MOT: Climate catastrophe cancelled
Finnish Broadcasting Co. YLE, TV1, Nov 11th 2009 at 8.00 pm.
Voiceover (VO), reporter Martti Backman: Governments around the world are preparing for a grand climate conference, which should decide how humanity responds to the threat of a climate catastrophe. Negotiations are under way to replace the Kyoto treaty with a new treaty of Copenhagen.
VO: The threat is based on assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. According to the panel, the Earth is going through an unprecedented period of temperature increase, caused by man and his carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal and oil.
(Pictures from An Incovenient Truth)
The Earth's climate has always been changing. But now we are told that warming is happening faster than ever. The view is based on this figure.
(Picture: The global warming hockey stick graph. Music: Electric organ sounds from an ice-hockey game)
VO: This ten-year-old figure, dubbed as the hockey stick, was meant to revolutionize the dominant view of global climate history. The stick's handle stretches for almost a thousand years, creating an impression of a steady climate, and its' rising blade in the late 1900's is proof of sudden, strong warming, which is caused by man.
According to the older view, climate has naturally varied considerably over the past millennium, and in the middle ages it was clearly warmer than today. But in the hockey stick graph, the Medieval Warm Period and the little ice age after it have disappeared. The hockey stick was promoted to honorary status in the IPCC's third assessment report's cover. It became the logo of catastrophic climate change. The stick was used to back up the claim that, 1998 was the warmest year of the millennium.
Steve McIntyre: ”At the time I was doing mining exploration business and I just wondered, in the most casual possible way, how they knew that. So that led me start looking at the data and six years later, I'm still doing it”.
VO: The Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre had doubts about the scientific strength of the hockey stick graph, and he decided to unravel the numbers behind it, with the diligence of an auditor. The father of the hockey stick, professor Michael Mann resisted McIntyre's efforts to get hold of his research data, and it wasn't until 2003 that McIntyre succeeded in getting access to the data.
McIntyre: ” It turned out that he had modified a principal components method incorrectly and the modified method produced hockey stick-shaped graphs ninety-nine percent of the time. It also emphasized a class of proxies, strip-bark bristlecone pines that previous authors had said were not actually a temperature proxy”.
VO: Temperature records measured by thermometers are at most 150 years long. Earlier histories have to be reconstructed with so-called proxies, or surrogate thermometers. Past climates are deduced for example from tree rings and lake sediments or varves.
The shape of the hockey stick was to a large extent caused by tree rings from a few North American bristlecone pines. McIntyre succeeded in deconstructing the stick. The United States National Academy of Sciences set up a committee to investigate his findings. The committee found that, McIntyre had been right to question the temperature reconstruction and announced that, bristlecone pines should no more be used as proof of climate change.
Steve McIntyre, an outsider in climate science, had succeeded in breaking Mann's hockey stick, the icon of the climate change movement. But the story was not over. A whole factory started to produce new sticks to replace the broken one.
McIntyre: "There was another class of study, which used a series of tree rings from a scientist called Keith Briffa, from Northern Russia, from a site called Yamal, and this had an even bigger hockey stick-shape than the Michael Mann -hockey stick and this one - - has been used in multiple studies as well and so, over the past few years I've been trying to get information about how this particular series was constructed".
VO: Keith Briffa is one of the big names in climate research. He is a professor in the IPCC's scientific stronghold in Britain, the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. He is also a lead author of the past climate chapters of the IPCC's assessment reports.
McIntyre had to fight for three years to get Briffa's Yamal data under his microscope. But a lot happened before that.
The well-known medieval warmth was disturbing to the scientists close to the IPCC, the so-called hockey team. In the mid 1990's the American geologist David Deming received an astonishing e-mail, in which one prominent climate researcher announced to his colleagues:
Actor's voice: "We have to get rid of the medieval warm period."
(Picture of Deming's written statement from the Senate Environmental committee website)
VO: Deming testified about the e-mail at hearings in the United States congress.
Soon after this e-mail, Keith Briffa published a study, where the millennial temperature history looked like this: (the upper curve appears on screen)
VO: The Briffa study was based on a very limited number of tree ring samples from the so-called Polar Urals region in Siberia. With the help of just three short tree ring series he claimed that the year 1032 in the middle of the balmy middle ages, had been the coldest in the millennium. And the modern period appeared to be very warm. A real hockey stick.
A couple of years later, Briffa's colleague returned to Siberia to drill new tree ring samples. When they were added to Briffa's original data, the curve looked surprisingly like this: (lower curve appears on screen, the curves merge).
The hockey stick had disappeared, and the medieval warm period had been reinstated as warmer than the present.
McIntyre: “Unfortunately, this updated Polar Urals result was never published and Briffa, in his works since 2000, has made no - - reference to this updated study”.
VO: The updated Polar Urals series was forgotten. Instead, Briffa replaced his original weak Polar Urals data in 2000 with new tree ring series drilled from the Yamal peninsula hundreds of kilometers away. With this data, the climate reconstruction looks like this: (lower curve appears).
VO: The blade of the hockey stick rises at the end of the millennium stronger than ever and the medieval warm period is clearly shadowed by it, if not made to vanish completely.
Yamal data became the most important temperature proxy for all later hockey sticks, and it was used in at least seven temperature reconstruction studies.
But McIntyre knew something about the construction of hockey sticks, and he could not believe in the Yamal curve. The contradiction to established paleoclimatic knowledge was simply too big.
McIntyre: “And the question is just, why was the Polar Urals update not reported? And if the Yamal series was going to be used rather than Polar Urals, that should have been clearly explained to readers. The criteria for preferring one rather than the other should have been also clearly explained”.
VO: Finnish Lapland lies at the same latitudes as Yamal, and there are plenty of Finnish studies on past climates based on tree rings. These studies are considered to be among the best in the world, for their sample quality as well as methodologically. What kinds of hockey sticks have been found in them?
Kari Mielikäinen, professor of forest research (Metla, Finland): "We have this long series going back over 7,000 years, and there's no hockey stick there."
VO: Briffa's Yamal hockey stick was published in the prestigious journal Science. McIntyre asked for a copy of the raw data from Yamal.
McIntyre: ”Briffa refused. The editors of Science refused to require Briffa to provide the measurement data…”
VO: It took McIntyre three years to get hold of the data, although one of the most important rules in science is that, raw data should be made available to anybody who is interested in checking and replicating a study.
Finally Briffa made a "mistake". He published yet another article based on the Yamal data in a journal of the British Royal Society. The prestigious scientific society held on to the principle of data transparency and forced Briffa to make his raw data public. In September this year, the Canadian climate auditor had his forebodings confirmed.
McIntyre: ”So after, after sort of, three years of frustration and trying to examine the data that Briffa had used and probably four years of people saying that this data supported the Michael Mann -work on other grounds, it was really quite frustrating to find that it was built up on ten trees that had been not randomly selected”.
VO: So the Yamal data included only ten living trees from the 1990's, and the rapid growth of these individuals caused the steep rise of the hockey stick blade. In Finnish dendrological studies, hardly anything would be said based on just ten trees. What's demanded is at least 50 trees for each year, and several other quality criteria as well. How have these criteria been observed in the Yamal data?
Kari Mielikäinen (professor of forest research, Finnish Forest Research Institute Metla): "Rather weakly it seems. It looks like there are problems with both cohort structure and also the regional distribution (of the sample)."
VO: McIntyre conducted a simple statistical exercise. He replaced the 10-tree Yamal sample by a larger 34-tree sample collected from the same area. (In this figure) the added material is depicted with the black curve, and the combination of both data sets as a green curve.
VO: The hockey stick blade disappears, or actually turns downwards. And the medieval period is again warmer than the present.
McIntyre: ”I think that the preferential selection of Yamal, rather than Polar Urals, biases the result that's presented to the public”.
VO: All good proxy-based climatic reconstructions should compare the results with adjacently located measurements from thermometers. When this is done in the Yamal area, it emerges that none of the near-by weather stations have recorded warming that would explain the hockey stick graph. In other words, if those ten trees have grown abnormally fast in the 1990's it is due to something else than heat.
Mielikäinen: "If you choose one convenient series just to prove a point, be it a hockey stick or anything, you are definitely on a wrong track."
VO: Problems with tree ring studies will be addressed next summer in an international scientific congress chaired by Mielikäinen in Rovaniemi (Finnish Lapland).
VO: The author of the Yamal reconstruction, Keith Briffa, has disputed the criticism aimed at his study, but it still draws heated debate.
Briffa's employer, the IPCC-affiliated climate research unit CRU maintains a global database of temperature measurements from weather stations. This database is central to the conclusion that global temperatures have risen to a worrying extent during the past 40 years. The CRU has combined thermometer readings into a global average with a method which it refuses to disclose, but which allegedly has brought added value to the raw data. McIntyre has requested the data from CRU director Phil Jones, but he has been turned down, and others as well.
McIntyre: "An Australian named Warwick Hughes had asked for the data and Warwick Hughes had published some articles that had been critical of how the temperature histories had been prepared, and Jones said 'Why should I send - we have twenty-five years invested in this, why should I send the data to you when your only objective is to find anything wrong with it?”, which is a very unscientific statement."
VO: The CRU database is the most important scientific justification for the demands that the most ambitious treaty in mankind's history should be finalized in Copenhagen in December. In spite of this, there is no way to replicate its' validity.
Recently the CRU director Phil Jones has announced that the original measurement data does not exist anymore because of data storage difficulties. A dog ate the world's most important scientific measurement homework.
(Pause, move to Korttajärvi, central Finland.)
VO: Materials for the hockey stick factory have also been collected from Finland.
Reporter Backman, standing on a jetty: "This small Korttajärvi in Jyväskylä has become a focal point in the international climate debate. Based on samples taken from its' bottom sediments, some foreign researchers claim that, an unprecedented warming occurred at the end of the 20th century. Finnish researchers, on the other hand, have used the lake to show that climate has always changed, even more than recently, and irrespective of human influence."
VO: Five years ago, one of the Korttajärvi researchers responded to MOT's question about the IPCC's claim that recent temperatures are highest in a thousand years.
(Interview footage from MOT archive, 2004)
Ojala: "Based on these studies it seems that this claim is not quite true, at least for the Northern hemisphere, at least for Scandinavia. We've clearly had much warmer winters here in the Nautajärvi and Korttajärvi area, than what we are experiencing now."
Question by Backman: "What's your estimate, how much warmer was the medieval period in Finland, compared to the present?"
Ojala: "It is difficult to say exactly. But we may speak of half a degree (Celsius), even a whole degree based on several European studies."
VO: At least two research teams close to the IPCC added the sediment data collected by Finnish researchers as part of their own paleoclimatic model reconstructions. This was done with agreement, but the Finns were surprised to see that in a study published this September, their data and interpretation of its' meaning had been turned upside down. Here is the millennial temperature reconstruction from Korttajärvi done by the Finns:
VO: And here we have the same data presented by the hockey team:
VO: A nice hockey stick has emerged from the Korttajärvi mud. What in the Finnish study signified cold, had been turned into warmth in the IPCC science and vice versa. This interpretation passed the scientific peer review.
Dr. Atte Korhola, professor of environmental change at the University of Helsinki, is an expert in lake sediment studies.
Atte Korhola: "Some curves and data have been used upside down, and this is not a compliment to climate science. And in this context it is relevant to note that the same people who are behind this are running what may be the world's most influential climate website, RealClimate. With this they are contributing to the credibility of science - or reducing it. And in my opinion this is alarming because it bears on the credibility of the field, and if these kinds of things emerge often - that data have been used insufficiently or even falsely, or if data series have been truncated or they have not been appropriately published (for replication), it obviously erodes the credibility, and this is a serious problem."
VO: The author of the September study, Darrell Kaufman, admitted his mistake two weeks ago and sent a correction to the journal Science. But the main author of a previous study, Michael Mann, the father of the original hockey stick, still sticks to the claim that a hockey stick was found at the bottom of lake Korttajärvi.
VO: The climate studies used by the UN affiliated IPCC are usually computer simulations, based on models emulating the behavior of global climate. Some traditional researchers have criticized studies based on just computer simulations, calling it "playstation climatology".
According to the most prominent computer models, human activity should cause global warming that looks like this:
(Graph showing rising projections to 2100.)
But the measurements show that, real temperature has so far varied like this:
(Graph showing land and satellite based measurements of global temperature until 2009 - clearly below the model simulations.)
VO: A poorly known fact is that, global climate stopped warming after a two-decade period (in the late 1900's). Since 1998 there has been no statistically measured global warming. Instead, the climate has slightly cooled for several years. Not one of the climate models used by the IPCC was able to predict this turn of events.
Some new studies predict the cooling phase to continue longer, maybe for a couple of decades. In spite of that, many leading scientists affiliated with the IPCC still claim that global warming continues, even faster than predicted.
Meanwhile, some of the catastrophic consequences predicted by the models have been revealed as overblown. The Arctic sea ice has started to recover from its' minimum area recorded two years ago, Antarctic melting has slowed down to a minimum during measured history, sea level rise has not accelerated from its' previous rate, and hurricane seasons have been mild. Nature has not obeyed the manuscript.
Korhola: "In late summer 2008 I was in England, where all newspapers ran a front-page story about a scenario predicting the total disappearance of Arctic sea ice by that summer. And these predictions were distributed by two leading researchers of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, Mark Serreze and Jay Zwally. Well, what happened was that these predictions did not come true, but that 2008 was clearly a better year than 2007 with the collapse in ice extent, which was apparently caused by anomalous atmospheric pressure and wind conditions in the Arctic regions."
VO: Richard Lindzen is a professor of climate science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technololy, one of the world's most prestigious science universities. He is one of the few scientists who do not study climate by simulating it with computer models. He studies observations from the real natural world.
Richard Lindzen: "This field is completely sick in that way, I mean, you have models you know that they don't work, you know they don't reproduce a - phenomenon, but you bend data to fit the model. I don’t think this can go on for long without being embarrassing".
VO: In September, Lindzen published a study that hit the core of the climate debate. Based on radiation measurements, he calculated how much the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration could really warm up the Earth.
The Earth is protected from cosmic freezing by the atmospheric gas blanket. According to the catastrophic warming theory, the CO2 emitted from burning oil and coal thickens the blanket and thus causes the temperature to rise dangerously.
An undisputed scientific fact is that, a doubling of CO2 in itself is enough to cause a one degree (Celsius) of atmospheric warming, which would not be a problem. But the climate models have been fed with the assumption that the warming caused by CO2 increased the concentration of water vapor, which in turn would further thicken the blanket and multiply the total warming a couple of times, up to a fateful six degrees.
Lindzen: "The models do exactly what they are supposed to, given their sensitivity. They all show the blanket thickens and it thickens by the amount consistent with the sensitivity of the models do of doubling of CO2. Do the same thing to nature, and it does exactly the opposite, and it does it more powerfully. So you have all the models agreeing with each other, and all of them wrong compared to nature."
VO: The question of water vapor feedback is the key in determining the threat of a climate catastrophe. The climate models assume that, the higher the surface temperature rises, the thicker the warming blanket gets. But is this really happening?
Lindzen and his team compared sea-level temperatures with the satellite-based measurements of incoming and outgoing radiation in the upper atmosphere. While all computer models show that, as the surface temperature rises, less radiation escapes to space:
(Graph of 11 model simulations with downward sloping lines)
VO: The reality measured from nature is exactly diametrical:
(The 12th diagram 'ERBE' by Lindzen added to the graph set, showing a rising curve)
VO: It turned out that, cloud cover changes as the surface warms, but it was not getting thicker; it was thinning. In this way, nature prevents the atmosphere from excessive heating. The cloud cover reacts to temperature changes like an eye's iris to changes in light, by contracting or expanding. Lindzen calls this thermostatic behavior the Iris-effect.
And what is the significance of this effect to the estimates of human-caused climatic warming?
Lindzen: "It's saying that, instead of the one degree being magnified, it should be shrunk by at least a half."
Question by Backman: "And how much would this sensitivity be in degrees of Celsius?"
Lindzen: "Now, in terms of degrees of Celsius it says that we shall expect doubling the CO2 might contribute in the order of half a degree to the global mean temperature anomaly.”
Backman: "And how big a problem is that?"
Lindzen: "None. We see that from month to month, year to year all the time. I mean the truth is, we have seen already two thirds, three quarters of a degree. This is not the period when the world is falling apart. It's a period when the population has grown, when famine has been defeated, when people live longer than ever and there is large number of people that are supposedly terribly warming the earth, are living better for the most part."
VO: Lindzen's study shows with measurements that the assumption of an impending climate catastrophe is basically wrong. The IPCC camp has reacted to the study with complege silence.
Lindzen: “I think it's because it's so simple and obvious, and I think even the alarmist groups know that the better part of wisdom is not to publicize this."
VO: Professor Atte Kohola is not skeptical of the potential threat of climatic warming like his colleague in Boston, but both scientists are worried about the politicizion of climate science.
Korhola: "Especially now with the Copenhagen conference approaching, one gets the impression that also among scientists, many have lost control. Especially when you compare original studies to how they are presented to the public, in the mass media, there is a huge gap in what comes out. We get a lot of material with terms like dramatic, catastrophic, unprecedented, and among some researchers there is even talk of planetary doom and saving the planet."
Lindzen: "The real question is, why the last few years have seen this huge boost with all these crazy movies - “Inconvenient truth” - nonsense spewed out, hysteria? We are all going to die, if we don't change our light bulbs immediately. I can only say, somebody must have noticed that the temperature has stopped increasing and they had all these agendas by now to make billions of dollars, and do this and do that, get people to pay taxes and feel happy about it, because they are saving the earth and so on. So you have the politicians, the bureaucrats, the scientists and so on, and all felt you know that if the temperature continues this way, this is finished if we don't get it through immediately so the volume has increased.”
VO: MOT asked for an interview with the director of the Finnish meteorological institute, Dr. Petteri Taalas, who is sympathetic to the IPCC's main line. He refused.