Reports by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the earth is experiencing unprecedented global warming are flawed and cannot be supported, investigators now report.
In a study reported in the Washington Times, a panel of statisticians, chaired by Edward J. Wegman of George Mason University, found significant problems with the methods of analysis used by the researchers and with the IPCC's peer review process.
According to the Times, "IPCC reports have predicted average world temperatures will increase dramatically, leading to the spread of tropical diseases, severe drought, the rapid melting of the world's glaciers and ice caps, and rising sea levels." The Times notes, however that "several assessments of the IPCC's work have shown the techniques and methods used to derive its climate predictions are fundamentally flawed."
In a 2001 report, the IPCC published an image commonly referred to as the "hockey stick," the Times explained, adding that it showed relatively stable temperatures from A.D. 1000 to 1900, with temperatures rising steeply from 1900 to 2000. "The IPCC and public figures, such as former Vice President Al Gore, have used the hockey stick to support the conclusion that human energy use over the last 100 years has caused an unprecedented rise in global warming," according to the Times.
Since those claims have been discounted by several studies which the newspaper notes cast doubt on the accuracy of the hockey stick, Congress in 2006 requested an independent analysis by Wegman and his panel.
The Times reports that the researchers who created the hockey stick used the wrong time scale to establish the mean temperature to compare with recorded temperatures of the last century. Because the mean temperature was low, the recent temperature rise seemed unusual and dramatic. This error, the Times explained, was not discovered in part because statisticians were never consulted.
Moreover, the community of specialists in ancient climates from which the peer reviewers were drawn was small and many of them had ties to the original authors — no less than 43 paleoclimatologists had previously co-authored papers with the lead researcher who constructed the hockey stick.
Even using accurate temperature data, sound forecasting methods are required to predict climate change. Over time, forecasting researchers have compiled 140 principles that can be applied to a broad range of disciplines, including science, sociology, economics, and politics.
The Times recalled that in a recent National Center for Policy Analysis study, Kesten Green and J. Scott Armstrong used these principles to audit the climate forecasts in the Fourth Assessment Report. Green and Armstrong found that the IPCC clearly violated 60 of the 127 principles relevant in assessing the IPCC predictions.
Indeed, it could only be clearly established that the IPCC followed 17 of the more than 127 forecasting principles critical to making sound predictions.
Writes H. Sterling Burnett the author of the Times story, "A good example of a principle clearly violated is 'Make sure forecasts are independent of politics.' Politics shapes the IPCC from beginning to end. Legislators, policy-makers and/or diplomatic appointees select (or approve) the scientists — at least the lead scientists — who make up the IPCC. In addition, the summary and the final draft of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report was written in collaboration with political appointees and subject to their approval."
Burnett writes, "Sadly, Mr. Green and Mr. Armstrong found no evidence that the IPCC was even aware of the vast literature on scientific forecasting methods, much less applied the principles."
As a result of such problems Mr. Wegman's team concluded that the idea that the planet is experiencing unprecedented global warming "cannot be supported."
According to the author of the Times story, H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute in Dallas, says the IPCC's policy recommendations are based on flawed statistical analyses and procedures that violate general forecasting principles.
He warned that policy-makers should take this into account before enacting laws to counter global warming — which economists point out would have severe economic consequences.
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