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expert reaction to leak of IPCC AR5 WG1

A climate sceptic blogger leaked part of a draft version of the IPCC’s Assessment Report 5 by Working Group 1, due to be published in September 2013, claiming that the report contained an admission that solar effects accounted for observed climate change. 


Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia and Lead Author for IPCC WG1, 3rd, 4th and 5th (ongoing) assessment reports

“The evidence for man-made climate change is overwhelming, and there is nothing in the draft IPCC report leaked today that suggests the contrary. 

“The conclusions from the last report published in 2007 remain the same: that most of the 0.8 degree warming observed in the past century is due the increase in carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities, and the sun’s contribution to this increase was small. 

“The new assessment is underway, and tearing it apart before the new consensus has been reached will only create confusion.  That’s not what we want.  We want clarity about the state of understanding of climate change; we want robust evidence and conclusions, and clear information about the remaining uncertainties and what they mean.  We want this so the public and policy makers can make informed decisions on what to do about climate change for the benefit of all.”


Prof Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London, said:

“People have to decide who they believe.  Personally I do not find it at all convincing that the IPCC documents undermine the case for man-made climate change; in fact the opposite, the leaked material appears to lend more support than ever to the science.

“My feeling is that journalists and the public won’t be fooled by this.  What we all need is careful evaluation of the evidence to support prudent actions for a better future.”


Prof Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change at the University of Leeds, said:

“The original leak grabbed some out-of context text about the solar influence on climate and claimed that IPCC scientists at last admit to a cosmic ray cause of climate change. In fact, since the last IPCC report there has been some very nice work at CERN that rigorously tests an important part of the cosmic ray theory  and finds a clear cosmic ray effect on cloud formation –  but crucially it is very unlikely to be a large enough effect to influence 20th century climate change.

“Although this may seem like a ‘leak’, the draft IPCC reports are not kept secret and the review process is open.  The rationale in not disseminating the findings until the final version is complete is to try and iron out all the errors and inconsistencies which might be inadvertently included.  Personally, I would be happy if the whole IPCC process were even more open and public, and I think we as scientists need to explore how we can best match the development of measured critical arguments with those of the Twitter generation.”


Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“As a registered reviewer of the IPCC report, I condemn the decision by a climate change ‘sceptic’ to violate the confidentiality of the review process.  The review of the IPCC report is being carried out in line with the principles of peer review which operate throughout academic science, including an expectation of high standards of ethical behaviour by reviewers.  It is disappointing, if not surprising, that climate change ‘sceptics’ have been unable to meet these high standards of ethical behaviour.

“The ‘sceptic’ who leaked the draft report has also attempted to misrepresent its contents by cherry-picking quotes out of context to try to give the impression that it endorses the idea that global warming is driven by a decline in cosmic rays from outer space.  In fact, the draft report concludes that there are strong arguments against the cosmic ray theory, while there is compelling evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are driving the unequivocal rise in global average temperature.”

“It is very important that the IPCC acts swiftly and decisively to defend the integrity of the report and counteracts attempts by climate change ‘sceptics’ to misrepresent its contents.  The IPCC must show that it has learned from recent crises and does not allow arguments about due process to prevent it from engaging effectively with the blogosphere and 24-hour news media.”


Prof Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at University College London and contributing author on the recent IPCC report on climate change and extreme events, said:

“Alex Rawls’ interpretation of what IPCC5 says is quite simply wrong.  In fact, while temperatures have been ramping up in recent decades, solar activity has been pretty subdued, so any interaction with cosmic rays is clearly having minimal – if any – effects.  IPCC AR5 reiterates what we can be absolutely certain of: that contemporary climate change is not a natural process, but the consequence of human activities.”

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