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WWF's Weak Warming Foundations

All hail the WWF’s “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, released “just in time” as the EU discussed ratification of the economy-busting, climatically-inconsequential 20-20-20 Plan?

Not so fast.

Report compiler Dr Tina Tin sets out to show that “important aspects of climate change seem to have been underestimated and the impacts are being felt sooner“, in order to justify the WWF’s call for “an emission reduction target of at least 30% below 1990 levels by 2020” in the EU.

What does Dr Tin mention to support her case?

(a) “The Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice 30 or more years ahead of the projections presented in the Fourth Assessment Report“.

This is a rather weak point. All it takes to refute it is a couple of years of increasing sea ice. Note that 2008’s minimum was higher than 2007’s, and the recovery in the past month has been impressive.

(b) “Floating tide-water glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula are losing ice faster and are making a greater contribution to global sea level rise than reported“.

It is another weak argument. The Antarctic Peninsula is a peculiar place where lots is happening that is not happening anywhere else. The more the Peninsula behaves “strangely”, the less it may mean for the warming of the whole planet.

(c) “Since 1990, global sea level has been rising one and a half times faster than forecast in…2001“.

This is a simplification. As reported in Accuweather’s Global Warming blog, the rise has been “far from uniform” and great parts of the ocean have seen almost no change at all.

(d) “Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released as a consequence of human activity have been accelerating“.

This is no change in climate per se. And with CO2’s intrinsic global warming effect growing with the logarithm of the concentration, it may be quite inconsequential.

(e) “A re-examination of the climate impacts reported in the Fourth Assessment Report indicates that 80% cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are needed by 2050 to keep global average temperature rise below 2°C“.

That’s where Dr Tin starts with the abuse of future predictions. These have by definition little to do with any climate change impact being already felt. For the same reason, I’ll skip most of the “Climate Change Tomorrow” list (everything that doesn’t deal with the past and present).

(g) “The analysis of 542 plant and 19 animal species across 19 European countries demonstrates without doubt that the timing of activities of plants and animals, especially in spring and in autumn […] have changed following national warming trends (Menzel et al 2006)“.

This is a an incorrect statement built upon a less-than-solid paper. Menzel at al can be read in full here. They write: “The pattern of observed change in spring efficiently matches measured national warming across 19 European countries“. Note: in spring. Also “The autumn signal was vague“.

(I won’t even start dealing with Menzel et al’s underlying issue, their assumption that changes are always linear)


The impression is that in “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner – A European update on climate science” report, as in much else concerning climate change and global warming, the politics has preceded the science.

That’d be perfectly fine, and I won’t ask to curtail WWF’s political activities: but why oh why can’t they just trying to be more sincere in their aims? Do they have such a weak political (and economical, and ethical) case for CO2 emission reduction, they are forced to write quasi-scientific reports?

UPDATE: read also on Climate Skeptic, “Global Warming … Accelerating?

0 replies on “WWF's Weak Warming Foundations”

There’s a disturbing double-standard for reporting on this issue. “Local” or “regional” effects of AGW have to be focused on because presently there are no measurable global effects (with the possible exception of the North Pole sea ice melt trend). If I cited the fact that Sydney had it’s coldest month in 65 years, or that London has seen snow cover and freezing conditions not seen since 1934, such arguments would quite rightly be dismissed as “noise”. Yet the WWF report is basically a collection of “noise”.

Chainsaws or butter knives? Depends whether you’re into dendrochronology or oiling the wheels of Big Oil’s Denialist Finance Machine (sorry). There’s also Occam’s razor. I was simply suggesting that WWF’s paper contains errors more outrageous than the ones you indicate. Their misinterpretation of Menzel’s article may be more worthy of detailed critical examination, but their flagrant lie about accelerating global warming is easier to counter, and therefore perhaps more useful in debate with the “..many people who wind up here know nothing of climate science, let alone the scientific method” mentioned by EJ.
When EJ asks if you “realize the scale of these issues and debates”, I don’t think he’s being rude, but making a point which many specialist sceptics on the internet seem to miss: – that winning the argument means debating on a broad front, from the most statistically technical to the simplest examples which even we non-scientists can understand.

I am not interested in finding out who “Dr Tina Tin” is either. It doesn’t take a PhD in Climatology to figure out she’s distorted Menzel et al.’s conclusions, or makes the leap in every WWF paper to say that the globe will warm between 2 and 6 degrees C.

It doesn’t take a PhD in Climatology to figure out the entire WWF are naked. But, you have to realize that Madison Avenue and the internet have a too huge grip on most of us. Madison Avenue claims they can influence not only our buying habits, but also our vote.

If you try to read the world wide fund’s own website, you find that they espouse every dire study, no matter if it is done by social scientists or physical scientists. WWF are still saying Mann 1999 has been verified by the scientific community. Wegman anyone? McIntyre?

Hell, I didn’t know untill recently that WWF is no longer dedicated to wildlife, it is now the World Wide Fund. To hell with the wildlife focus.

I hope you realize the scale of these issues and debates. You have to know that many people who wind up here know nothing of climate science, let alone the scientific method.

What would be good are summarized sites with links to specific areas on this issue.

Respectfully Submitted,

Thank you EJ and Geoff. Sometimes what a chainsaw can do, a butter knife can do too.

And I am not interested in finding out who “Dr Tina Tin” is. It doesn’t take a PhD in Climatology to figure out she’s distorted Menzel et al.’s conclusions.

Your comment on Dr Tina Tin’s report for the WWF is far too kind. It’s not a scientific report, simply a worry list for nervous Nellies with learned footnotes. Consider the following:

1. From the introduction: “Last year, the IPCC set out an overwhelming body of scientific evidence which put the reality of human-induced climate change beyond any doubt”. No it didn’t. It said it was 90% sure that mankind was responsible for some of the recent warming, without giving any justification for the 90%. Everyone knows 95% confidence levels are the norm in science, so this was IPCC code for “We think so, but we can’t be sure..”

2. “global warming is accelerating, at times far beyond forecasts outlined in earlier studies”. No it’s not. There’s been no increase, let alone acceleration, in global warming, since the closing date for research for the IPCC report.

3. from “European perspectives: Health”: “The exceptionally warm and dry European summer of 2003 was responsible for 35,000 extra deaths across Europe as a result of heat stress, bad air quality and high levels of air pollutants”. No it wasn’t. The vast majority of extra deaths occurred in France and were due to the government’s granting longer holidays in a misguided attempt to reduce unemployment. Old folks’ homes were left understaffed in August, and the sole whistleblower was ineffective, since the officials who could have done something to alleviate the problem (via a simple publicity campaign advising old people to drink more liquids, for example) were also on holiday. The problem was addressed and the disaster hasn’t been repeated.

4. “Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released as a consequence of human activity have been accelerating”. Right. and temperatures haven’t increased. So the argument for dangerous AGW is weakened and the danger recedes. A cause for celebration, I would have thought. But not for the WWF.

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