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Earth News Science

Dutch Agency Admits Mistakes In UN Climate Report 447

Hugh Pickens writes "The AP reports that the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has taken the blame for one of the glaring errors that undermined the credibility of a seminal, 3,000-page UN report last year on climate change, and disclosed that it had discovered more small mistakes. However, the review by the agency also claims that none of the errors affected the fundamental conclusion by a UN panel of scientists: that global warming caused by humans already is happening and is threatening the lives and well-being of millions of people. The Dutch agency reported in 2005 that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, when only 26 percent is. The second previously reported error claimed the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which the Dutch agency partly traced to a report on the likely shrinking of glaciers by the year 2350. The original report also said global warming will put 75 million to 250 million Africans at risk of severe water shortages in the next 10 years, but a recalculation showed that range should be 90 million to 220 million. The analysis said future IPCC reports should have a more robust review process, and should look more closely at where information comes from."
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Dutch Agency Admits Mistakes In UN Climate Report

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  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @06:23PM (#32803772) Journal
    Wow, I already got troll mods, why? The post was 100% factual, I can even point you to places in the WGII where non-scientific sources were used as references (but really I don't need to, there are so many of them they are easy to find yourself). Are the mods so rabidly partisan today that they can't accept fact? This doesn't even have anything to do with whether global warming is 'real' or not, it just has to do with one group who was reporting on global warming that acted poorly.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @06:32PM (#32803838) Journal
    The reason it's like Y2K is because the public perception is way out of proportion with what scientists are saying.

    With Y2K, if you talked to computer scientists, it was problems with dates, maybe spreadsheets, maybe welfare checks would have trouble getting sent. But to the general public, it was about power plants exploding, planes falling out of the sky, and general chaos. People were literally stocking food and ammo. If the worst case computer-scientist scenario had happened, it would have seemed like a small thing to the average civilian.

    Same thing with Y2K....we are talking about a meter of ocean rise in a hundred years, or moving climate zones maybe.....but the average person thinks of ocean levels rising and covering New York (think Waterworld). There's a vast mismatch between what is really going on and what is communicated to the public. Which is part of the reason why, I believe, a good portion of the public is so opposed to doing something about it.
  • by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @06:48PM (#32804010)

    Yup, definitely the AGW people are stupid. One side insists that the facts need backing data to prove them correct, and the other side took a poll and claimed a consensus. Doesn't everybody learn in grade school that the scientific method is done by taking polls? Don't you remember taking a vote on the value of pi in junior high?

  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @07:01PM (#32804116) Homepage

    What's your point?

    That the earth is warming? I think it's a pretty simple premise to start from, given the data. Then we can move on to things like, will there be enough water in the new climate? If no, can we take steps to reduce it's effects? Should we begin slowly migrating away from the coast instead of waiting until it's too late to rebuild the infrastructure?

    Or to translate it into American political terms, how can I take away your god-given right to limitless natural resources and destroy your dignity by making you pay the true costs for what you consume?

  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Monday July 05, 2010 @08:33PM (#32804788)
    If they couldn't write an accurate report the size of IPCC report, they should have written a smaller one. This report is a big deal, politicians are using as a guide for dramatic changes to the world's economy. I'm not saying it has to be perfect. But sloppiness and carelessness in unacceptable for something like this, and it is easy to keep the scope of a report small enough to ensure that every assertion made is accurate and meaningful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @09:42PM (#32805348)

    Global air and sea temperatures are on average going up, and have been doing so for decades. The US military is planning for the defense of the northwest passage. The USA, Russia, and Canada have already started bickering over the ownership of resources under the ice pack in the Arctic Ocean.

    Something tells me that all of these things are not just coincidence.

    Of course they aren't. Things have been getting warmer and that's not being questioned. The three important questions are: 1) Is the current warming trend going have an overall adverse effect, 2) if yes, is the current warming caused mostly by human activities or is it natural, 3) if it is caused by humans or humans can prevent it, will attempting to prevent it do more harm than good?

    Best that I can see, there are a lot of scary scenarios being presented but as far as I can tell there's no clear overall picture of whether or not the current warming trend will be advantageous. As an example many(most?) plants benefit from a higher CO2 concentration, whereas higher temperatures may turn farmland into deserts, but more land may become viable for farming in the colder regions of the planet. Of course at some point warming will become detrimental, but the planet will likely never reach that point.

    If we assume that even a very small amount of warming is overall detrimental, we can move on to question 2). The problem with all IPCC's predictions is that they are based on climate models. "All models are wrong, but some are useful." Considering that by necessity all climate models are iterative, any errors in the models will propagate into subsequent iterations, making long-term predictions very unreliable. Why they are considered to be proof of anything is beyond me. One must also consider the fact that the current warming is by no means unprecedented(The Medieval Warm Period), and that very minor changes in cloud cover(2% or so) could account for all of the warming that has been witnessed. Climate models do very poorly at modeling cloud cover by the way. Then there's the matter of the UHI effect potentially artificially increasing temperature measurements, as well as solar activity being a possible source of the current warming period. One must also consider that perhaps the Little Ice Age was the anomaly and the current temperature is from Earth's perspective "normal".

    In any case, to get to point 3), it has to be assumed that we are indeed the cause and something could be done. Basically this question boils down to two choices: preventative or adaptive measures. Adaptive basically means that we see what happens first, and then fix whatever needs fixing. Preventative, on the other hand, requires massive spending right now and not only cripples the economies of developed countries even further, but effectively prevents third-world countries from having access to cheap power. I should also point out that China, the worst(?) polluter in the world, is unlikely to reduce their emissions in any way because that would be stupid. They would just be shooting their economy in the leg. It is curious to me how all western cultures are so willing to ruin their economy with religious zeal just to try to prevent something that potentially might happen 50 or 100 years to the future when there's an economic crisis already going on.

    Unfortunately currently climate science is as much about science as scientology is, and nitpicking about whether a report has three or twenty errors feels kind of pointless to me.

  • Re:lol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TruthSauce ( 1813784 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @09:46PM (#32805380)

    Well, I know several people, for around the price of a nice SUV, that outfitted their homes to be both electricity and carbon-neutral. They have a nice high-efficiency refrigerator and freezer and regular oven and heat their water by solar power.

    They have solar panels with a 75 year lifespan that actually put power BACK INTO the grid for most of the day and the freezer cycles off during while they're sleeping, relying on residual heat and good insulation to keep everything frozen while solar power isn't available. A small bank of non-toxic batteries in the basement provides power for LED lights and a computer or two during the evenings and heat-pumps buried deep into the soil keep the internal temperature VERY nice winter, fall, spring and summer.

    But their neighbor installed a big pool and a home theater and bought a Porche.... spending roughly the same amount, but with no environmental benefits.

    Which should we encourage, as a culture?

    Right now we strongly encourage the latter.

    Is that right?

  • I'm sorry, again (Score:1, Interesting)

    by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday July 05, 2010 @09:53PM (#32805440)

    My head still isn't big enough to think that I can hurt a planet. Sorry, just no. I'm also not confident enough in any prediction that's made for 300 years in the future. Try predicting a soccer game first. But more than anything, worrying about people in africa having a water shortage is just insane. First, that's their problem, welcome to irrigation, it's not new. and second, tehy live in a desert. The fact that they've had water this long is impressive, but they weren't exactly swimming in it. So really, I don't care about the amount of water in a desert.

    Deal with today's problems today. They aren't global warming.

    And as for problems in general, as I've said countless times before, capitalist societies do not achieve solutions by shrinking problems. That's how dictator and faschist governments solve problems. Capitalist societies solve problems by making those very problems much much larger -- because capitalist societies win the award for sparking the greatest creativity. And when there's money to be made, people get creative.

    When capitalist societies use capitalism to solve problems, the problems are delayed nor postponed, they are entirely eliminated. That's good.

    But yes, first the problem has to get big enough to be worth eliminating -- not 10% smaller so it'll last longer.

    Global warming is the big one. You can reduce your carbon footprints by 50% all you like. More people are born every year, and more third-world countries are developing industry and you can't control China from the .U.S.A.. So your 50% reduction in whatever will merely postpone the inevitable by 5 years. It would be WAY better to grow the problem now, ten-fold, before the population does it for you. Get it eliminated sooner.

    But few people properly remember the advantages of a capitalist environment. Few people ever learned. Most think that democracy and capitalism are the same. They aren't. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Case in point: you can democratically elect a socialist dictator.

    Go figure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2010 @11:11PM (#32805978)

    The errors discussed here don't call into question the physical basis of the fact that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect; they have to do with the question of what the effects of the warming will.

    You took a little leap there from "greenhouse effect" (mechanism involving CO2 and radiation) to "effects of the warming". So you assume your conclusion ("warming"). You also assume that CO2 increases the greenhouse effect WITHOUT ADDING THE CAVEAT "ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL". There are at least three other major chemical contributors to the greenhouse effect and at least one physical contributor. Until you establish the effect of CO2 on each of these, you cannot speak to the increase or decrease of the greenhouse effect solely on the simplistic science. Has this been done? Don't know, don't care. What I see is a step skipper.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:47AM (#32807932)

    It's important to note that 26% of The Netherlands is below the CURRENT sea level, it does not take into account any projected rises in sea level. The 55% that was mentioned in the report is the area of The Netherlands that is currently under threat of flooding from breaches in the sea defences as well as current surges in river levels. I live in The Netherlands and those conclusions are already pretty damn frightening and they do not take into account ANY projections regarding sea level or river level rises caused by global warming!
    A few months ago there was a hearing in the Dutch parliament in which most of the Dutch contributors of the IPCC report were present as well as outspoken sceptics. This hearing was very interesting for several reasons:

    1. The difference in attitude between the IPCC contributors and the sceptics. The contributors to IPCC were open to debate, gave realistic assessments of the weaknesses in the IPCC methodology, gave recommendations on improving those methodologies and reflected on the need for improvements on their part in communicating the scope of the problem and the underlying science to the public. They were open to reasonable criticisms and recommendations from the politicians and sceptics present. The sceptics on the other hand took quite the opposite stance. They mostly kept repeating formulaic criticisms which for the most part had already been debunked, were not receptive to any criticism leveled at them despite the remarkably civil tone in which those were uttered by the IPCC contributors and generally appeared to lack ability to reflect on weaknesses or factual errors in their point of view. the difference was really quite striking. I had not expected to be as impressed as I was by the general civil, almost humble stance and attitude of the IPCC contributors.

    2. The politicians who were there who are outspoken sceptics made fools of themselves on several occassions despite the general civil tone of the answers and then gradually stopped asking questions altogether except for ones directed at the sceptics.

    3. There was one very interesting contribution by a Dutch researcher who was specialized in the relationship between scientific research and policy making who said that with the science at it's current level of understanding of the problem there is no fundamental problem in the science but a fundamental problem in the general aproach of politicians to this type of problem. What he said was that with problems as complicated as global warming (and global warming is by no means the only problem of this level of complexity that is going to come our way in the next few decades) the level of accuracy, confidence in the conclusions of the scientific process and the level of general agreement on those conclusions that many politicians demand before they are willing to take action is way above any threshold that can realistically be crossed. In other words no matter how good the science on problems of this level of complexity there will ALWAYS be outspoken sceptics, large margins of error, pretty high levels of uncertainty regarding the accuracy of the models and large problems in predicting the future dangers resulting from the problem. This is not a problem inherent in the science, it is a problem inherent in the level of complexity of the problem that will never be fully resolved by better science. His advice was that politicians should start acting now and that the policies they implemented should be flexible enough to respond and adapt to the various current and future scenarios and threat analyses. This reminded me of the criticism that many sceptics level at climate science: "At best science has shown correlation between man made emissions and global warming but we demand causal links." This kind of criticism is disingenuous: in problems of this magnitude of complexity the absence in causal linkage is not a sign of bad or lacking science, it is an inherrent quality of of the problems as such which cannot be overcome in any way that would satisfy even the most

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