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

By Gareth Renowden 27/05/2014


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.