The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice

By Gareth Renowden 11/06/2014

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 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:


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 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.