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IPCC issue official rebuttal to more David Rose/Daily Mail nonsense

Posted on 10 April 2014 by John Mason

David Rose. That name rings a bell, huh? This was the guy who last year  manufactured an IPCC crisis meeting in the UK right-wing tabloid the Daily Mail, where he hangs out and writes pages of nonsense about climate science.  At Skeptical Science, as pointed out in the above link, we have previously pre-bunked and debunked and debunked again his articles on the subject of climate change, but he continues to appear oblivious to legitimate criticism of his work or, indeed, facts.

In his latest offering, Rose manages to turn legitimate criticism of Richard Tol into a "green smear campaign" and his co-author Ben Pile accuses the IPCC of "alarmist spin" concerning certain issues in the Final Draft of the contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report, which was released on March 31st 2014. Accompanying graphics accuse the IPCC of "sexing-up" these topics.


more David Rose nonsense


Fortunately, the IPCC have grown wise to this tactic of throwing mud in its direction in the hope that some of it might stick - something that happens every time they bring out a Working Group report, as sure as night tends to follow day. Thus, on this occasion, they were ready for David Rose and his colleagues. The statement (PDF) is self-explanatory - over to them:


6 April 2014

BERLIN, 6 April - With reference to an article that appeared on 6 April 2014 in the Mail on Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is issuing the following statement:

Errors in publications cited by the Working Group II report

The Mail on Sunday has reported that there are errors in the Final Draft of the contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was released on 31 March 2014.

The errors in question relate to publications written by Professor Richard Tol, who is also one of the coordinating lead authors of the Working Group II report.

The IPCC has clear procedures for dealing with errors in its own reports. It will issue an erratum to its reports if an alleged error is substantiated after the report is published. An erratum will also be issued if an error in one of the publications cited by the IPCC means that the IPCC report is wrong.

The  IPCC  understands  that  Professor  Tol  is  planning  to  issue  errata  on some of  his  papers referenced in the Working Group II report, but has not yet done so.

The IPCC can only initiate its erratum policy in this case once the journals in which Professor Tol published his papers have issued their own corrections.

Professor Tol withdrew in September 2013 from the core writing team that produced the Summary for  Policymakers.  However he participated actively in the approval process  for  the  Summary  in March 2014 and agrees with the final wording on all statements related to the chapter on which he worked.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group II report

The Mail on Sunday article also misrepresents the process by which the Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group II report was approved, and provides incorrect references in the underlying report to excerpts it quotes from the Summary for Policymakers.

The IPCC was set up to provide governments with assessments of all the scientific  information related  to  climate  change.  The  IPCC  does  not  conduct its own  research,  but  assesses  relevant scientific publications to tell governments what is known and not known about climate change. The mandate of the IPCC requires it to look at the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC reports are not restricted to climate science but explicitly required to look at the impacts of climate change, among other things.

IPCC assessments are requested by its 195 member governments, and compiled  by  teams  of hundreds  of  scientists  nominated  by  governments, observer  organizations  and  the  scientific community. Following repeated drafting and review, a final draft of the report including its Summary for Policymakers is sent to  governments  for  comments. This is in preparation for a meeting of government delegates that examines the Summary for Policymakers line by line, in dialogue with the scientists who wrote it. Governments may propose changes to the Summary in order to improve clarity but the changes must be in line with the full report, and the scientists have the last word on whether to accept the changes that are proposed.

The  Mail  on  Sunday  also  quotes  some  passages  from  the  Working  Group II Summary  for Policymakers on migration and refugees, wars and conflicts, famine, and extreme weather, which it claims are “sexed up” from statements in the underlying report. In doing so it misleads the reader by distorting the carefully balanced language of the document.

For instance, the Mail on Sunday quotes the Summary as saying climate change will ‘increase risks of violent conflicts’. In fact the Summary says that climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying factors such as poverty and economic shocks. The Mail on Sunday says the Summary  warns of negative impacts on crop yields, with warming responsible for lower yields of wheat, maize, soya and rice. In fact the Summary says that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts, with wheat and maize yields negatively affected in many regions and effects on rice and soybean yields smaller  in  major production regions.

The references to the underlying report cited by the Mail on Sunday in contrast to the Summary for Policymakers also give a completely misleading and distorted impression  of  the  report  through selective quotation. For instance the reference to “environmental migrants” is a sentence describing just one paper assessed in a chapter that cites over 500 papers – one of five chapters on which the statement in the Summary for Policymakers is based. A quoted sentence on the lack of a strong connection between warming and armed conflict is again taken from  the description of just one paper in a chapter that assesses over 600 papers. A simple keyword search shows many references to publications and statements in the report showing the opposite conclusion, and supporting the statement in the Summary that “Climate  change  can  indirectly  increase  risks  of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence…”.


So there we have it. Distorted. Misleading. Misrepresentation. Selective quotation. All of that will come as no surprise to Skeptical Science regulars who have seen us, over the years, taking on individuals and organisations who tend to use such tactics to get their political agenda across. And it often seems that they never give up. However, one thing is for certain: these actions, once committed, are written into history and so can never be undone. Whatever the outcome of the climate crisis, once recorded, they will not be forgotten. One cannot help wondering if that is how some people really want to be remembered in future.

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Comments 1 to 16:

  1. The errors within Richard Tol's work mentioned by the IPCC press release had already resulted in a spat between Tol & Bob Ward. The account Ward gives of Tol's behaviour does perhaps intimate some dark doings, with an initial less controversial version of Tol's WGII Chapter 10 "leaked to a blog for climate change ‘sceptics’" and then a section is quietly inserted into the final draft on "‘Aggregate impacts’ which was based almost entirely on Professor Tol’s 2013 paper", this being the source of the mentioned errors.

    Of course, Tol is one of Nigel Lawson's GWPF so nothing would surprise me. In the Mail article, Tol says of the spat between him & Ward - "It’s all about taking away my credibility as an expert.”  Well, I suppose, if he feels he can act like one of Lawson's Gentleman Who Prefers Fantasy, then his credibility will indeed be rather difficult to hold on to.

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  2. So there we have it. Distorted. Misleading. Misrepresentation. Selective quotation. All of that will come as no surprise to Skeptical Science regulars who have seen us, over the years, taking on individuals and organisations who tend to use such tactics to get their political agenda across. And it often seems that they never give up.  

    I seen much of the same for years by focusing on another group of denialists; the anti-evolutionists. Quote-mining and spin is such a major part of their toolbox that it's becoming one of their distinctive characteristics. A very incomplete but very representative sample can be found here, which might help reinforce one's ability to spot the practice in action. The easier it is to recognize, the more efficient it is to deal with the tactic regardless of the subject.

    More on topic, I've seen someone use the exact same misrepresentation of WG2 Chapter 9, regarding human migration risks. They didn't cite the Daily Mail in doing so, but it did happen the Monday after that piece was published. The IPCC's summary of Tacoli (2009) was quoted out of context to make it seem as though the WG2 itself concluded that "current alarmist predictions [...] are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather events and predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best," without any indication that this was a description of just one paper considered by the IPCC. Obviously, the real conclusion of the WG was very different from their summary of a single paper.
    When dealing with people quoting the IPCC in ways that seem to contradict the IPCC, always be mindful of the potential for quote-mining. Check the source and put their statements in context. That's usually enough to rebut the whole argument.

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  3. WheelsOC @2, long before I began discussing climate change on the internet, I was heavilly involved in the evolution wars.  I did so not out of religious conviction, or any particular enjoyment, but because I beleived that people who train themselves in poor reasoning in one area of their life will do so in others.  Raise a child a creationist and you raise them to not recognize good science, and to be easilly fooled by pseudo-science, something I thought must inevitably be harmful to our civilization.  Little did I know my fears were already being realized.  In any event, one of the things that first struck me on encountering global warming deniers was the amazing similarity between the arguments of the creationists, and those of the deniers.  It is as though the took creationist argument as a "how to" manual for pseudo-science.

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  4. A very small point. Rose's Mail column, "PUBLISHED: 18:37 EST, 7 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:45 EST, 28 September 2013", does not now contain any mention of a crisis meeting. It may have been changed. It now reads: 

    "The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday’s revelations – which will now be amplified by the return of the Arctic ice sheet – has forced the UN’s climate change body to reconsider its position."

    You, and others, quoted it as saying:

    "The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday’s revelations – which will now be amplified by the return of the Arctic ice sheet – has forced the UN’s climate change body to hold a crisis meeting."


    The phrase "crisis meeting" does still appear in at least one comment on Rose's column. 

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  5. The Mail artcile tried in vain to discredit the connection between climate change and violent conflict. The truth is that "competition" to maximize potential benefits from fossil fuels has created massive amounts of violent and damaging conflicts. And that will only get worse as very undesrevingly wealthy and powerful people fight even more viciously for the most unsustainable opportunity to benefit they can get get away with.

    Climate change due to excess CO2 is a clear problem. The success of attempts to get away with and prolong unsustainable and damaging pursuits makes the chances of the development of a sustainable better future for all, the only viable future for humanity, highly unlikely.

    The socioeconomic system needs to be changed. And the ones benefiting the most from the current fatally flawed system know it. And they don't want to have to 'adapt' to a different circumstance. They don't want to participate in the development of the gift a better future for all. They only want benefit for themselves.

    The resistance to the development of the best understanding of things through activities like climate science is easy to understand.

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  6. Mike - somewhere on this system I have a screengrab of the paragraph in question. The error was not to webcite it. Next time....

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  7. @2 and 3. The likelihood that climate change is happening amd man made is > 95%. The likleihood that evolution is true is close to certainty that I would not know how many nines to put after 99.9%. The fact that people choose to put dogma before reality is depressing and sadly means that getting robust climate change policy will be an uphill struggle for years to come.


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  8. I would acknowledge the "Black Swan" principle when assigning % probabilities. Would a physicist claim there is a 99.9% probability that gravity exists? The existence of evolution is a fact, how it works is a theory. We can't assign such probabilities, as it presupposes we have some knowledge of what the 100% would be in the first place.
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  9. Seeing Mike@4's comment about the change puts me in mind of Winston Smith and Orwell's 1984. I wonder if the Mail and other publications with sad denialist records on this topic, won't simply delete all their bilge when they eventually give in to reality. Clearly, it would be easy to do.

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  10. #9 Don - hence there being a very good case for web-archiving plus of course screengrabs. The more of these things we have the better!

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  11. LCBozo@8

    I think I understand what you are saying. Still, it's important, I think, to remember that Darwing proposed his theory with no real way to explain how it worked. In other words, the only real doubt about it on this planet was put to bed with the discovery of DNA's role in life. Up until we understood that DNA carried the inheritable information and genetic variation that all living things  pass along to their offspring and in doing so allow for evolutionary change, Darwin's theory was in that sense a theory without a known causal mechanism to explain how it worked, but that no longer applies. Thus, we can confidently say that Darwin' explanation is supported by all the relevant facts. In this sense, Darwin's theory is fact-based, or true, or correct, or, in fact, is a fact of life since there is no other plausible explanation outside of the realm of religion. Thus, I think the debate about fact versus theory on this topic is about semantics.

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  12. "However, one thing is for certain: these actions, once committed, are written into history and so can never be undone. Whatever the outcome of the climate crisis, once recorded, they will not be forgotten. One cannot help wondering if that is how some people really want to be remembered in future."

    Why on earth should Mr Rose worry about the future when he can point to a body of opinion that supports his stance on climate change? He earns his money today by writing such pieces that are the subject of this posting. If his children do raise the issue with him at some future date, then he will be able to point to the soup kitchens, the homeless, the food banks, etc., which are also written in history, and say with some pride that he used his skills in the only way he knew how to keep his family from having to use them. He doesn' even face sanction from society as a whole or from his profession, if it can be described thus.

    Sks readers might dislike Mr Rose, but the readership of this blog are vastly outnumbered by the readership of the Daily Mail, not to mention the Mail on Sunday and those who prefer the output of the Murdoch empire. Even if one tries to get some movement from the scientists involved in climate change, one gets told in no uncertain terms that free speech must rule the day. I'll get my son to put words to that effect on his gravestone, if climate change takes him.

    However, it seem much more likely that economic collapse will probably get him first. According to <ahref="">this</a> article by a highly regarden actuary, Gail Tverberg, who specialises in climate change, among other issues, climate change will soon by the least of our worries.

    She sees the IPCC RCP2.6 scenario as the most likely way temperatures will go. I don't know whether she is correct, but she certainly tries to support her views scientifically. The referenced article is only the latest in a series of postings by her that seem to draw largly favourable comments. Those who follow the link will find that it centres on climate change and how oil supply, or rather the lack of it, is going to have a much more dramatic effect, and much sooner. Sorry if this is off-topic, but I think it is important that climate scientists study her work and either debunk it, or see that it is taken into consideration. I know from a lot of other sources that BAU is thought highly unlikely by many in the financial sector.


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  13. funglestrumpet@12

    Under the hypothetical future you note in your post, you believe Rose would be able to "say with some pride that he used his skills in the only way he knew how" to keep his family from poverty. Really? He could not find another avenue, that would not involve repeatedly trying to confuse his readers to keep his family out of this hypothetical poverty? I doubt that.  

    To continue the conversation, I think a reasonable response from his offspring to such a contention from Rose would be: "Dad, what were you thinking? I mean, this article for example on how sea ice is bouncing back is obviuosly disingenuous based on the information available to you at the time; it is misleading.  Did you really have to put that stuff out there?  You are not a stupid man.  I reject that you had no choice and reject that you didn't know you were wrong to do it.  Don't put it on me."

    As for Tverberg's contentions, I'm no expert on peak oil, etc, but she seems like she is probably an outlier from her peers.  Her graph of Estimate of future energy production in the event of an economic crash driven by factors that result in drastically lower oil (and other?) energy use which shows a sharp, steady decrease in total energy production beginning in a hypothetical 2015 crash and declining to 1970 level within 10 years would obviously mean society is struggling.  But that's a big IF to essentially "count on" when something closer to BAU, which seems more likely, will result in serious problems for societies.

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  14. "The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday’s revelations – which will now be amplified by the return of the Arctic ice sheet – has forced the UN’s climate change body to hold a crisis meeting."

    Wayback machine captures only go back to September 28, the date the Mail article was changed, but if you search the above sentence in la google, it is quoted as above at many links, mostly on September 8, the day after Mail article was published.

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  15. Rodger D @ 13

    And he would probably be able to find a quote from one of the all too many 'guns for hire' so-called experts that say that the sea-ice was not bouncing back and indeed, like the surface temperatures, was extremely variable. Being able to prove one's point by turning to the science of an issue, does not automatically result in public acceptance. If it did, they too would be 97% in favour of urgent action to combat climate change. The only reason that I can put it down to is that the media have undue influence, which they abuse, and an all too gullible public acceptance ot their output. The Mail group is far from unique in this matter. If Mr Rose and all those like him, including peers of the realm, could be shown to the satisfaction of a jury that they had deliberately made statements that they had to have known to be false, then I see that as worthy of sanction. Others on this site disagree with me. But I am sure that if such sanctions had been in place from long ago, we would today have a much better informed public and a political class much in fear of losing votes if they did not act on the matter. I think that that loss of freedom is a price worth paying if it saves lives.

    Scientists themselves are not immune from being influenced by the media. I am confident that the majority reading this will believe the official line on 9/11 and see conspiracy theorists, such as myself as tinfoil hat wearing loonies. Yet if one turns to p45 of NIST's Final Report on the collapse of WTC7, one will find that NIST (reluctantly) accept that it collapsed at free-fall acceleration for 100 feet. In truth, all I have done is what I always try to do, namely see what science has to say. this time it says there has to have been an input of energy sufficient to remove the tens of thousands of tons of structural steel and concrete that was stopping the building from collapsing at all. Hence my position that, nukes, directed engery beams, aliens etc notwithstanding, WTC 7 was brought down by the use of explosives. I mention that only to make the point that even scientists can be fooled if they drop their guard. (The price of "freedom etc.")

    As for your comments on Tverberg, as you say, you are no expert. What I was suggesting was that her work needs to be professionally debunked or accepted as valid. It will be something that the faux skeptics will latch onto sooner or later and it would be better if this side of the fence were not caught on the back foot. One thing is very clear is that oil will become more and more scarce with a consequent effect on transport costs, that will in turn screw up economic growth, cause a retraction from globilisation and generally disrupt how economies operate. And all that at a time when interests rates will start to climb and the little bits of paper that we call money will eventually be seen for what they are: only little bits of paper. That will surely have an effect on BAU and with it carbon emissions. I just think it would make sense, if valid, if those notions were built into the climate models. We will only be able to validify them by investigation, which is what I am suggesting. The last thing we need is for the media to have yet another reason to knock the IPCC. I can Mr Rose sharpening his quill even as I write.

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  16. peter:

    With regard to your first paragraph, people in the UK were working on analyzing temperature data long before 1990. For instance:

    Northern Hemisphere Surface Air Temperature Variations: 1851–1984
    P. D. Jones, , S. C. B. Raper, , R. S. Bradley, , H. F. Diaz, , P. M. Kellyo, and , and T. M. L. Wigley

    As you start with the wrong facts, you end with the wrong conclusion. But don't let the facts get in the way of your story.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Peter's post was pure unadulterated sloganeering and was therefore deleted. 

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