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A wolf in sheep's clothing

Posted by Richard Wednesday, February 10, 2010


While we are all familiar with the figures of al-Gore and James Hansen pushing "dangerous climate change", not all those behind the climate alarmism agenda are household names.

One who most definitely should be is Professor Martin Parry, whom we featured in an earlier piece. It is he that has been responsible for fashioning many of the "bullets" used by the higher-profile figures.

What has brought this man onto the radar is "Africagate", where the accumulating evidence suggests that – as with "Glaciergate" - the alarmist claim that found its way into the IPCC AR4 cannot have been an accident.

Parry is, of course, the co-chair of Working Group II (WGII) which, in dealing with climate impacts, has been responsible for all the "gates" bar the original "Climategate". It is he more than anyone who had ultimate control over what went into the WGII report, and how it finally appeared.

More even than Pachauri, therefore, the "mistakes" that have emerged in this report have been his personal responsibility – except that none of them have been mistakes. All of them err on the side of alarmism, and all of them have been included quite deliberately to hype up the case.

Focusing specifically on "Africagate", it is here that Parry's fingerprints are most evident. The trail is easy to follow.

Firstly, as effective controller of the WGII report, dealing with "climate impacts" of global warming, the IPCC could not have picked a better man to suit its purposes. Committed to the thesis of "dangerous climate change", Professor Martin Parry OBE is regarded within his field as "world class", his specialist subject being the impacts of climate change on agriculture, especially in the developing world.

To explore this subject, as we saw in the earlier piece, he had been commissioned by Defra to carry out a series of studies, working with the Met Office's climate change unit at the Hadley Centre to produce a series of computer models simulating the effects of climate change on agriculture throughout the world.

And, while Prof Parry would have undoubtedly preferred otherwise, even the Hadley Centre was forced to admit that there were huge uncertainties when it came to assessing climate change impacts in Africa.

Parry, however, was able to speak for himself. Commissioned by Defra, with two fees totalling nearly £75,000, paid to his consultancy Martin Parry Associates, Parry produced a report in October 2005, entitled "Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger."

This work was specifically intended to inform the IPCC process and using the Hadley Centre models, Parry was able to make a series of estimates on the effects of climate change on crop yields. The largest negative changes, he concluded, occur in developing countries, averaging -9 to -11 percent but, he found, although by the 2020s, small changes in cereal yield were evident, these fluctuations were "within historical variations."

Only with the worst case scenario, with a large increase in global temperatures, was Parry able to report that, by the 2080s, decreases were "especially significant" in Africa and parts of Asia, "with expected losses up to 30 percent."

As one might expect, though, Parry was not the only worker in the field. Another was Professor Mike Hulme, a co-ordinating lead author for the chapter on "Climate scenario development" for the IPCC's Third Assessment Report, and – like Parry - an expert in climate change impacts.

Making use of the Hadley Centre data, in August 2001 he was the lead author of a paper entitled, "African climate change: 1900–2100" published in Climate Research. In this paper, Hulme reflected the general uncertainty about Africa, noting:

...the ultimate causes of the lower frequency decadal and multi-decadal rainfall variability that affects some African climate regimes, especially in the Sahel region, remain uncertain.
He also noted:
The climate of Africa is warmer than it was 100 yr ago. Although there is no evidence for widespread desiccation of the continent during this century, in some regions substantial interannual and multi-decadal rainfall variations have been observed and near continent-wide droughts in 1983 and 1984 had some dramatic impacts on both the environment and some economies (Benson & Clay 1998). The extent to which these rainfall variations are related to greenhouse gas induced global warming, however, remains undetermined. A warming climate will nevertheless place additional stresses on water resources, whether or not future rainfall is significantly altered.
With these two authoritative reports in place, Martin Parry in his role as head of the TSU and co-chair of WGII had plenty of opportunity to draw the report authors' attention to them. In fact, the Hulme paper is cited in the Africa chapter, but only in respect of an incidental comment about "dust aerosol concentrations and sea-surface temperature anomalies." But there is absolutely no reference to Parry's 2005 paper, which offers the 30 percent by the 2080s estimate for cereal losses in Africa and parts of Asia.

Bizarrely though, Parry's 30/80 estimate is cited, referenced to an earlier, paper (Parry et al., 2004), but in Chapter 13, where it is applied as a "global estimate" to Latin America. Yet, in that paper, the reference is still to "Africa and parts of Asia" with expected losses up to 30 percent by the 2080s.

For Latin America, with regional temperatures assumed, in some cases, to exceed 8°C and precipitation totals down by as much as 90 percent compared to the 1961–90 reference period, we are told that, "even wheat and barley yields are impacted by as much as ~20% throughout Africa and Latin America."

This, incidentally, does not seem consistent with the "Africa and parts of Asia" estimate, but the central issue here is that the Parry 2004 paper has been misquoted in the IPCC report.

Even more significantly though, while Parry has a controlling influence on the drafting of the WGII report, having allowed one of his own papers to be misquoted in Chapter 13, and omitted completely from Chapter 9, on Africa, he then allows the completely different estimate of yield losses of 50 percent by 2020, offered by an obscure Moroccan academic, Ali Agoumi, writing in a non-peer-reviewed report from an advocacy group, referenced to primary sources which do not support that estimate.

Not only is that estimate unsupported – and most likely wrong – it contradicts both Parry, who sees no detectable change by 2020, and Hulme. Yet, while Hulme is cited freely in the WGI report - reinforcing the message about the uncertainties in the modelling - it is Agoumi's deeply suspect estimate which is allowed to go through to the "gold standard" Synthesis Report.

Now, the point here is that, in the WGII report, we are not dealing with a student's essay written by an inexperienced undergraduate. This is supposed to be a "gold standard" authoritative report, subject to rigorous scrutiny, under the most exacting of conditions, supervised by one of the world leaders in the field.

As Parry himself says, in an interview with the BBC entitled "As good as it gets", the report represents "by far the most comprehensive and authoritative statement that we have about climate change."

Given this background, and the egregious nature of the inclusion of the Agoumi reference – from a man who has no track-record in climate impact estimates – and the exclusion of key references from leaders in the field, it is difficult to the point of impossible to believe these events are accidental.

Otherwise, we are being asked to believe that a world leader in this specialist field fails to notice a reference to an unknown author offering estimates which contradict and take the place of his own research, produced specifically for the report. This is beyond the bounds of credibility. The substitution has to be deliberate.

Of a truly dispassionate scientist, this still would be hard to believe, but Parry is not that. For some time, he has indulged in strident advocacy, in 2001 publishing as lead author in Global Environmental Change (a journal of which he happened to be editor) a "Viewpoint", luridly headed "Millions at risk: defining critical climate change threats and targets".

This was enthusiastically embraced by advocacy groups such as Greenpeace, with "Millions at risk" being adopted as a rallying slogan for the Green movement.

From a dalliance with advocacy groups, however, Parry went on to work with directly with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) – the very same organisation which was partnered with Dr Pachauri's TERI-Europe and other advocacy groups – to produce a report aimed specifically at influencing the Copenhagen climate summit, going way beyond the IPCC recommendations, which Parry supposedly endorsed.

The WGII report, with all its exaggerations and errors, it would appear, was not masterminded by Professor Martin Parry, the scientist. Rather, the person in his place was Martin Parry, the climate activist, using the classic alarmist techniques to pursue an agenda which could not be supported by his alter ego.

And that, unfortunately, is the probably the persona who is now a government advisor on climate change - a wolf in sheep's clothing.

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