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The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice Gareth Renowden Jun 11

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According to Waikato University’s Willem de Lange and freelance climate denier Bob Carter, the whole Arctic is cooling strongly. When Bill and Bob plagiarised their own work for the Heartland-funded and published Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) second report, they were not just copying their own words, but also plagiarising earlier efforts by the NIPCC and Craig Idso’s Centre for the Study of CO2 and Global Change. In fact, a 2007 misrepresentation by Idso of a 2004 paper about temperatures up to the 1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been handed down through seven years, successive “authors” and NIPCC reports until it has become an unbelievable lie that de Lange and Carter are happy to repeat for a new audience.

When I was doing the research for my article on de Lange and Carter’s sea level rise report for Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, I was forced to dig around inside the chapter they had written for most recent NIPCC report — the second of its ilk (NIPCC2, Chapter 6). What jumped out at me was this paragraph, from the conclusions to section 6.2.1.10.1 on page 792:

Regarding the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic regions have been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely Greenland’s frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans anytime soon. This temperature trend is just the opposite — and strikingly so — of that claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC. Accompanying the cooling, the annual number of snowfall days over parts of Greenland has also increased strongly, so an enhanced accumulation of snow there may be compensating for the extra runoff coming from mountain glaciers that have been receding.

That’s right. Carter and de Lange are happy to put their names to a statement that the Arctic has been cooling for the last 50 years. Everybody else thinks that the Arctic has been warming strongly for the last 30 years, as this graph of Arctic surface air temperatures shows:

ArcticSATcrutem4ARC

Source: NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, 2013 update.

So how on earth do they justify a claim that the Arctic has been cooling “at a very significant rate”? The answer’s simple. They don’t. There is no supporting reference given for that statement. It is offered as a conclusion without a hint of a reason supplied in the text above it, or in the references below it. But Bill and Bob didn’t just make it up, they stayed true to form and copied it word for word from somewhere else.

It didn’t take me long to find out where. The first NIPCC report was published by the Heartland Institute in 20091, credited to Craig Idso, Fred Singer and a bunch of the usual suspects — including Bob Carter (pdf here). It includes this paragraph on pages 204/5, in the conclusion to section 4.5.4 on the “Greenland ice cap”:

In conclusion, the part of the Northern Hemisphere that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely that its frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans. In addition, because the annual number of snowfall days over much of Greenland has increased so dramatically over the same time period, it is possible that enhanced accumulation of snow on its huge ice sheet may be compensating for the melting of many of the world’s mountain glaciers and keeping global sea level in check for this reason too. Lastly, Greenland’s temperature trend of the past half-century has been just the opposite—and strikingly so—of that which is claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC.

Strikingly similar to de Lange and Carter’s NIPCC2 effort, I’m sure you’ll agree. Bill and Bob have re-ordered the sentences and made some light edits — most notably the removal of “Greenland” as a qualifier to mentions of temperature trends — but it’s clear where they got the words from.

Unlike NIPCC2 however, this conclusion is not totally unreferenced. In the text above the conclusion, there is a discussion of a paper, Taurisano et al (2004)2, which Idso, Singer et al quote as showing that “a warming trend occurred in the Nuuk fjord during the first 50 years of the 1900s, followed by a cooling over the second part of the century, when the average annual temperatures decreased by approximately 1.5°C.”

But that discussion of Taurisano et al (2004) is not unique to NIPCC1. It bears rather more than a striking resemblance to a section of a paper — The Role of Greenland in Sea Level Rise: A Summary of the Current Literature by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change — an outfit run then, as now, by one Craig Idso. It was published in August 2007 by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), a sort of one-man Heartland-lite lobby group. In fact, the entire NIPCC1 section on the Greenland ice sheet was copied and pasted (with a little light re-editing) from Idso’s paper of a year earlier.

The Taurisano et al paper makes it clear that the cooling they refer to ended in the mid 1990s. Idso ignored this, concentrated on their statement about the latter half of the 20th century and then generalised the limited statement in the paper about regional patterns into a much bolder claim about a current — in 2007 — lack of warming throughout Greenland. By 2007, of course, warming was well-established over the entire region.

Here’s a section of Idso’s text, which was boxed out for emphasis in his paper:

Hence, we can be thankful that whatever the rest of the Northern Hemisphere may be doing, the part that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it ever more unlikely that its horde of frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans to raise havoc with global sea level any time soon.

That sentence appears with very little change in NIPCC1 and NIPCC2. In other words, Idso’s huge 2007 misrepresentation of a paper from 2004 about temperature trends to the mid-1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been passed down as received wisdom, copied and pasted and lightly edited in a perverse game of climate denial whispers until it becomes de Lange and Carter’s unreferenced and entirely counterfactual 2013 assertion that the whole Arctic is cooling strongly.

The influence of Idso’s SPPI paper extends beyond that single paragraph. Large chunks of NIPCC2 section 6.2.1.10.1 appear to have been copied or edited from that source. Nowhere is the Idso paper acknowledged or referenced in NIPCC1 or NIPCC2.

The Heartland Institute claims that its NIPCC reports are “a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming”. The evidence shows that they are not. Based on de Lange and Carter’s shoddy scholarship, and the repeated, unreferenced use of hand-me-down propaganda papers, the NIPCC is revealed to be nothing more than an exercise in copy/pasted sciencey-sounding word salad. As the old saying goes, never mind the quality, feel the width, and with the NIPCC you certainly get plenty of width. NIPCC publications are nothing if not thick reports to sit unread on thinktank library shelves.

Perhaps de Lange and Carter didn’t expect anyone to bother reading page 792 of NIPCC2. Perhaps they thought that anyone who did read their chapter would be on “their side”, and would swallow their bold assertion without a murmur. Perhaps they didn’t even bother reading it themselves. Perhaps gremlins got into de Lange’s word processor and the whole thing wrote itself.

Whatever the truth about the way that Chapter 6 of NIPCC2 was put together, it provides a perfect illustration of the poor academic standards displayed by so-called contrarian scientists. A recent review by John Abraham et al3 of peer-reviewed research by the likes of Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Roy Spencer, found robust evidence that “the science representing major contrarian views is less robust than the counterparts that reflect the AGW consensus”.

If the best you can do to present an argument is to repeat an unreferenced lie from seven years earlier, then you haven’t got much of a case. And de Lange and Carter don’t have any sort of case, they haven’t even got a second-hand plastic bag from a supermarket.

  1. A risible “Summary For Policymakers” (pdf) was released in March 2008 in attempt to counter IPCC AR4.
  2. Taurisano, A., Billionøggild, C. E. and Karlsen, H. G. (2004), A Century of Climate Variability and Climate Gradients from Coast to Ice Sheet in West Greenland. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 86: 217–224. doi: 10.1111/j.0435-3676.2004.00226.x
  3. Abraham, J.P. ,Cook, J., Fasullo, J. T., Jacobs, P. H., Mandia, S. A. & Nuccitelli, D. A. (2014). Review of the Consensus and Asymmetric Quality of Research on Human-Induced Climate Change, Cosmopolis, Vol. 2014-1, pp. 3-18.

Carter and de Lange’s GWPF sea level report plagiarises their own Heartland-funded NIPCC propaganda Gareth Renowden May 27

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Analysis of a report on sea level rise — Sea-level Change: Living with uncertainty — published earlier this month by Nigel Lawson’s UK climate lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and written by NZ scientists Willem de Lange and Bob Carter, shows that it extensively plagiarises last year’s heavily criticised Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) report, funded and published by US lobby group the Heartland Institute. The GWPF report’s conclusions are taken word-for-word from chapter six of the NIPCC report — Observations: The Hydrosphere and Ocean [pdf] — also written by de Lange and Carter. Nowhere in the report do the report’s authors or the GWPF acknowledge the extent to which they rely on the earlier publication. Carter and de Lange fail to credit themselves, Heartland, or the NIPCC beyond a single reference to their chapter in the list of sources appended to the GWPF report.

Here is the first policy recommendation from the GWPF report:

1. Abandonment of ‘let’s stop global sea-level rise’ policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation upon the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modelling. Such modelling remains speculative rather than predictive. The practice of using a global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and should be abandoned.

This bears a striking resemblance to the first of the “conclusions” offered on p796 of chapter six of the NIPCC report:

Abandon “let’s stop global sea-level rise” policies

No justification exists for continuing to base sea-level policy and coastal management regulation on the outcomes of deterministic or semi-empirical sea-level modeling. Such modeling remains highly speculative. Even if the rate of eustatic sea-level change was known accurately, the practice of using a notional global rate of sea-level change to manage specific coastal locations worldwide is irrational, and it should be abandoned.

The eagle-eyed will notice that words in italics are edited from the GWPF version, but in every other respect the two sections are identical. The final two GWPF conclusions are also drawn verbatim from the NIPCC chapter, as are many other parts of the GWPF report.

Where it draws verbatim on the NIPCC work, the GWPF report is both unoriginal and wrong, and where it can be bothered to be original it is also wrong. In either case it is work of shoddy scholarship that reflects badly on its authors, the institutions with which they are associated, and the GWPF.

In addition to the GWPF report’s conclusions being copied from pseudoscientific propaganda commissioned by a US-based far-right lobby group, many other sections also draw word for word from the same source. Here’s part of the section on atolls and low-lying tropical islands from the GWPF version:

Seldom more than a metre or two above sea- level, all atolls and related sand-cay islands are at the continuing mercy of the same wind, waves, tides and weather events that built them. They are dynamic features of the seascape, and over timescales of decades to centuries they erode here, grow there, and sometimes disappear beneath the waves forever. Thus a coral atoll is not so much a ‘thing’ as it is a process, and they are obviously not good places in which to develop
major human population centres.

Section 6.2.1.6. of the NIPCC chapter includes the following paragraph on p776:

Seldom more than a meter or two above sea level, all atolls and related sand-cay and gravel-motu islands are at the continuing mercy of the wind, waves, tides, and weather events that built them. They are dynamic features of the seascape; over timescales of decades to centuries they erode here, grow there, and sometimes disappear beneath the waves forever. A coral atoll is not so much a “thing” as a process, and they are obviously not good places on which to develop major human population centers.

Once again, the GWPF report can be seen to be a lightly edited rehash of the work done by Carter and de Lange for the Heartland Institute, and for which Carter at least was paid significant sums. One wonders if the GWPF’s financial backers, whose privacy is so keenly defended by Lawson and GWPF director Benny Peiser, are aware that they are paying for once-over-lightly retreads of others work?

The GWPF report includes little that is novel when compared with the NIPCC, but in the section headed Future environmental conditions and rates of change, it includes the following paragraph:

The IPCC and its scientific advisers remain committed to the view that global warming, albeit temporarily suspended, will resume and that sea-levels will rise. Other equally qualified but independent scientists, including a number of solar astrophysicists (viz. Bonev et al. 2004), are of the view that over the next few decades cooling is more likely than warming.

Carter and de Lange helpfully provide a full reference for the Bonev et al paper, and it can be read on the web here. The paper speculates about the possibility of reduced solar activity in the 21st century, but nowhere does it mention climate change or suggest that climate cooling is more likely than warming in the “next few decades”.

Shoddy scholarship? Certainly. But the original source document — the NIPCC report — is even worse. Life is too short to go through even one NIPCC chapter with a fine-tooth comb — anyone with a working knowledge of the subject matter would be tearing their hair out long before a comb became useful — but one figure illustrates nicely the contempt with which Carter and de Lange treat the scientific literature and their readers.

On page 758, they include Figure 6.2.1.1.2, which de Lange and Carter say is “adapted from” a couple of papers on post glacial maximum sea level rise. Here is their figure:

NIPCCSLR1

Unfortunately, they do not credit the real source of their graph, which is Robert Rohde’s Global Warming Art project, via Wikipedia:

Post Glacial Sea Level

Shoddy scholarship or copyright theft? You be the judge…

The GWPF’s sea level report is nothing more than propaganda plagiarised from an American lobby group’s attempts to counteract the message coming from the scientific literature via the IPCC. Was it beyond Peiser et al to apply original thought to the question of sea level rise, to find authors who would do more than misrepresent the current state of knowledge? The GWPF, recently forced to set up a campaigning arm in order to protect their charitable status, likes to present itself as an unbiased commentator on climate science, yet appears to be perfectly happy to commission and promote rubbish like this.

For de Lange and Carter, being caught out in self-plagiarism is potentially serious — more so for de Lange, who lists his NIPCC contribution as a scholarly publication on his University of Waikato page. Carter, who long ago cut his ties with academe and now flies under a flag of convenience provided by the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing lobby group in the Heartland mould, has long since given up any pretence to doing real science.

Failing to correctly cite a source would get a first year university student heavily marked down. Misrepresenting what that source says would merit a fail. Outright plagiarism would probably get a student suspended. Yet de Lange and Carter — senior academics represented by the GWPF as experts to be taken seriously — commit all three sins in their work. In sceptic circles, they may still be regarded as experts, but in the real world their inexpertise and cavalier attitude to academic standards is all too evident. They are piss-poor propagandists profiting from the misfortune of others.

Shang a de Lange Gareth Renowden May 03

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Much exercised by the question of ocean warming, New Zealand’s most litigious temperature savant posts excerpts from an article on the subject, and thanks Waikato University’s Willem de Lange for introducing him to this “really clear treatment of ocean warming and ocean-atmosphere interaction”. Two things are interesting about Treadgold’s post, and neither has anything to do with the contents of that article1.

The piece, by oceanographer Robert E. Stevenson (deceased), was published in the summer 2000 edition of 21st Century Science & Technology magazine. This is interesting in and of itself, because 21st Century Science & Technology is is an organ of the Lyndon LaRouche movement, centred on an oddball and extremely fringe US politician. We last encountered LaRouche when exploring the footnotes in Ian Wishart’s remarkable climate book Air Con. Amongst many strange things, LaRouche believes that the President of the US and Prince Philip are conspiring to reduce the population of the world from 7 billion to 2 billion, and that financier George Soros is their henchman2. 21st Century Science & Technology espouses what might be charitably described as non-mainstream views on many science-related subjects, from the “swindle of special relativity” to global warming as “hoax“.

Which leads me to the second interesting thing: does Waikato University’s Willem de Lange, one of the tiny coterie of climate sceptics still active in New Zealand academic circles, listed by his university as an expert on “tsunami and storm surge prediction and mitigation; wave-induced sediment transport; dispersal studies; climate change; oceanography”, really regard Stevenson’s article as a credible reference? Would he be prepared to defend this 12 year old article’s interpretation of the physics of ocean warming against his peers? Or was he perhaps just digging around for a little chum to throw to the less well-educated hordes who congregate around Treadgold’s pulpit desperate for anything to support an oddball contention, that ocean warming somehow has nothing to do with the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? You be the judge…

You might think that de Lange, Treadgold and Lyndon LaRouche make for strange bedfellows, but when you have nothing better to turn to, I suppose — as Steven Stills so memorably sang — you have to love the one you’re with. Rather a pity for all their credibility, what little might be left of it.

[Bay City Rollers for the title, Steven Stills (& CSJT) for the close.]

  1. Life’s too short, basically, to debunk an article of dubious provenance now 12 years old.
  2. No, really. Check the link.

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