr David Wojick
of the SPM lead authors are leading activists
The press often says the UN IPCC reports are produced by
hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists. This may be true in some
vague sense of participation, and the actual TAR chapters do not exhibit
as much glaring scientific bias as the WG1 Summary for Policymakers and
On the other hand, only experts read the main reports. The
UN IPCC's voice to the public, press and policy makers regarding climate
science is through the WG1 SPM and the TS. These two documents have
precisely the same 20 lead authors, many of whom are among the leading
proponents of the theory of human climate interference.
Here are the 20 lead authors listed by the UN IPCC --
Co-ordinating Lead Authors: D.L. Albritton (USA), L.G. Meira
Lead Authors: U. Cubasch (Germany), X. Dai (China), Y. Ding
(China), D.J. Griggs (UK), B. Hewitson (South Africa), J.T. Houghton
(UK), I. Isaksen (Norway), T. Karl (USA), M. McFarland (USA),
V.P. Meleshko (Russia), J.F.B. Mitchell (UK), M. Noguer (UK), B.S.
Nyenzi (Tanzania), M. Oppenheimer (USA), J.E. Penner (USA), S.
Pollonais (Trinidad and Tobago), T. Stocker (Switzerland), K.E.
Names in boldface in particular stand out as among the top
rank of activist scientists for the theory of human climate
interference. Most are frequently quoted in the U.S. and British press.
(I am less familiar with the others, who may also be activists
elsewhere.) These are:
Dan Albritton -- U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Sir. John Houghton -- former head of the UK Meteorological
Office, and arguably the foremost proponent of the theory of human
climate interference. Mitchell and Noguer are also with the UK MET.
Thomas Karl -- NOAA and Co-chair of the U.S. National
Michael Oppenheimer -- Environmental Defense Fund.
Kevin Trenberth -- U.S. National Center for Atmospheric
It is no wonder, therefore, that the two Summaries are so blatantly biased in favor of the theory of human climate interference. They are written by scientists who have staked their reputations on that theory.
2) Doubts Cloud Climate Change Science
Climate science uncertainties, cited by George W. Bush as a
reason for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, just got a lot worse. According
to a report in today’s issue of Science, the largest single
uncertainty -- the impact or "forcing" of aerosols on climate
-- may be much larger than previously estimated. The study, entitled
"Reshaping the Theory of Cloud Formation" is by a team led by
R. J. Charlson at the University of Washington.
Charlson et al are quite blunt:
"Droplet clouds are
the most important factor controlling the albedo (reflectivity) and
hence the temperature of our planet. Manmade aerosols have a strong
influence on cloud albedo, with a global mean forcing estimated to be of
the same order (but opposite in sign) as that of greenhouse gases, but
the uncertainties associated with the aerosol forcing are large. Recent
studies indicate that both the forcing and its magnitude may be even
larger than anticipated."
The issue is how many droplets a cloud will have. Cloud
optical properties are controlled by the sizes and numbers of the
droplets in the cloud, which are, in turn, governed by the availability
of atmospheric particles that serve as cloud condensation nuclei. It has
been believed that an increase in atmospheric aerosols, such as sulfates,
from fossil fuel combustion would lead to smaller cloud droplets because
the same amount of cloud liquid water is distributed among more
condensation nuclei. For the same liquid water content, a cloud with
more numerous, but smaller, drops has a higher albedo than one with
fewer, larger drops. This phenomenon, termed the "first indirect
climatic effect of aerosols," could constitute a major climate
"But," the authors say,
of indirect aerosol radiative forcing or of its uncertainty do not
include the combined influences of some recently identified chemical
factors, each of which leads to additional negative forcing (cooling) on
top of that currently estimated for water vapor."
According to the authors, estimates of the indirect
climatic effect of aerosols are based on the theory of cloud droplet
formation advanced by the Swedish scientist Hilding Kohler in the 1920s
and 1930s. Kohler’s theory, they say, is too simple and when it is
refined, the potential aerosol forcing gets much larger. Specifically,
they say that "it has recently become clear that soluble gases,
slightly soluble solutes, and surface tension depression by organic
substances also influence the formation of cloud droplets, in a manner
unforeseen by Kohler." For example, they say,
how it is dispersed over the aerosol population, a minute amount of
soluble gas can exert a profound effect on the number of activated
researchers note that how climate models might incorporate these new
findings "remains to be determined." They conclude that
"lack of global data on these activation effects poses additional
uncertainty beyond that already recognized by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, making the largest uncertainty in estimating
climate forcing even larger."
This study grows out of several years of research into the
logic of the climate change debate. During that time I have operated an
email listserv where knowledgeable people from all sides of the climate
change issue have posted over 25,000 messages. From this experience I
have gained a comprehensive understanding of just how complex and
unsettled the science really is.
I have become increasingly distressed by statements made by
supporters of the Kyoto Protocol to the effect that the science is
settled, or that the uncertainties have diminished to the point where
action is obviously justified. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I am particularly concerned that the IPCC is being represented as a
neutral body. Such claims are simply false, and it is the purpose of
this study to demonstrate that they are false.
Because the IPCC scientific Summary for Policymakers is
completely one sided, most of its deceptions are omissions. One cannot
simply point to omissions as one can to falsehoods. So I have undertaken
to catalog the omissions, and the false assertions of confidence that
they enable, on a line by line basis. The present report is just a
start, and more cases will be forthcoming over time. But time is of the
essence, and the present small collection is sufficient to make the
point. The IPCC SPM is a study in artful bias.
4) Biographical information.
Dr. David E. Wojick has a Ph.D. in mathematical logic and
philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a B.S. in
civil engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. He has been on the
faculty of Carnegie Mellon, where he helped found both the Department of
Engineering and Public Policy, and the Department of Philosophy. He has
also served with the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research
Laboratory. He is presently a freelance writer covering climate change
issues for Electricity Daily, and a policy analyst.
A resume and client list are at http://www.bydesign.com/powervision/resume.html
The free sign-up for Dr. Wojick's listserv is at http://www.climatechangedebate.org
Non subscribers can follow the debate at http://www.eScribe.com/science/ClimateChangeDebate/
July 13, 2001
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