IPCC’s new protocol for addressing possible errors

by Judith Curry

Nic Lewis sent me the following message in an email:

I have some news to report on a response to the letter forming this post from the IPCC authors.  Gabi Hegerl, joint coordinating lead author of Chapter 9, emailed me late yesterday afternoon to say that she had brought my letter to the attention of the WG1 AR5 Co-Chairs to initiate the appropriate handling of the alleged error, and that it will be dealt with in accordance with the recently approved “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports.

With regards to handling errors in IPCC reports,  the InterAcademy Council Review (IAC) of the IPCC made the following recommendation:

The IPCC should establish an Executive Committee to act on its behalf between Plenary sessions. The membership of the Committee should include the IPCC Chair, the Working Group Co-chairs, the senior member of the Secretariat, and three independent members who include individuals from outside of the climate community. Members would be elected by the Plenary and serve until their successors are in place.

The Executive Committee would have the authority to act on the following issues:

  • Approving modest alterations to the scope of an ongoing assessment in response to new scientific developments
  • Approving minor corrections to published reports
  • Ensuring effective, ongoing communication withstakeholders, especially the media, including responding to errors
  • Addressing cross-cutting issues, such as ensuring, where appropriate, communication and cooperation among Working Groups
  • Other tasks as specifically delegated by the Panel

At the May meeting in Abu Dhabi, the IPCC has a new policy of governance that includes an Executive Committee.  However the IPCC did NOT implement the IAC’s recommendation to include three independent members from outside the climate community (h/t Steve McIntyre).

The IPCC response to the issue of allegations of errors in the IPCC report is addressed in the communications report from the May meeting in Abu Dhabi:

Errors

The IPCC is in the process of developing a formal procedure for acknowledging potential errors of fact that might change the scientific content of assessments. In the case of addressing such a potential error of fact, the Executive Committee, which has the responsibility of overseeing the process of handling errors, as identified by the IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports, should work closely with the Senior Communications Manager on a timely and cogent response. If an error is identified, it should be addressed in a forthright manner, corrected, and formally acknowledged.

Though a full response is likely to take more time than allowed by the media cycle, it is however important to quickly communicate to the Media, as well as government Focal Points, that the issue is being examined according to the forthcoming IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports.

At the Abu Dhabi meeting,  an additional report was written entitled “ IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Special Reports or Inventory Guidelines.”

This protocol is intended to be used only to correct errors that could have been avoided in the context of the information available at the time the report was written. Its use should be reserved for errors of fact or accuracy. The protocol cannot be used to make changes that reflect new knowledge or scientific information that became available only after the literature cut-off date for the report in question. It cannot be used to propose the consideration of additional sources not cited in the existing assessment, unless directly relevant to an error of fact or accuracy. It must also not be invoked to reflect a difference in opinion compared with an author team or a new interpretation of knowledge or scientific information.

This protocol is intended to address the full range of possible errors from typographical errors through complicated issues of sourcing, interpretation, analysis, or assessment, arising from the previously mentioned errors of fact or accuracy.

Responsibility for implementing the error correction protocol rests with the current Co-Chairs of the relevant Working Group or Task Force product containing the putative error. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Chairman. In all cases, the relevant Coordinating Lead Authors and Co-Chairs of the report containing the putative error or, in the case of the Synthesis Report, the IPCC Chairman and relevant Working Group Co-Chairs at the time of that assessment, will be kept informed of the evaluation and participate as appropriate.

The protocol is presented as a decision tree, which is based on a set of underlying principles. The procedure to be followed for investigating the claimed error and, if appropriate, implementing its correction depends on the location of the claimed error, i.e., whether it resides in a Chapter or the Technical Summary of a Working Group Contribution to an Assessment Report or of a Special Report, or in the Inventory Guidelines, in the Summary for Policymakers of a Working Group Contribution or of a Special Report, or in the Overview Chapter of the Inventory Guidelines, or in a Synthesis Report.

 Principles underlying this protocol for handling errors:

1.   The IPCC Secretariat is the entry point for all error reporting.

2. The IPCC Secretariat maintains an internal error tracking system. Entries are made in consultation with the current Co-Chairs of the relevant Working Group (WG) or Task Force (TF) or in case of an error in a Synthesis Report in consultation with the current IPCC Chairman. This system informs the leadership of IPCC and the Technical Support Units (TSUs), via a protected website, about the current status of all active error handling processes.

3.    To the extent possible, corrections should be based on consensus, consistent with the IPCC principles that form the foundation for the underlying reports.

4.  Responsibility for decisions at steps during the process is with the current WG or TF Bureau of the WG or TF product in which the putative error resides. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Bureau.

5. Responsibility for implementation is with the current Co-Chairs of the WG or TF product in which the putative error resides. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Chairman.

6. Original authors (Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs), and Lead Authors (LAs) if necessary) must be involved as appropriate. Communication with them is via the current Co-Chairs of the relevant WG or TF (the IPCC Chairman in the case of the Synthesis Report). If any of the individuals identified as playing leading roles on behalf of author teams of previous reports are not available, then the current Co-Chairs of the WG or TF (the IPCC Chairman in the case of the Synthesis Report) will identify an individual or individuals best qualified to take over those roles.

7.   For putative errors regarding the previous assessment cycles, the previous Co-Chairs of the relevant WG or TF and the previous IPCC Chairman need to be kept informed and may be consulted as appropriate.

8. Handling of putative errors must be coordinated across Chapters, Executive Summaries of Chapters, Technical Summaries of WG Contributions, Summaries for Policymakers for Working Groups, Synthesis Reports, Summaries for Policymakers for Synthesis Reports, and Overview Chapters of Inventory Guidelines.

9.    At the start of the process, the claimant is informed by the IPCC Secretariat about the next steps in a general way, and referred to this “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Special Reports or Inventory Guidelines”. The claimant will again be informed at the conclusion of the process.

10. Errata are posted on the IPCC and WG or TF websites after the conclusion of the process. A short explanatory statement about the error may also be posted.

JC comments:  Nic Lewis’ allegation of an error surrounding Figure 9.20 of the AR4 appears to be the first test of the IPCC’s new policy on Addressing Possible Errors.  The IPCC process seems thorough,  although not apparently designed to produce a quick response.  Lets see how it plays out.  Thoughts and comments on the IPCC’s new policies?

112 responses to “IPCC’s new protocol for addressing possible errors

  1. “The membership of the Committee should include the IPCC Chair, the Working Group Co-chairs, the senior member of the Secretariat, and three independent members who include individuals from outside of the climate community. ”

    I nominate Steve McIntyre.

    • Steve McIntrye is not a bad idea. I’ve had my disagreements with him at times, but I think he would do a conscientious job. He is intelligent and well informed. He has stated that he believes the basic anthropogenic climate change principles described by the climate science community are probably correct, but he is also willing to judge individual contributions critically from an outsider’s perspective.

      Good suggestion.

      • But that IAC recommendation is not being implemented. More pressure is needed.

      • The IAC recommendation is not being implemented so further pressure is needed, but to what end? Pressure for the IPCC to be disbanded? Pressure for it to be ignored by all politicians? I find other options unattractive this evening.

      • I too prefer eliminating the IPCC to attempting to improve it. But we can still discuss improvement.

      • Exactly right David.

      • The IPCC served a useful purpose in promoting AGW as the “common enemy” that literally “united nations” to protect us from mutual nuclear annihilation while Nuclear Disarmament talks were underway.

        The threat of global warming today is no greater than the 1974 threat of “Another Ice Age.”

        Fighting these two fictitious dangers protected us from the very real danger that faced the world in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

        LIke Albert Einstein, world leaders have been “in pursuit of a dream” of a safe world. Their only mistake was in overlooking that these noble ends cannot be achieved by less than honorable means – violating the basic principles of science.

        See Dr. S. Chatterjee’s insightful review of Einstein’s dream [“In Pursuit of a Dream”, Frontline, 22, issue 10 (7-10 May 2005)]

        http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl2210/stories/20050520003702600.htm

        With kind regards,
        Oliver K. Manuel
        Former NASA Principal
        Investigator for Apollo

      • And he is a stats wizard.

      • Why?

      • Cardinal Bellarmine

        The important thing is that Steve is a nominal believer.

        Even a lapsed Catholic can have communion. As long as he confesses first, anyway.

    • I agree. Steve McIntyre is the one if they really want to end this disaster!

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

    • Isn’t he inside now? Not inside the AGW group but still a climate person now? Wouldn’t it be someone more like a younger Freeman Dyson? A statistician would be good though.

    • Should a member not be an honest actor? McIntyre has not shown such with his deeds. Such a person, by the nature of the position, and purpose of the panel, must be an objective person capable of discerning that the body is acting correctly, and not necessarily someone to judge the correctness of the climate data. Leave that to those qualified, which McIntyre is not. Given he is not objective, he does not fit the requirement to objectively assess the behavior of the body. mcIntyre largely eschews peer review, so is not a valid reviewer of others’ work.

      • How has he been dishonest?

      • Given he is not objective, he does not fit the requirement to objectively assess the behavior of the body. mcIntyre largely eschews peer review, so is not a valid reviewer of others’ work.

        Argument by assertion is neither effective nor credible. If you have an argument, make it.

      • -How predictable and how sad that the ad hom machine starts yet again.

      • Killian, you are a ________ little ________ …

        “I was one of the more industrious reviewers for IPCC AR4. In my Review Comments, I made frequent reference to Yamal versus the Polar Urals Update, expressing concern about the rationale for using Yamal rather than Polar Urals, an issue that is once again in play. Keith Briffa was the section author and can be deemed to be the author of the responses.”
        — Steve McIntyre.

        http://climateaudit.org/2009/10/05/yamal-and-ipcc-ar4-review-comments/

      • “mcIntyre largely eschews peer review, so is not a valid reviewer of others’ work.”

        Moron. He has peer reviewed papers, has served as a reviewer of papers, and was a reviewer of Ar4. do you actually think before you write.

      • “Never Underestimate The Predictability Of Stupidity”

  2. “The IPCC Secretariat maintains an internal error tracking system. ”

    It should be made public. Now.

  3. “At the start of the process, the claimant is informed by the IPCC Secretariat about the next steps in a general way, and referred to this “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Special Reports or Inventory Guidelines”. The claimant will again be informed at the conclusion of the process.”

    Good luck suckers. No input. Nothing. Leave it to the “experts” we have nothing to hide.

    What a joke.

  4. IPCC is a joke indeed and an error itself.

  5. Instead of consensus, I urge them to focus on what can be proved–demonstrated and replicated. I don’t care anything about the consensus of this confederacy of dunces.

    • This shows a very poor understanding of the nature of science. Scientific process is not about proof. Very little in science is really proven, it is more accurately better understood except in the most reducible of data. We can “prove” the wind blew at 10 mph yesterday, we can’t “prove” the nature of gravity or magnetism, e.g.

      We can “prove” CO2 is a greenhouse gas, we cannot “prove” that the incredibly complex system of the Earth is going to produce x, y and z behaviors on dates a, b and c.

      Please read “The Authoritarians.”

      • “The Authoritarians” is about the IPCC? I looked at the Amazon reviews and it seems to be a political diatribe for North Americans.

      • I’d suggest that in this contex the term ‘proved’ is acceptable. I too have got into many dicussions with people over the fact that nothing (well almost nothing, unkess exceptionally tightly defined) is 100% proven in science. However, when people refer to ‘proven’ they in most cases mean ‘significant evidence behind’ instead.

        It’s a communication thing and one i’ve (as a scientist) long since learnt to give ground on.

        Your points are correct, but i’d suggest taking the term on ‘face value’ unless proven(!) otherwise .

        LM

      • The preoccupation with “proven” is where the IPCC went off the rails. Proven has little or no meaning in science, as new discoveries invariably overturn old assumptions.

        What matters in science is prediction. Can the IPCC deliver reliable predictions of future climate without the need for “after the fact corrections”?

        If the IPCC can provide reliable predictions then it has value. If it cannot, then it has no value. Worse, if the IPCC predictions are both unreliable and used as the basis for policy, then that means the results of policy are unreliable.

        Since policy invariably means investing time and money, any unreliable predictions will ultimately waste time and money, resulting in reduced efficiency in the economies affected.

        The net effect will be to reduce the standard of living of the people affected by the policy, making them less able to deal with both opportunities and problems when they arise.

  6. My bet is that Nic’s claim is ruled a disagreement, not an error. I expect them to define errors (“of fact or accuracy”) very narrowly, basically typos, misquotes, incorrect citations and such. This is what happened to the US Data Quality Act.

    Here is their loophole. The Protocol says: “It must also not be invoked to reflect a difference in opinion compared with an author team…”

    Nic’s claim can easily be ruled to be a mere difference of opinion with the IPCC author team, so not an error, narrowly defined.

    • Latimer Alder

      So they could admit error by saying that ‘2035’ was a typo, but not that it was based on nothing but vapourware?

      A way for Choochoo to save a bit of face I guess. Typos just might be accidental but the other sort of errors are always deliberate,

      • Exactly. I have frequently seen the “2035” gaff reported in the green press as a typo. These are very bright people, with no desire to change.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Acutally my guess is that they will reissue the figure with Gregory 02 redone with the proper uniform prior. I would also hazard a guess that it will not affect the conclusion.

      • IPCC conclusions are never in doubt. Have never been in doubt. And never will be in doubt. Thats what makes them a joke.

      • What do you think error bars and probabilities are? What do you think the difference is between scenarios and predictions?

        The joke is on you.

      • The horrible ugly insane joke is on everyone who pays even one penny more because of those clowns.

    • Indeed. Coupled with the consensus requirement, I think it’s going to be hard to get anything but the most eggregiously wrong ruled an error.

    • The Protocol says: “It must also not be invoked to reflect a difference in opinion compared with an author team…”

      Translation : we will only consider material that fits our precommitted position.

      (And McIntyre is a miserable failure in this regard).

      • In fairness, one can hardly have a post report error resolution procedure that includes basic scientific debate. That debate should occur at the assessment level, before and as the reports are written.

  7. This is the Church judging the Church.
    This sort of closed, self-absorbed feedback works well for theological questions. Not so well for science or public policy.

  8. Latimer Alder

    I am in my mid 50s and in general good health, non-smoker, reasonably fit.

    What are the chances that I will still be alive when (if) the IPCC eventually finish their deliberations?

  9. The new IPCC error protocol looks to be an opaque, wholly internal IPCC process, with the person alleging the error having no chance to comment on the findings or the rationale for them, which moreover will not be published. That gives substantial scope for abuse – the IPCC can conclude there is no error based on an internal assessment containing critical errors, which the alleger could point out to be such were he given the opportunity.

    The lack of (a) any opportunity for the person reporting the claimed error to comment on the internal findings, of (b) any independent outside expert advice and of (c) publication of alleged errors together with the rationale for accepting or rejecting them as errors, seems to me to make the process very weak and unlikely to engender confidence in the integrity of the IPCC’s reports.

    • Latimer Alder

      Gosh. Who’d ever have thought that they would have dreamed up such a stupidly closed and unaccountable process? It sounds like the the sort of thing that only climatologists would be dumb enough to do ………shooting themselves in the feet again.

      Wait a ,minute though……………..

    • Nic, first, I’m sure I speak for others when I say that we’re extremely grateful for your efforts this week, whatever happens next.

      Second, has Gabi Hegerl indicated that she will not herself reply to you on the issues you have raised? Is the “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports” an alternative path, meaning that no direct answers will be forthcoming from the coordinating lead authors or other contributors to Chapter 9 of WG1? Is it perhaps even the case that because of the protocol they would be expected not to engage in something as direct and helpful as interaction on a blog such as this?

      • Richard, I can almost guarantee that’s exactly what it means. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I won’t be holding my breath. A glorified form of “buck-passing”.

      • I wrote

        has Gabi Hegerl indicated that she will not herself reply to you on the issues you have raised … no direct answers will be forthcoming from the coordinating lead authors or other contributors to Chapter 9 of WG1?

        before reading Piers Forster’s contributions on the original thread. His openness makes a difference to my attitude in this particular case. It doesn’t necessarily make the IPCC error process a great one but it does change the picture somewhat. Oh complexity.

    • So how does this procedure address the IAC’s criticism of IPCC’s lack of transparency?

    • Nic Lewis | July 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm:

      The new IPCC error protocol looks to be an opaque, wholly internal IPCC process, with the person alleging the error having no chance to comment on the findings or the rationale for them, which moreover will not be published. That gives substantial scope for abuse […]

      Quite so. Although, considering other “policies” developed in “response” to the IAC’s recommendations, this is not inconsistent with much of the verbiage that was “approved” at Abu Dhabi – all of which, from where I’m sitting, seemed designed to give a superficial appearance of “change” which, in reality, is nothing more than a cover for practices that will result in IPCC business as usual.

      It is also worth noting that in this particular “protocol”, the end result is not inconsistent with the much vaunted “review process” (whereby the so-called “author teams” are not obliged to accept or genuinely respond to criticisms). Nor (unsurprisingly) is it inconsistent with the way in which the Muir Russell and Oxburgh reports were developed.

      I fully agree with your conclusion, Nic, that the process is:

      unlikely to engender confidence in the integrity of the IPCC’s reports

  10. Bad Andrew

    OK, so IPCC has been around since 1988. Thats 22+ years. That they are still having problems addressing errors after that long kinda illustrates they have a problem addressing errors.

    If this were a personal relationship, IPCC would have been labeled ‘dysfunctional’ about 22+ years ago. And even if it weren’t. ;)

    Andrew

    • Were the errors in any way significant to the conclusions/assessments, you’d have a point. They are not. Sorta begs the quality of your logic, given you have lived N years and still cannot avoid logical fallacies in your public pronouncements. There are no failures of logic in the IPCC reports, which are, after all, nothing more than literature reviews of the science. They are not scientific studies themselves.

      • Bad Andrew

        Killian, think about this for a moment… if the IPCC has problems addressing errors in reports they created themselves (which you acknowledge they do) do you think they may have problems addressing errors in reports created by someone else?

        Anyway Nic Lewis has demonstrated (if you’ve been keeping up the last few days) that the IPCC does at least dabble in conclusion making themselves. So your last sentence is not always true.

        Andrew

      • A proper literature review would have documented the following for each of the topics addressed viz.
        databases searched
        time periods covered
        search terms used
        boolean logic employed
        number of citations retrieved at each stage of the search
        criteria for inclusion/exclusion of papers for further analysis.

        Did IPCC do any of this to ensure that the result would be a comprehensive, objective and robust result? No. In fact IPCC’s ‘literature review’ was an incomplete, highly selective exercise which deliberately excluded consideration of any evidence contrary to their favoured hypothesis. If it doesn’t fit IPCC’s view of the World it does not exist. In real science this sort of behaviour is known as selection bias aka ‘cherry-picking’. Is it any wonder IPCC’s credibility is fractured beyond repair?

        Those who don’t believe this have not read the IAC review of IPCC. It’s hard to move forward with your head in the sand! What will be different about AR5?

      • Were the errors in any way significant to the conclusions/assessments, you’d have a point.

        You miss the points –
        1) Not all errors are significant to the conclusions/assessments,
        but not ALL errors are NOT significant to the conclusions/assessments.

        2) Any assessment agency that has existed for 22 years without an effective error reporting/correction mechanism has been negligent at best, because there is a vanishingly small probability that no significant errors have occurred during that period of time.

        3) Literature reviews (which is not actually what the IPCC reports are) are not immune to logic failure. Especially when they draw conclusions based on the supposed survey.

      • There is always this wonderful retort to any criticism of the IPCC. its not a scientific study, its a literature review. Except when people want an authority to lean on. Then the IPCC is used as an authority.

        As a literature review its pretty piss poor.

      • Killian,
        Corruption and deliberate misleading, both of which the IPCC is rife with, are always significant.

  11. Has nobody noticed the third principle?
    “3. To the extent possible, corrections should be based on consensus, consistent with the IPCC principles that form the foundation for the underlying reports.”

    One would think corrections would be based on “fact” and not “consensus”.

    • This is an intentional misstatement, or you do not understand the process. The consensus is about what the facts tell. Data is always open to interpretation. To pretend they are doing something nefarious by following good procedures for assessing data is a bit ridiculous.

      If an error is a mislabeling, that is easy to fix and requires no consensus; it will be changed without controversy. If the “fact” in question is a declarative statement that isn’t wholly supported by the data, that would require more discernment, thus consensus. E.g.:

      “The Arctic Sea Ice will be gone by 2020,” might be replaced with, “Flanders, et al., suggests a possible ice-free Arctic Ocean by 2020 +/-7 years.”

      I have successfully taught correct scientific method to 2nd Grade children. I am available for tutoring.

      • Killina,

        “I have successfully taught correct scientific method to 2nd Grade children. I am available for tutoring.”

        Are you suggesting you are old enough to have taught people like Mann, Jones, Hansen, Steig, Pachauri…?

      • Brian G Valentine

        Hi Kuhn Kat been a while.

        I have had a few Hansen and Steig etc types in college classes.

        They learned a a young age how to condescend to people. Most effective talent they have.

        Maybe they’ll go as far as Hansen with this skill

      • In the 2nd grade I hope they still read Chicken Little.

      • They do but the story has changed a little. Whether it was an error of Little’s interpreting the data of an acorn falling on his head as 90% likelihood of the sky falling is now seen as a complex question requiring review under the “Chicken Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in Chicken Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports – Subjective Bayesian Branch”. The revised story is expected to run for over a thousand pages, most not accessible to the ignorant masses not taking part in the review. Those chosen do not look like chickens but assurances have been given that all that is needed is the consensus they reach, as those officially appointed to guard the hen coop in the dark days of reduced sky just around the corner.

      • Killian,
        The deliberate mis-statement would be you imp[lying that the IPCC consensus is fact based.

  12. The IPCC is a UN agency so consensus is central. In fact technically the members of the IPCC are countries, not people. There is a lot of UN-speak in this Protocol.

    • Cardinal Bellarmine

      You’re failing to notice that most of the members are from NGO’s, not governments. And theoretically, the scientists are unaffiliated. For example, Michael Mann does not represent the US government. So no, the governments aren’t driving the bus, they’re just filling the tank.

      • The IPCC members are 194 countries. The authors have to be approved by their countries. How authors are nominated, vetted and selected is hidden. NGOs may lobby for authors but they have no official role that I know of.

  13. “… Addressing cross-cutting issues, such as ensuring, where appropriate, communication and cooperation among Working Groups”

    If that means the IPCC recognizes that the AGW bubble has burst and now that global warming alarmism has drawn the attention of sociologists, psychologists, ethicists and philosophers, that we should expand the study of global warming alarmism to explain the psychocybernetics of Hot World Syndrome on Western Civilization, then I believe we might actually see something positive come out of climate change mass mania.

  14. J Storrs Hall

    My, my. You’d think that nobody had ever tried to assess a scientific question before, and thus it’s taken the IPCC 20 years to work out the procedures to do it for the very first time.

    • Haven’t people that actually understand statistics already outlined all of the dead bodies for them? The chalkboard squeaks of people like McIntyre, McKitrick, Wegman, McShane and Wyner have been heard around the world. As much as the global warming alarmists hate scientists like Monckton and Plimer, it is the long and growing number of mathematicians who have done more remove the Left’s thumb from the eye of society than anyone else.

  15. If they are now going to handle errors, when will we see the backside of Messr. Pachauri??

  16. Having designed, implemented and operated error reporting and correction systems, this is nothing of the sort. This is, rather, a bureaucratic process for burying errors under a mass of paperwork, procedure, delays and buck-passing until such time as the error is either forgotten or can be declared insignificant. It is designed as a method of “ignoring” error while providing the ability to deflect the type of criticism that resulted from AR4 by claiming that the “error” is being processed by a protocol that could literally take years to resolve the issue.

  17. Wake up!

    The IPCC (AR5) will predict (with much pomposity) that global temperatures will rise by 2 to 6 degrees Kevin by 2100. It really does not matter what you or the science may say.

    Save all this huffing and puffing for cooling your porridge. Stop flogging a dead horse (the IPCC) or is it a dead rat?

  18. John Carpenter

    I am happy to see the IPCC take a stab at writing a procedure on how to handle errors made in assessment reports since I have made many comments on previous threads about the lack of ‘Quality Control’ measures wrt reporting the science by the IPCC and to some extent the peer review system in general. It is a step in the right direction and it is an acknowledgment that errors do occur and need to be dealt with in a consistent manner.

    After reviewing the protocol, I am concerned with how open the process will be to the claimant. It appears to me the claimant will not be involved until being notified at the conclusion. The decision tree does not indicate if the claimant can appeal the conclusion made. The protocol does not define what ‘consensus’ is, I am assuming 100% agreement between the CLAs. The protocol does not require WG/Co-chairs to provide an explanation to the claimant if ‘no action’ is warranted. If it is warranted, it does not require the details (iterations) of how the erratum is constructed be revealed and open to the claimant for review after the conclusion is made. It does appear there will be more documentation of the decision making process if the CLAs do not agree there is an error (red box) vs if they do agree (blue box). Why is it not equally important on both sides and will that information be made public?

    I find the protocols exclusion of these points troubling as it appears errors will be handled solely within the IPCC and not open for scrutiny once concluded. It is their prerogative to do so, but they risk losing confidence with the ‘outside’ world if this process becomes too closed up and hidden after taking great strides in their new ‘Communications Strategy’ to list in the principles section an ‘Objective and Transparent’ bullet that states:

    “The Panel’s communications approach and activities should, at all times, be consistent with the IPCC overarching principles of objectivity, openness and transparency.”

  19. Sir Humprey tesitifies to the Committee

  20. Judith has commented:

    The IPCC process seems thorough, although not apparently designed to produce a quick response.

    I’d agree that it is not “designed to produce a quick response” but I’d say it reads highly bureaucratic and convoluted, rather than “thorough”.

    This protocol is intended to be used only to correct errors that could have been avoided in the context of the information available at the time the report was written

    .

    Who determines whether or not the “errors could have been avoided”:?

    Its use should be reserved for errors of fact or accuracy.

    Hmmm… Does this include errors in “expert judgment” or understatement of <em"uncertainty"?

    The protocol cannot be used to make changes that reflect new knowledge or scientific information that became available only after the literature cut-off date for the report in question.

    Ouch! This sounds like a magnificent loophole. Is an “error” an “error” until it has been identified as such, based on “new knowledge or scientific information”? Invoking the “cut-off date” is another red herring. In AR4 several studies favorable to the desired message, which were published after the cut-off date were included, while others, which were unfavorable to the desired message were not.

    It cannot be used to propose the consideration of additional sources not cited in the existing assessment, unless directly relevant to an error of fact or accuracy.

    (See above comment.)

    It must also not be invoked to reflect a difference in opinion compared with an author team or a new interpretation of knowledge or scientific information.

    Wait a minute. Let’s say IPCC had stated that “paleoclimate information” showed that the warmth of the second half of the 20th century is “unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years” and it turned out that the paleoclimate information, which served as the basis for this claim, was discredited, based on “a new interpretation of knowledge and scientific information” – would this fall outside the “error” process?

    To me this whole “protocol” sounds more like a face-saving exercise for covering up or rationalizing away major errors, distortions or omissions, rather than confronting them head on and admitting them.

    The underlying problem here is an intrinsically corrupt IPCC process, which does not promote an open dialog, but rather requires scientific studies to corroborate an already determined position. Confirmation of this position – that AGW is a potential threat to humanity and our environment – is essential for the very survival of the IPCC.

    In addition to writing a “error protocol” that has more loopholes than the U.S. tax code, I would say that actions speak louder than words, and the past reaction of IPCC management to allegations of errors has been dismal. When Judith writes, “Lets see how it plays out”, I have very little hope that there will be any real change in how IPCC handles errors, without a complete change in the mission, the management structure and the personnel.of IPCC.

    Just my opinion.

    Max

    • tempterrain

      Maybe the Heartland’s institute would like to tender for the IPCC contract? Many of the contributors to this blog would feel they don’t make basic errors: like saying climate sensitivity is likely to be greater than 1 deg C, or that sea level rise will be unstoppable if CO2 emissions aren’t controlled.

      • On a separate thread on Climate etc, one of the contributors made the very pertinent observation that the IPCC has implicitly or expilicitly assumed that climate sensitivity remains constant with temperature whereas in reality it is entirely possible that climate sensitivity to doubling of the CO2 may vary with temperature. For example, raise the temperature, increase evaporation, increase clouds, increase albedo, reduce surface insolation. How many other unwarranted assumptions are built into the computer models used by IPCC?

      • tempterrain

        I think you are referring to feedbacks. There is no credible scientific doubt, even well known sceptics like Prof Lindzen wouldn’t dispute this, that the climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 if everything else in the atmosphere were to remain the same would be about 1 deg C.

        However, we can’t assume that everything else would remain the same. As you say, cloud cover etc will change. There will be a mixture of positive (bad) a negative (good) feedbacks.

        The current thought is that the positives win. Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapour for example. Also, overall systematic negative feedback is inconsistent with observations that the Earth’s climate has previously changed greatly in response to low levels of climatic forcing.

      • Julian Flood

        tempterrain wrote
        quote
        Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapour for example
        unquote

        Your phrasing interests me: “is capable….” What do the measurements say? After all, it has got warmer, has it not? So there must be warming because of greenhouse effects… oh, no, sorry, you haven’t said that it’s happened. You say it is capable of having happened. I’m not sure that we can say anything about the capability of the atmosphere to hold more water without simultaneously addressing cloud formation, which means we must have a stab at quatifying aerosol uncertainty.

        So let me have a go at expanding your statement above into verity:

        Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapour. Air with more water vapour is capable of forming more cooling clouds. An increase or decrease in aerosols in air which holds the same amount of water vapour will form more or fewer cooling clouds depending on the amount of aerosols. This last statement also applies to air which holds less or more water vapour. We cannot tease apart the effects of more or less or the same water vapour levels from the effects of more or the same number or fewer aerosols, so the effect of adding water vapour is not quantifiable. Warming air is therefore capable of holding more water vapour which may cause cooling, warming, or may make things remain the same depending on aerosol levels which are capable of increasing, decreasing or remaining the same depending on warming, cooling, pollution, wind speed, biological factors, agricultural run-off and oil spills. And bacteria. And droughts. .

        Now, remind me. What is the understanding of clouds and aerosols according to the IPCC?

        HTH.

        JF

      • Perhaps my previous comment was too subtle. I suggest you read the IAC review of IPCC’s procedures and reflect on their lack of due diligence, lack of transparency, political interference, bias, failure to respond to critical review comments, use of unpublished and non-peer-reviewed material which had not been criticallly evaluated etc. and then ask yourself “Is this the behaviour of a truly scientific enterprise or is it the machinations of a politically driven process striving to justify the political agenda of the sponsor governments?” What exactly is the evidence “that sea level rise will be unstoppabble if CO2 emissions aren’t controlled”? Appeals to the ‘authority’ of the IPCC do not count as evidence, especially in light of its malfeasance exposed by the IAC review.

      • “Is this the behaviour of a truly scientific enterprise or is it the machinations of a politically driven process striving to justify the political agenda of the sponsor governments?”

        It’s not the first but that doesn’t mean it’s the second either.

        I think in other words that this is a false alternative and that’s a real pity, given the strengths of what else you write. One major factor it leaves out is false belief. A friend of mine was recently talking to someone who used to supervise him at Cambridge, who is a now a senior member of the the UK government. They got onto global warming and quite soon my friend said “There’s no point talking any further is there – your mind is quite made up.” The minister agreed. He was a true believer. (My friend, who has a high opinion of the guy in other areas, was shocked. But that takes us off course here.)

        The governments of the world have extraordinarily different views and agendas and those change regularly as truly democratic countries exercise those rights and others have coups and counter-coups. What is certainly possible is that some involved in the IPCC are power seekers. They would work through and benefit from the false belief of those like the friend of my friend. But it’s way too simplistic to talk about “the political agenda of the sponsor governments”. It gives those who don’t wish to face up to the lack of scientific integrity far too easy an out.

      • Thannk you for your perspective. I on’t doubt that there are some ‘true believers’ in the IPCC but the findings of the IAC review are quite damning. Those of us in Australia are facing the imposition of a carbon tax notwithstanding manifest opposition from a majority of the electorate. The hidden (or should I say thinly veiled) agenda seems to be the redistribution of money on the pretext of ‘saving the planet’ {which is pure unmitigated BS given that Australia produces about 1.5% or less of the 3% annual human contributed CO2 – in the context of atmospheric CO2 concentration of 0.04%. Australia’s announced target reduction of 5% of CO2 emissions will have miniscule, unmeasurable effects on temperature or any other climate parameters. The counter argument that Australia should be ‘leading by example’ is self delusional. China, India, the USA, Brazil to name a few will NOT be following our example.} The carbon tax will be ramped up over time and has the potential to export jobs especially in mining, steel production etc.
        ‘True believers’ in AGW and CAGW are, in effect, espousing a religious stance and should, instead, be asking about the objective evidence rather than misplacing faith in the IPCC’s ‘authority’ (as I once did until I decided to take a critical look at the situation).

      • Exactly. I’ve always maintained that the remarkable tenacity of GW hysteria stems from the fact that it serves so many agendas so well.

        I can’t wait for the PoMo’s to get hold of it: Privileging the AGW Hypothesis via Coincident Authority Networks.

    • Max, it is just a fairly conventional publication error resolution procedure, something every scientific and technical publisher has in one form or another. Of course it is not what skeptics are calling for, or even a step in that direction, which is an end to blatant pro-AGW bias. The IPCC does not (yet) admit to that problem.

      Mind you, this is no reason not to submit a raft of substantive error claims, and to do so publicly. We need the submission address and the form if there is one.

  21. In my experience in the nuclear industry, an error in documentation, once discovered, could be corrected within days. That would involve re-doing any necessary calculations, re-issuing all affected documents with amendments, with everything properly checked and reviewed and holding an investigation into how the error occurred and any lessons learned and any corrective actions being issued.

    The IPCC process is clearly bureaucratic BS designed not to achieve any scientific purpose. Sending in a team of QA auditors and starting again with a simple set of procedures is necessary; otherwise the IPCC will remain what it is intended to be: an unreliable, political propaganda bureaucracy.

    • That’s the difference. You are a professional capable of objective, critical appraisal.

    • You compare two very different issues. The permit for a nuclear plant should be given without belief that the documents can be made complete in a well defined sense and that the errors can be processed. The whole project would not exist without such expectation. We could choose to be without that plant.

      We cannot choose to be without the climate. Studying climate is learning about something that exists, whether we know anything on it or not. Everybody knows that the understanding is incomplete and there are innumerable views on, what is the best way of improving the understanding. Most of the knowledge is known to be wrong in the sense that it’s not totally accurate, but much of it is still good enough to be of some practical value.

      You cannot apply the procedures of nuclear plant documentation to scientific knowledge that is changing and developing all the time and doing it often in directions or ways that could not be foreseen. Strict procedures can be defined for tasks that are predefined and repeated in the same way they were done before and found to be could practices then. It’s not possible to define strict procedures for something that’s new and never done or even imagined before.

      Scientific work contains often subtasks, where strict procedures and quality controls are possible and valuable, but that’s only a small part of the scientific work, and the main uncertainties come from the other parts.

  22. Errors

    The IPCC ..Executive Committee, which has the responsibility of overseeing the process of handling errors,… should work closely with the Senior Communications Manager on a timely and cogent response… it is however important to quickly communicate to the Media, as well as government Focal Points, that the issue is being examined…

    Right from the beginning, the focus is on appearance rather than substance.

    Spin Spin Spin

  23. …………….. and should we trust the IPCC?

  24. Bottom line no AGW no IPCC , its really that simply . Its therefore not a real surprise to find that this organization cannot ever fully and fairly address its ‘foundation myth’ for fear of invalidity itself . Religions have had that problem for thousands of years , the IPCC is merely taken the same approach they did in how to deal with this problem.

  25. Joe Lalonde

    Judith,

    Unless errors are brought out into the public, IPCC will just send a statement of looking into the problem and do nothing.
    Like it is currently doing.
    The past has shown that the UN would LOVE to have a dominating power over the whole planet from funding to control.

    • Yes, the UN is the tool used by politicians to protect the world from the threat of total nuclear destruction.

      Hiroshima was vaporized on 6 Aug 1945 and politicians realized that they too would die if nationalistic wars continued.

      The public would not let go of nationalism unless threatened by another “Common Enemy” – Global Climate Change.

      In 1974, they told us we faced “Another Ice Age.” Now it’s “Global Warming.” There is no scientific basis for either, but it has kept us – and the politicians alive for ~66 years.

      Dr. S. Chatterjee gives a good review of the deep historical roots of the current global climate scandal and the evolution of science [“In Pursuit of a Dream”, Frontline, 22, issue 10 (7-10 May 2007)]

      http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl2210/stories/20050520003702600.htm

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel

  26. ProtocolGate: The UN-IPCC’s systemic dissembling in addressing the need to correct errors.

  27. Killian, 7/9/11, 9:38 pm, possible errors

    You offer, I am available for tutoring.

    So have a seat. You are about to be tutored.

    You wrote, This is an intentional misstatement, or you do not understand the process. The consensus is about what the facts tell. Data is always open to interpretation.

    First, don’t assume your readers are inside your head to know what your pronouns mean. What is the statement referenced by This? Without a reference, the first sentence reads like the paradoxical boxed sentence from the first day of first quarter logic that says “The boxed sentence is false.”

    Second, one of the most common errors in liberal arts is the selection of facts to support the model. Such data selection is no different than your suggestion that facts are subject to reinterpretation by some super committee of scientists. Scientific facts are not like history, subject to periodic revisionist interpretations. Beyond that, no such committees are ever formed to undertake the task you imagine.

    Not Data is but “Data are”. Forget about wasting time on “correct scientific method” for second graders. They won’t retain any of it. You’re probably teaching environmentalism anyway. No, at age 7 they are receptive to language, and to its embedded logic. Get your own grammar and logic in shape, and teach them that.

    You say, I have successfully taught correct scientific method to 2nd Grade children. How do you know you were successful? How did you decide which of the many versions of the scientific method to choose? The null method of Paul Feyerabend? The “definitions do not matter”, universal generalization science of Karl Popper? Perhaps you chose the academic version that tallies publications in peer censored journals. Did your school system impose a lesson plan? Can you share your lesson plan?

    At 9:16 pm you wrote a shameful, scathing accusation against Steve McIntyre of dishonesty, lack of objectivity, and lack of qualifications. Without offering evidence of such charges, all your posts bear an ugly stain. McIntyre might be faulted for appearing to endorse AGW as valid science, but as a non-scientist he can be excused for holding such beliefs. He is a statistician, and his work as a statistician is meticulous. His major contribution in exposing the Mann’s Hockey Stick problem has been accepted even by IPCC. The community’s experience, the real consensus, with McIntyre would contradict every one of your accusations.

    At 9:28 pm you wrote There are no failures of logic in the IPCC reports, which are, after all, nothing more than literature reviews of the science. As if literature review was a guarantee against silly science! Silliness endorsing the inane. Here’s a little sampler of IPCC fallacies:

    1. IPCC says that the ocean creates a bottleneck against the 6 GtC/yr emitted by humans, while the 100 to 200 GtC/yr emitted from the terrain and oceans are exactly absorbed.

    2. The IPCC consensus says that when humidity goes up, cloud cover goes down.

    3. IPCC doctors charts to make processes appear parallel when they are not.

    4. IPCC models the mixed layer of the ocean in equilibrium.

    5. IPCC models Earth’s climate in equilibrium.

    6. IPCC admits that a minor change in cloud cover can have an effect as great as it predicts for doubling CO2, and that GCMs don’t represent cloud cover with acceptable accuracy, but nonetheless urges that its GCMs can predict an imminent climate catastrophe unless the United States shuts down its economy.

    At 9:25 pm you wrote, What do you think error bars and probabilities are? Error bars are where climatologists get drunk enough to write the silly science they salt into IPCC Assessment Reports. Probabilities are their stupefied feelings about the quality of their work product.

    By the way, none of the silly science will be eligible for rectification under the terms of the subject new protocol.

  28. Latimer Alder

    Seems to me that the protocol should be named ‘The Brian Clough Doctrine’ after a famous English football manager.

    When asked how he dealt with players (or anybody else) who disagreed with him he replied:

    ‘We talk about it for 20 minutes and then we decide I was right’

    The IPCC have obviously taken his strategy to heart.

  29. Peter Wilson

    The proposed procedures are all very well, and would probably have some impact on the report if they were adhered to.

    However, the IPCC’s record is consistent, in that it already has a great number of rules and procedures which are ignored, or more commonly applied selectively to exclude off message research, while allowing any trash as long as it supports alarmism. Making up new rules is only any use if they are to be followed, and one thing I don’t see here is any auditing procedure to ensure the rules are followed, or even any means by which the process can be examined – its all internal investigations.

    Which would be one thing if the IPCC had built up a reputation for probity and credibility, instead of bias, shoddy scientific practice, and political
    activism. Do you trust these guys to police themselves in the future, when they have shown neither the will nor ability to do so in the past?

    Me neither.

    • Do you trust these guys to police themselves in the future, when they have shown neither the will nor ability to do so in the past?
      No.

      There are 194 nations involved. Most of them are corrupt, with histories and cultures of corruption. Many of them are dictatorships, run by people with habits that would gag a pig and egos bigger than the Earth the alarmists want to save. Most of them have governments that could not care less about the Earth or climate change or the future or the grandchildren (except their own) unless it increases the size of their Swiss bank accounts and/or their personal power.

      Given that gaggle of lovely bits of human trash, why would anyone be foolish enough to believe that the UN or any of its offshoots could be trusted to be honest, upstanding, moral, civic-minded citizens of the world?

      • Jim, add to that the vast majority of those 194 countries are expecting huge, ongoing, cash handouts from the minority as the major outcome of the IPCC process. Climate change is merely the pretext.
        One is prompted to ask why it is that now, some 4 years after the IPCC published AR4, only half of those 194 countries have pledged to do anything and only 32 have actually implemented ‘economic interventions’ supposedly to ‘address climate change’?

  30. Nice job Nic. It will be interesting to see if the IPCC can self correct appropriately.

  31. As with a few of the other commentators here i’m uncomfortable with the ‘consensus’ approach to error correction.

    The consensus is what got us ‘here’ in the first place, i find it hard to believe that an objective and impassionate look on errors can involve the consensus AND the authors. Heck, would a consensus of the authors saying they did nothign wrong count as a review?

    Will we get to see any of the notes on the deliberations?

    The whole thing seems, Odd. It’s certainly not how we got about addressing errors in industry.

  32. Is there something wrong with internal procedures for error correction?

    The answer depends on, what we are looking for.

    There is nothing wrong in that the one accused of an error checks carefully whether he agrees and makes corrections in case he agrees. The new IPCC protocol is formulated in this spirit.

    Outsiders cannot expect that the internal process answers all their concerns, but only a small share of these concerns are related to clear errors. By far most of them are due to disagreements in judgment. External input to the handling of clear errors would be helpful in some cases, because the insiders can be blind to them. They may be too deeply accustomed to faulty logic to realize that it’s strictly faulty, but again differences in judgment are much more common.

    For the above reason I don’t think it’s particularly important that the error processing body has outsiders. A few of them would help only, when the error occurs in the field of specialty of one of these few. What is needed is an open mind that doesn’t dismiss complaints too easily (a persistent, but also cooperative outsider might help in this). That means also that the body should consider also, what has led to the complaint even in cases where the precise detail is technically correct in the report. It’s very common that the error is noticed from suspect conclusions and that the one, who has correctly observed the existence of an error cannot pinpoint the actual origin of it. Therefore the issue should be looked at from a wider perspective. That might in addition help in improving the presentation in future reports.

    In the case of Figure 9.20 my view is that it has been conclusively shown that there is no strict error in handling of F+G 06 (there is in handling of Gregory 02). My view is on the other hand that the text is not really correct. It fails to explain sufficiently the role of the prior that they use. It fails also to explain correctly, what the empirical analyses tell before any prior has been introduced, and it fails to explain correctly, how the various empirical analyses support each other and lead to a narrower function, when all are taken into account. Thus there is much to improve in the text, but not any error related to F+G 06.

    • Pekka –
      What is needed is an open mind that doesn’t dismiss complaints too easily (a persistent, but also cooperative outsider might help in this).

      That’s precisely the problem. Allow me to illustrate –
      If one is to provide a formal document (of any sort), one does not write the document – and then proof-read it as well. Proof-reading MUST be done by a neutral observer with an open mind. Otherwise grammatical, technical and conceptual errors WILL occur. This is one of the several putative reasons for peer review.

      It’s also why lawyers, for example, employ specially trained (and highly paid) legal secretaries with knowledge of the concepts and language necessary for technical accuracy, but no direct stake in the outcome or effect of the documents they handle.

      The basic principle is that once a person makes an error – or any sort – it is unlikely that that person will find that error by proof-reading the document. In the case of error reporting systems, normal procedure is for “outside” personnel (not directly involved) to operate the error reporting/resolution process. If those involved in an error are also tasked with error resolution, the errors WILL, in a large percentage of cases, be glossed over, explained away, ignored or otherwise left unresolved. The same results occur in evaluations of contract performance if the evaluation is not done by an independent agency.

      The idea that the IPCC can operate an error system in which the error resolution is determined by the same (or associated) personnel who generated the original error – and that it will be an effective system, is simply ludicrous. The biases and blind spots make that a highly unlikely outcome.

      IOW, it is essential that “outside” personnel (not involved in the report generation process) control and operate the error report/resolution process if that process is to be effective and credible.

  33. Nic Lewis is wrong. This is not the first new error to surface. IPCC WG3 AR4 Ch11 dropped a minus sign when citing a paper by Nordhaus. See
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/03/bias-in-ipcc-wgiii-guest-post-by_04.html

    They also grossly misrepresented the literature on the impact of climate policy on employment. Intriguingly, Ottmar Edenhofer now publicly adopts a position that is opposite to AR4 (even though he was a lead author on the relevant chapter).

    • Richard Tol,
      Where exactly did I say something that was wrong? I think that you probably misread what I wrote.

  34. I have a big problem with the top-down control being advocated. The first thing that needs to happen is to open up the process by allowing for absolute transparency by allowing everything to be seen on-line in real time. There are millions of knowledgeable people out there who can help resolve some of the issues with the research and offer opinions that would help the implementation committees even as the transparency keeps the members of those committees honest.

  35. Joachim Seifert

    The gravest error in IPCC reports hasn’t been mentioned to the public
    and is not even known by most of the sceptics. I will bring it to the attention
    of both CLAs: Mr. Forster and Mrs. Hegerl, since the error lies in both AR4-
    wg1- chapter 2 and 9, and, since I have to go to Geneva on other grounds, I will file the claim myself in the IPCC-office.
    The “Gravest Error”: The Earth’s orbit is described in both chapters
    as “invariant” i.e. constant or climate-IRrelevant on a millenium year- and less timescale! This is not the case, regrettably to say…….
    In reality, the true trajectory of the Earth’s orbit is composed of the
    geometrical ellipse, which is mathematically calculated, PLUS additional deviations, called perturbations, which determine the detailed real trajectory. (see Wikipedia: “Orbit” “Earth’s orbit”)
    These perturbations are not analyzed and calculated in papers presented to Mr. Forster and Mrs. Hegerl. The climate relevance of orbit perturbations
    are thus completely missing and constitute the gravest error! This is no new knowledge, this is known ever since Kepler, Newton and Gauss, all dealing with the subject.
    Exact details on the matter in my book: Joachim Seifert: Das Ende der globalen Erwaermung, ISBN 978-3-86805-604-4.
    Any questions: to weltklima at googlemail.
    JSei.