Yesterday's post highlighted a bit of the petty nature of some disputes regarding a recent lecture given by one Matt Ridley. It also took note of how people can get basic facts wrong even though anyone who bothered to check the cited sources would know better. In fact, if one had checked the cited sources, they'd find one didn't even exist.
I thought that would be that. I didn't plan to revisit the topic. However, I recently saw a couple things I couldn't ignore. It started with this tweet on Twitter:
— Paul Matthews (@etzpcm) October 20, 2016
The article it links to is important, but a couple additional tweets will help explain why. First is this response from climate scientist Richard Betts:
Yes the post says it's me! BTW I link to your blog Paul: main WG2 report was released on same day as SPM, not "6 months later" as MR claimed https://t.co/O3qliZjKuj
— Richard Betts (@richardabetts) October 20, 2016
— Richard Betts (@richardabetts) October 20, 2016
This seems great and all, with a climate scientist explaining to a "skeptic" how they were wrong and everyone coming to an agreement. The problem is the climate scientist is wrong. What he says simply is not true. It is also not true when the article I said is important repeats this claim:
The main report was published on the same day as the SPM.
This is from the Met office (to which Betts belongs), the national weather service for the United Kingdoms. It plays an important role in the global warming debate. It's also completely wrong.
When checking if something we read is true, the first step should be to check the sources provided along with the claim. That means clicking on the link the Met Office provided. When we do, we find it doesn't go to a press release or news article announcing the release of the "main report" for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report. It doesn't even go to an article. The link is:
If you're familiar with how WordPress blog URLs tend to be formatted, you'll recognize this is not a link to a specific page or source. It's a link to all blog posts published on that site in March (03) of 2014. That's a little odd, but the first blog post listed is titled:
IPCC Working Group II Report published
Which was published on March 31st, 2014, saying:
IPCC Working group II, “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” has today published its Summary for Policymakers. The main report has also been published, divided into two volumes: Volume 1, the first 20 chapters, is on global effects and Vol 2 (chapters 21-30) is on regional aspects.
This would seem to confirm both the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) and "main report" were published at the same time. It seems that way because the author made a mistake. That's not exactly surprising. It is a blog post. Blog posts often contain errors. That is why one would expect the Met Office to use something more substantive than, "A guy on the internet said so."
For instance, the Met Office could have relied upon an IPCC press release, which said:
YOKOHAMA, Japan, 31 March – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.
The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks.
Huh. That confirms what the blogger said, right? Wrong. This press release by the IPCC is just as wrong as the press release by the Met Office. It's actually rather troubling. You see, with this press release the IPCC told everybody it was publishing the report hundreds or thousands of scientists had worked on for years. This was misleading.
The SPM was released on March 31st, 2014. However, look at the header attached to any of the documents released along with it. Here's one:
This header clearly refers to the release on March, 2014. It also clearly says, "FINAL DRAFT." Draft versions of a report are not the report. That is why you'll see a footer on each document like:
Which clearly says the material is "Subject to Final Copyedit." That is, the draft version is not the final report. It is not the "main report." It is just a draft version of the "main report." The "main report" wasn't released until six months later, on October 15th, 2014.
Now, some people might argue this is a technicality. That's not a defense. The Met Office is a scientific organization which provided a press release for the media to tell them a person was wrong in which it said the "main report" was published along with the SPM. That is false. The reality is the main report wasn't published for six more months. All that was published was a draft version.
Still, maybe one could forgive the Met Office for being technically wrong. One could perhaps excuse Richard Betts for saying he helped get this main report released on March 31st. After all, the final draft was only "Subject to Final Copyedit." Copyedits shouldn't involve any substantial changes, right? Wrong.
Or at least, kind of wrong. A final copyedit shouldn't cause any substantial changes. That is correct. What is wrong is the IPCC did make substantial changes. To consider one, I'll quote an article by Bob Ward (you may remember him from the last post) published on October 17th, 2014:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has corrected a controversial claim that small amounts of global warming could have overall positive economic impacts, after I pointed out that it was based on inaccurate information.
The final draft of the chapter, which was published in April, featured a section on the aggregate economic impacts of climate change, containing the statement: “Climate change may be beneficial for moderate climate change but turn negative for greater warming.”
But the version published this week omits the statement because it was based on faulty data.
I quoted this specific article for two reasons. First, Ward gets things correct by distinguishing between the "final draft" and the "final version" of the IPCC WGII report. That is what the Met Office should have done. That is what Richard Betts should have done. If they had done this, they wouldn't have said Matt Ridley was wrong on this issue, and they wouldn't have wasted my time.
Yes, I am a bit annoyed they couldn't be bothered to get such a simple point right. That's because these same people were involved in the IPCC process so they should know better. But hey, the IPCC said the same thing they have, so I guess we can't fault them too much. Or maybe we should. Maybe we should fault them even more for failing to call out the IPCC when it misled people.
Whatever. I'll stop moralizing. Let's look at the second reason I quoted this specific article. That reason is this article points out a significant change in one section of the IPCC WGII Report. People familiar with this site may recognize what this is referring to. I've written about it and the sordid history behind it a number of times. I'll quote a post I published the same day Ward published his:
I've previously documented changes in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) which were made absent any external review.... It is difficult to see how a review process can be "open and transparent" if significant changes are made absent any review. It is difficult to see how a review process can "ensure complete coverage of all content" when entire sections are (re)written absent any review.
I'm not going to dwell on that today though. The changes I discussed before were between various drafts of the IPCC report. Today, I'm going to discuss changes made between the "Final Draft" and "final version" of the IPCC WGII report. The Final Draft was released to the public on March 31st with this word of caution:
"The Final Draft Report has to be read in conjunction with the document entitled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Working Group II Contribution to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report — Changes to the Underlying Scientific/Technical Assessment” to ensure consistency with the approved Summary for Policymakers (IPCC-XXXVIII/DOC.3) presented to the Panel at its 38th Session. This document lists the changes necessary to ensure consistency between the full Report and the Summary for Policymakers, which was approved line-by-line by Working Group II and accepted by the Panel at the above-mentioned Sessions. A listing of substantive edits additionally indicates corrections of errors for the Final Draft Report."
But has been widely treated as being the "IPCC Report." The actual final version was only published two days ago, on October 15th. It has changes as indicated would be made in that disclaimer. The list of "substantive edits" is available here. An errata listing several minor changes is available here. A list of changes necessary for consistency with the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) is available here. That these documents are made publicly available suggests a genuine interest in transparency. That suggestions is completely undermined, however, by the multitude of changes the documents don't mention.
The post then goes on to detail a number of substantial changes one section of the IPCC WGII Report underwent, concluding:
I don't claim this discussion has been exhaustive. There are likely other examples of undisclosed changes to be found. There is certainly more to be said about this one section. For now though, I'm content with what I've shown here. The Final Draft of the IPCC WGII Report has been out for nearly seven months. It has been used by the public and media as "the IPCC Report." And yet, we now see substantial changes were made to it before the official final version was published, changes made without any disclosure, explanation or transparency. To add to the strangeness, we see such changes were made to a section, figure and table which were never reviewed in the first place as they were added to the IPCC report only after the last round of reviews.
One could easily believe the apparent need for inexplicable and undisclosed changes wouldn't be necessary if the IPCC would bother to have "a comprehensive review of [its] reports" where "experts not involved in the preparation of" material actually reviewed what went into the report.
But that might require a review process which is "objective, open and transparent."
Everything I said in that post was true. There was an interesting oddity though. Sometime after I wrote the post, the IPCC updated the documents I linked to in it which I had said failed to disclose these changes. The new versions of the documents list some, but not all, of the changes. The reasons given for the changes range from unhelpful to false. Even worse, each one is given with an entry in the Date column:
While not providing any other date for the update. The result is readers viewing the documents would likely think they had been updated on October 15th, 2014, the same day as the "main report" was released. This would likely make them wonder why I referred to "secret" and "undisclosed" changes when a number of the changes I referred to were included in these documents.
I bring that up partially because secret changes to documents are a pet peeve of mine (see this recent post of mine for an example), but mostly because I want to demonstrate how basic facts can be misperceived because people are not honest and up front.
Mind you, I don't think these people are trying to be nefarious. I think they just don't worry about getting all the little details correct. If a press release says a report is being released when all that's actually being released is a draft report, who cares? Nobody is going to push back against the IPCC for it. Why would they? It's just a technicality.
Only, we see now why these sort of things matter. Here we are, two years later, with a dispute about basic facts that arises solely because the IPCC and other people didn't worry about getting the details right. Richard Betts didn't worry about warning people the "final draft" would be different from the "final version" so they shouldn't rely upon it. The Met Office didn't either. Instead, they talked to everybody about the "final draft" as though it was the real report.
By the way, before anyone asks, I have brought up my concerns with the IPCC. Initially, I was ignored. When I finally got a response, I was told my concerns about changes to the IPCC report being made absent any external review were not their concern as it wasn't considered an "error" for such changes to be made. I was told that even though I explicitly pointed out errors that resulted from these changes.
Oh, and after I was dismissed out-of-hand, I was told I should let the IPCC know if I needed more information. I tried doing so. They ignored me again. Apparently the IPCC approach to handling situations like this is, "Ignore them and hope they go away." It worked. This is all so petty and stupid I'll admit I gave up. That goes for today's topic too
Come on guys. That's you Richard Betts. That's everyone at the Met Office too. It's Paul Matthews as well, the "skeptic" blogger the Met Office relied upon for their false claim. You're all better than this. Don't waste people's time getting basic facts wrong.