Latest IPCC Scandal: Exaggerated Sea Level Claims

Published August 6, 2010

A Dutch environmental agency has confirmed the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported overly alarmist sea level claims regarding the Netherlands in IPCC’s most recent report. The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) admitted IPCC relied on inflated numbers NEAA had supplied to IPCC, claiming 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level when the true number is only 26 percent.

NEAA now says it meant to say 55 percent of the country was prone to flooding.

“The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has accepted responsibility for a dramatic overstatement of the amount of Dutch land that is below sea level,” said Pat Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies for Cato Institute. “The general notion that the IPCC’s conclusions retain value, despite this and many other singular errors that have recently been uncovered, is itself subject to debate.”

Latest of Many Scandals
The scandal is just the latest in a series of important mistakes and deceptions that have surfaced in IPCC’s most recent report on climate change, released in 2007. Other important IPCC scandals include:

• IPCC claimed Himalayan glaciers were melting because of global warming and the Himalayas would be glacier-free by 2035. When the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests published a scientific study finding no evidence of global warming affecting Himalayan glaciers, IPCC chair Raj Pachauri publicly derided it as “voodoo science.” Soon thereafter, it was revealed IPCC did not rely on any scientific studies for its Himalayan glacier claims and instead used unsubstantiated speculation by an environmental activist group.

• IPCC claimed “up to 40 percent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation” and “it is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems . . . such as tropical savannas.” That claim had no support in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Instead, IPCC based its prediction on an advocacy article produced by the World Wildlife Fund environmental activist group.

• Key scientists working with IPCC hid, manipulated, and destroyed scientific evidence that contradicted their alarmist claims. When the scientists learned they may be required to turn over email exchanges pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, they conspired to delete and destroy the incriminating emails. IPCC scientists additionally sought to get editors of peer-reviewed journals fired for publishing scientific studies that called IPCC alarmism into question.

More Errors, Bias Revealed
While confirming IPCC’s error regarding sea level claims, NEAA uncovered and reported other IPCC errors unrelated to NEAA.

For example, IPCC claimed anchovy productivity off Africa’s west coast will drop by 50-60 percent, but NEAA showed IPCC twisted the scientific literature in making its claim. According to NEAA, the peer-reviewed scientific literature cited by IPCC suggests a 50-60 percent decrease in “extreme wind and seawater turbulence”—which is generally considered a beneficial effect of global warming—”with some effects on the anchovy population that were not quantified.” Nowhere does the scientific literature claim anchovy production will decline to the same extent as extreme wind and seawater turbulence.

According to NEAA, IPCC has engaged in a pattern of trumpeting negative aspects of global warming, whether real or imagined, while ignoring positive impacts and uncertainties. NEAA argues future IPCC reports should discuss “the full range of climate-change impacts,” including uncertainties and positive impacts.

An NEAA press release explained, “Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency concluded that the summaries in the IPCC Working Group II Report put an emphasis on projections of the more serious, negative impacts of climate change. This selection was an obvious choice, and also had been approved by the governments that constitute the IPCC. However, this meant that the less severe impacts and any positive effects did not make it into the summaries for policymakers, which made the overall tenor of the summaries more negative than that of the underlying chapters.”

No Evidence for Imminent Disaster
If the IPCC wants to conclude carbon dioxide does somewhat warm the atmosphere and temperatures are higher than 100 years ago, “that’s fine,” Michaels said. “But if the general conclusion is that global warming is an imminent disaster, that’s not fine.”

Michaels said IPCC citations often come from biased sources, which leads to “publication bias” in the agency’s final and released findings.

Politics Trumping Science
Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, says politics corrupts the IPCC process and casts doubt on any science cited by the panel.

“It is impossible to tell where politics stops and science begins with the IPCC,” Myers said. “The IPCC intentionally molded politics into the report, attempting to cloak the uncertainty and the fact that the science was not actually settled. With so little transparency about the separation of ideology and science, the IPCC’s reports are really useless beyond some very basic conclusions.”

The IPCC reports have created an atmosphere of confusion for those who make rules and regulations, he said.

“The problem for policymakers is that they are now trying to make decisions without a reliable scientific foundation and are simply substituting their own gut feeling and personal opinions for scientific rigor,” Myers said. “[I] really cannot overstate the bottom-line conclusion that the IPCC’s last report is unusable as a guide for policymakers.”

Cheryl K. Chumley ([email protected]) writes from Northern Virginia.