Sceptic’s paper in economics journal is ‘possibly the most inaccurate and misleading article about climate change’

An Australian geologist, who advises the UK’s main global warming sceptics’ group, wrote “possibly the most inaccurate and misleading article about climate change that has ever been published by a journal”, according to a paper published tomorrow (15 September 2010) in ‘Economic Analysis and Policy’.

The paper by Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, highlights a series of “serious and systematic errors” in an article that was published in the Australian journal ‘Economic Analysis and Policy’ in September 2008 by Professor Robert Carter, who is a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Mr Ward’s paper concludes:

“One of the many ironies on display in Carter (2008) is his constant reference to mainstream researchers as ‘alarmists’ while complaining that ‘unsolicited ad hominem attacks are made on qualified persons who espouse different views, and who are disparaged as ‘sceptics’, ‘deniers’, or worse’. His paper reads like a piece of crude political propaganda, rather than ‘ a critical account of the scientific arguments that have been claimed as evidence for dangerous, human-caused global warming’. In summary, Carter (2008) is possibly the most inaccurate and misleading article about climate change that has ever been published by a journal.”

The paper identifies a number of misleading and inaccurate claims in Carter (2008), including:

  • states falsely that weather balloons show no significant warming of the lower atmosphere between 1958 and 2005, contradicting the actual record of measurements;
  • cites a palaeotemperature reconstruction as evidence that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the late 20th century, even though it only provides temperature data up to 1935;
  • suggests wrongly that atmospheric carbon dioxide only produces a small warming effect, based solely on erroneous calculations posted on a website about ‘Plant Fossils of West Virginia’;
  • attributes warming in the late 20th century to solar activity, but cites a paper that used inaccurate data about sunspot activity, which when corrected show no correlation with the recent global average temperature record;
  • asserts that future climate change would not be harmful because higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide would boost plants’ growth and use of water, citing a paper which actually warns that an increase in carbon dioxide may make plants more sensitive to drought;
  • alleges erroneously that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was constituted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, even though it was established in 1988, four years before the treaty was signed;
  •  accuses falsely the IPCC of projecting that global average temperature would increase by 6.4ºC in response to a doubling of atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, even though its last report in 2007 stated that this climate sensitivity was likely to lie in the range between 2 and 4.5ºC; and
  • attacks John Houghton, former chair of the IPCC working group on the science of climate change, for writing ‘unless we announce disasters, no one will listen’, even though the quote is entirely fabricated.

Mr Ward said: “Self-proclaimed climate change ‘sceptics’ have bitterly attacked the IPCC for a few errors in an assessment report that is nearly 3,000 pages in length. Yet these ‘sceptics’ are guilty of applying double standards, because they are also responsible for publishing articles that are filled with serious and systematic errors on almost every page, usually choosing journals outside the mainstream with weak or non-existent peer review procedures.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.