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The UN climate body does not back climate alarmist claims

By Tom Harris
web posted May 6, 2024

Climate alarmists often tell us that their frightening forecasts are backed up by the best available science. In particular, they point to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that they tell us are the gold standard of climate science research. If the IPCC said it, it must be true, they proclaim!

Climate Change ReconsideredThe late Dr. Jay Lehr and I have often written about the serious flaws in the IPCC reports. Indeed, much of the IPCC science has been shown to be wrong, leading many participating scientists to resign from the body.

As documented in the Climate Change Reconsidered series of reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (the most recent of which appears at right), there are thousands of scientists across the world publishing in leading peer reviewed journals who show that much of what the IPCC conclude is incorrect. Consequently, basing our nations' climate and energy policies only on what the IPCC say would be irresponsible, even reckless.

But in many cases, climate campaigners are not even following the conclusions of the IPCC. In this article, I will discuss what the IPCC actually said in their reports and show some examples (there are many) where even the UN body itself contradicts what alarmists tell us.

First, it is important to understand what the various confidence levels used by the IPCC mean. They are:

  • Very Low: Indicates very limited evidence or low agreement.

  • Low: Suggests limited evidence or agreement.

  • Medium: Represents moderate evidence or agreement.

  • High: Signifies substantial evidence or high agreement.

  • Very High: Implies robust evidence or very high agreement12.

Climate alarmists often tell us that we should expect to see increases in flooding due to man-made climate change. But the IPCC finds no trends in flooding globally. Specifically, the IPCC write on p. 1569 of the latest Assessment Report, the sixth:

"In summary there is low confidence in the human influence on the changes in high river flows on the global scale. In general, there is low confidence in attributing changes in the probability or magnitude of flood events to human influence because of a limited number of studies, differences in the results of these studies and large modelling uncertainties."

Similarly, in the Fifth Assessment Report the IPCC wrote:

"There continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale."  

Note that they don't even feel confident enough to conclude that floods are increasing or decreasing!

It seems that after every intense rainfall event, we are told that we will see even more of these due to man-made climate change and these are responsible for more flooding. But the IPCC actually says:

"Attributing changes in heavy precipitation to anthropogenic activities (Section 11.4.4) cannot be readily translated to attributing changes in floods to human activities, because precipitation is only one of the multiple factors, albeit an important one, that affect floods."

Even the Trudeau government's left-leaning Environment and Climate Change Canada in its 2019 climate report said,

"There do not appear to be detectable trends in short-duration extreme precipitation in Canada for the country as a whole based on available station data."

OK, not more rain. So there must be more drought then, right? No, the latest IPCC report says:

"There is low confidence in the emergence of drought frequency in observations, for any type of drought, in all regions."

Oh, but hold on, we will have more and more heat waves across the US and Canada due to man-made (anthropogenic) climate change, activists tell us. No, the IPCC says we don't really know. In particular, the IPCC indicates low confidence (~20%) for the detection of trends in extreme heat and the attribution of such trends to human causes for both central and eastern North America.

But what about more and more intense storms? For example, the derecho (which is a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms, and occasionally thunderstorms, that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds) a year ago in Ottawa, Canada and other extreme winds and storms that are blamed on anthropogenic climate change. Concerning extreme winds (between 60S and 60N), the IPCC says:

"the observed intensity of extreme winds is becoming less severe in the lower to mid-latitudes, while becoming more severe in higher latitudes poleward of 60 degrees (low confidence)"

Note: cities at or north of 60 degrees latitude include Reykjavik, Iceland (64°N), and Helsinki, Finland (60°N). OK, so Fins and Icelanders might have a reason to worry about stronger winds, but not us.

The IPCC also shows no upwards trends in landfalling hurricanes, including the strongest storms.

How about winter storms that are often blamed on anthropogenic climate change? The IPCC says, concerning winter storms:

"There is low confidence in observed recent changes in the total number of extratropical cyclones over both hemispheres. There is also low confidence in past-century trends in the number and intensity of the strongest extratropical cyclones over the Northern Hemisphere…" 

But what about tornadoes, hail and lightning? Surely those are increasing because of man-man climate change, or are at least happening differently now to how they were a decade ago, right? No, the IPCC says:

"observational trends in tornadoes, hail, and lightning associated with severe convective storms are not robustly detected due to insufficient coverage of the long-term observations"

"But, but, but, more forest fires are caused by climate change, OK?" environmentalists sputter.

The IPCC are not very confident about this. They write:

"There is medium confidence [in contrast to 'high' or 'very high' confidence] that weather conditions that promote wildfires (fire weather) have become more probable in southern Europe, northern Eurasia, the US, and Australia over the last century."

Interestingly, the Royal Society wrote in a 2020 blog post:

"Fire activity is on the rise in some regions, but when considering the total area burned at the ground level, we are not seeing an increase an overall increase."

In summary, Working Group 1 of the Sixth Assessment Report had "low confidence in the direction of change" of most of the climate impacts that most excite activists, sensational media and politicians, namely precipitation, drought, fire weather, cyclones and hurricanes, snow and ice, sea levels, coastal erosion and ocean acidity, you name it. Generally, it also has "low confidence" that a wider range of detrimental climate impacts will occur beyond 2050, except under "worst case" scenarios.

Finally, it should be noted that the terms 'climate emergency' or 'climate crisis' are only mentioned once in the latest IPCC assessment reports, and that is merely with regards to media coverage, not what the IPCC actually says is real. Specifically the IPCC write:

"Also, some media outlets have recently adopted and promoted terms and phrases stronger than the more neutral 'climate change' and 'global warming,' including 'climate crisis,' 'global heating,' and 'climate emergency' (Zeldin-O'Neill, 2019)."

So, when you next hear politicians, media and activists claim that their proclamations are backed up by the IPCC, have some fun with them and insist that they show you where the IPCC say what they say they say. And then sit back and watch them sputter and bluster and do their best to avoid the question.

Readers interested in delving more deeply into this topic are encouraged to read:

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.


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