3. The Top Scientists and Best Experts?
Laframboise starts by saying that the past two heads of the IPCC have said repeatedly that the organisation contains the best people for the job. Which in my experience is true of the heads of any organisation. But in this case it is ‘bogus’. This chapter basically an annotated bibliography of deserving people who should have been included in the IPCC but were denied because they don’t think climate change is happening and/or caused by humans while the next is a list of people who were undeservingly included. I will try to cover all of them.
First we meet atmospheric science professor William Gray from Colorado State University who has never been asked for his input despite fifty years as a meteorologist and hurricane and climate prediction. Lets look into this, wiki might be a good place to start …. seems they feel the need to point out his hurricane forecasts are often inaccurate. Oh here is one of his co-authors saying that his climate change related research is never up to scratch but that he is great at making hurricane forecasts. But I mean surely his expertise on hurricane prediction should be enough to include him at least in the extreme weather chapters. But there is a link to his testimony before a US Senate committee that might have something interesting in it. “Short-range prediction is possible up to a week or 10 days into the future…. How can we trust climate forecasts 50 and 100 years into the future (that can’t be verified in our lifetime) when they are not able to make shorter seasonal or yearly forecasts that could be verified?… few have ever given real-world weather briefings or made operational weather forecasts.”
Oh I see what the problem is now, he doesn’t really understand the difference between climate and weather on is based on long term average tendencies while the other is based on a linear progression of events. Climate science can’t predict what will happen tomorrow with any accuracy and meteorology can’t predict what will happen next year with any accuracy. A surprisingly common confusion but one you really should have figured out before you start being a climate change expert.
All right next up is Paul Reiter, who claims that the people that wrote the section about malaria are amateurish in his expert opinion. I’m going to include a wee quote here because the wording will become important very soon.
While a large portion of the health chapter in the 1995 edition dealt with malaria, Reiter points out that “not one of the lead authors had ever written a research paper on the subject!” Only those with limited knowledge of this field, he says, could have produced such “amateurish” work.
For example, the Climate Bible said malaria-transmitting mosquitoes usually don’t survive in areas where winter temperatures drop below 16°C (60°F). Reiter says that’s nonsense. We now associate malaria with tropical locales, but poverty and an absence of health care are important factors. Hawaii, Aruba, and Barbados are all tropical, but malaria isn’t a problem there. On the other hand, in the 1800s thousands died of malaria in North America and Europe – even in Siberia
Finally some hard facts I can check up on, lets look at the 1995 malaria section, well I expected a bit more than a page and a half on malaria it is after all a ‘large portion’ of this 21 page chapter. And this chapter (like all of them) has two types of authors, lead and contributing. Both write parts of the chapter although lead authors contribute more. Well let us look at the lead authors, a google scholar search on all 9 of them demonstrates that none of them have papers on malaria specifically on the first page of their results, although two did write a paper on infectious diseases and climate change which is vaguely relevant to this section. But how about the 11 contributing authors some of them may have written the malaria section? While W.J.M Martens has a fair few on the topic on the first page of his search and R.Sloof has one about disease vector control and R.S. Kovats has one about climate change and disease vectors, both of which probably include mosquitoes . Speaking of which W. K. Reisen is all about mosquitoes and disease. So actually saying that the leading authors don’t have the expertise may be true in a narrow sense but is definitely misleading.
But while I have the report open lets see what it says about malaria….
“Although anopheline mosquito species that transmit malaria do not usually survive where the mean winter temperature drops below 16-18°C, some higher-latitude species are able to hibernate in sheltered sites.” p.571 2nd IPCC (1995) WG II
So shall we play spot the differences between Laframboise quote and what the IPCC says? First you have the difference between mean winter temperature dropping below 16oC and the winter temperature dropping below 16oC the word mean is kind of significant in this context. For example I live in Hamilton, NZ the Average August Temperature is 10oC however so far this month the temperature has dropped down to 8oC it got down to 5oC in the last few days of July and is expected to go down to 4oC on the 20th. That is a 6 degree difference which is kind of huge, dropping the word mean is hugely dishonest. But there are more differences the end of that sentence, which Paul Reiter has definitely read, goes on to point out that some mosquitoes can even survive in those conditions by hibernating. So yes Mr Reiter all the mosquitoes dropping dead if the temperature goes below 16oC is nonsense the fucking IPCC even supports your statement.
But there are a few more IPCC quotes you should see before we let Paul Reiter go.
“Until recent decades, parts of today’s developed world were malarious. These included the United States, southern Europe, and northern Australia. In the last century, outbreaks of P. Vivax malaria occurred in Scandinavia and North America. Although climate change would increase the potential transmission of malaria in some temperate areas, the existing public-health resources in those countries… would likely make reemergent malaria unlikely.” p.572
Which covers pretty much everything that Paul Reiter implied that the IPCC were amateurish for not knowing. If the statement attributed to Reiter is accurate and not taken out of context than he is a miserable wretch of an academic who should thank every god that has ever been conceived of that he has managed to get a single word published in an academic journal. Whether this is an accurate statement or not Laframbroise is clearly a disgrace of a journalist who despite her two years of research into this topic either never looked at the report she was criticizing or deciding she was just going to mislead her readers about what was in it. Real fucking classy.
One totally deserving scientist left, Nils-Axel Mörner, former head of a geo-dynamics unit at the university of Stockholm. (P.S. Nils-Axel is a cool name and sorry if you do actually turn out to be deserving but I’m in kind of a bad mood and you are in shit company here.) Laframboise claims he told the British House of Lords that
Between 1999 and 2003, genuine sea level experts held five international meetings to discuss the available real-world evidence. They concluded that sea levels are unlikely to increase by more than 10 cm (4 inches) by the year 2100.
But I no longer trust her so I’m going to go and check this out. Wow that doesn’t seem terrible, I mean Laframboise forgets to mention that 1999 to 2003 was the period when Mörner was the President of the INQUA Commission which are the experts cited. He also doesn’t say that seas are unlikely to rise more than 10cm by 2100 he says they are unlikely to rise by more than 10cm plus or minus another 10cm. Which is actually saying sea levels are unlikely to rise by more than 20cm but hey when you have already been as dishonest as Laframboise has been then you might as well lie about the small stuff as well. Remember back at the start when I said Laframboise and I might get along in some settings I mean she is a feminist and supports civil rights, yeah I was wrong.
But back to what Nils-Axel was saying to the Lords, he puts forwards a bunch a graphs which show that the sea level isn’t rising – two of them look a bit odd. There is one which he claim has been ’tilted’ by other scientists to compensate for inferred tide-gauge interpretations. Which when you tilt it back to the raw data shows no increase in sea level. It seems to me like it was probably tilted for a reason but I really don’t know enough to comment on this other than it makes me a bit suspect. The other suspect one is a graph of the sea level of the Maldives which demonstrates a really sharp drop in the 1970’s and since then no change, which makes me wonder why the locals are getting upset because some of them at least can surely remember sea levels being much higher only 4 decades ago. Lets check out these INQUA experts, well they seem legit, although the only thing on their wiki page is them saying climate change is serious and we should do something about it. But what is this down the bottom, Nils-Axel has his very own page. Oh it seems that pretty much as soon as he stopped being their President the INQUA experts publicly denounced his views on climate change, ouch. Oh and that no one has been able to support his findings about the Maldives and that most studies disagree with is whole graph tilting thing. Also he is a fan of dowsing and was elected ‘deceiver of the year’ in 1995.
So to summarise the three people Laframboise uses to demonstrate how the IPCC didn’t pick experts are a weatherman that doesn’t understand what the difference between climate and weather is, a misleading prick and the deceiver of the year (1995). Lets just say I am glad she is not in charge of recruitment or the IPCC.
But one last quote from Laframboise
But they are all IPCC outsiders. This suggests the IPCC defines top scientists and best experts differently than do most of us.
No, they define top scientist and best experts differently than you, not most of us.
4. Twenty-Something Graduate Students
If you hadn’t figured it out by now I’m sure that chapter title gave it away Laframboise really doesn’t like young people. This is her chapter about people who were included in the IPCC reports writing but didn’t deserve to be, compared to the people in the last chapter. Her main argument against them is that they are all to young to be scientists. In her words
Typically these are individuals in their twenties. Their experience of the world is neither broad nor deep. If they were merely performing administrative tasks that would be one thing. But the IPCC has long relied on their expert judgment.
But well lets go through them to see if her arguments against them stack up. First up on the old unfounded character attack train is Richard Klein, in 1992 he finished his Masters, worked for Greenpeace and in 1995 he was an IPCC chapter lead author, age 25. By 28 he was a coordinating lead author of the IPCC and finished his PhD in 2003. That is all the info we have on him, lets do the standard thing google scholar search. Unfortunately Richard Klein is a common scholarly name but assuming he is Richard J.T. Klein he hugely influential, his work has been cited in 7,674 other academic works. Holy Fuck that’s a big number particularly since he hasn’t been writing all that long. Also here is his C.V. Laframboise forgot to mention his second masters, also that stint working for Greenpeace was a three month work placement not that it means anything either way but more on that in a few chapters.
Anyway looking at this guys C.V. It seems fairly obvious in retrospect that he is a smart guy but lets put us in the place of the IPCC recruiters (or whatever) in 1995 what does his C.V. tell us about his qualifications at that time in his life. Well we might actually know him because it was his job to liaise with us and other international science organisations on behalf of VU University in Amsterdam, he was also Research Associate and on secondment to the National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management. Which all sounds well but he is going to be one of 11 lead authors on the chapter on coastal zones and small islands, for which there is also a coordinating lead author and 19 contributing authors to support him on this chapter. Actually he does have a lot of support and supervision for this job and he has risen very far very quickly in the Dutch scientific community, I’d give him a go. A bit subjective but it doesn’t seem anywhere near as abhorrent as Laframboise makes it out to be.
Next we have Laurens Bouwer was was an IPCC lead author in 1999 while he only completed his masters in 2001, a masters in climate change and water resources although he worked on the insurance chapter of the IPCC report, you should all be horrified right now. But wait there‘s more, he was working for MunichRE and insurance company at the time, as a trainee.
Well lets do some research, google scholar says he isn’t quite as awesome as Richard Klein up above but Bouwer still does manage 710 citations which it is only three years since he got his PhD. Also one of his areas of expertise is Risk Assessment, sort of relevant to his work on the insurance chapter. Unfortunately no proper C.V. Is forthcoming but here is his bio and it really seems like his career was only just taking off in 1999 when he started working on the third IPCC report. So given the information at hand it does seem a little surprising that he ended up working on this report, however he was probably actually chosen by MunichRE as they are the experts in reinsurance and them putting forward one of their trainees in geoscience department was probably a big confidence boost for the IPCC in allowing this man to take part.
Now we have an Australian women, Lisa Alexander the only information provided about her is that she worked on the 3rd and 4th iterations of the IPCC report while getting her Ph.D in 2010. She doesn’t seem to have an authors page like the previous two but the list of publications is impressive going back to at least 2000. Also her bio makes it clear that even in 1999 when she was selected to be on the IPCC for the first time she was experienced, in fact I get the distinct impression that she only got around to getting her Ph.D in 2009 because there was a bit of a lull in all the research she was doing on climate change. She got a BSc in ’95 a MSc in ’98 when she was also working at the Met Office Hadley in the climate variability group. Which is still a decent four years research on climate change, assuming she didn’t do anything relevant during her bachelors. She spent the next decade continuing working for Met Office Hadley then the Australian Bureau of Meterology while leading The Expert Team on Climate Change Detection and Indices regional capacity building teams in Jamaica, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam and Indonesia, hopefully not all at once. She is currently a senior researcher at the University of New South Wales and chairs the World Meterological Organisation Commission for Climatology Expert Team on Climate Risk and Sector Specific Indices. Seems to me like Laframboise left out a few relevant details.
We have two more to go Sari Kovats and Jonathan Patz they were both contributing authors on the health chapter that Paul Reiter criticised in the previous chapter of LaFramboise’s book. In fact Kovats was one of the authors who has done research relevant to the topic that Reiter implied no one knew anything about. But Kovats’ crime was not getting her Ph.D until 2010 while Patz completed his Masters in ’92. You all know that both of these people are going to turn out to be very competent, but I still feel like I should show you some links then point out one very pertinent fact. For Kovats we have her google scholar page and a bio, and the same for Patz (google, and bio) probably should point out that was his second masters in 1992 and he actually got his first in 1987
The important fact to consider about these two is that Kovats actually was a co-author of one of the first books on climate change and human health. This book was published in 1994, the reason that this chapter of the IPCC had young people as experts was because it was a very new field of study.
If you are getting the impression that it I’m feeling a bit depressed by now you would be correct, firstly because I don’t like seeing these people who are clearly good at what the do being misrepresented by a person who is clearly bad at what she does. Secondly because she doesn’t seem to understand that often for an academic when they complete their Ph.D is often when they are at the top of their game academically, it is a period where they are supposed to be immersing themselves in their field of study with the object of becoming the world expert in that topic. They aren’t supposed to be worrying about teaching other people, disseminating what they learn or reviewing their peers just entirely on learning everything there is to know about something It isn’t an opportunity most people get very often. Third thing that has made me sad about this is that underneath this whole chapter is a belief that young people can’t know things and are generally intellectually useless. So I’m just going to drop a few names and ages here, Isaac Newton, discovered the binomial formula and started working on inventing calculus, age 22. Johannes Kepler, published the first book describing the motion of the planets mathematically, age 24. Rene Descartes, develops the philosophical basis of modern science while a soldier in the Dutch Army, age 23. Ernst Rutherford, co-discovered the electron, age 26. Albert Einstein, Special Relativity, Brownian Motion and E=MC2, all the same year, he was 26. On their behalf and for all the other young people in the world, go fuck yourself Donna Laframboise, I would expect a self described feminist to know better than to judge someone based purely on their age, although I’m guessing she is old and intersectionality wasn’t really a thing when she was being ‘progressive’. Notice how aged based stereotypes of stupidity work both ways, that one of many reasons why they are so idiotic.
Wow this book is an emotional roller-coaster. Read how it ends here