‘Errors’ do not invalidate

fail road by fireflythegreat

[Via Deltoid]

Realclimate covers the Journalismgate scandal, where a couple of dishonest reporters (Jonathan Leake and David Rose) have generated a blizzard of stories in British newspapers about alleged errors in the IPCC reports. Despite their best efforts to destroy the credibility of the IPCC reports, they’ve only managed to come up with two actual errors in three phone book size reports:

  • WG2 wrongly said that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035
  • WG2 said that the Netherlands was vulnerable sea level rise and river floodingbecause 55% of its area is bleow sea level when it should have said that 26% was below sea level and 29% vulnerable to river flooding.

I guess its possible that there’s more, but the bottom line is that in three enormous volumes, just two errors have been found. The credibility of the IPCC is in good shape, unlike that of the British press.


There is a key aspect of this that needs to be stated.

The Working Group 1 report, the one that focussed on the science, has not been shown to have any fundamental errors. Any real errors that have been discussed come from Working Group 2, which was tasked more with policy issues, not the science.

Denialists try to conflate the two in order to denigrate the entire process. The thing that denialists of any strip believe – if you can show one error that invalidates the entire scientific edifice.

They do this all the time to promote creationism. ‘All they have to do is find one mistake made by a human being somewhere, and 150 years of scientific understanding must fall.’ I would call that a Massive Fail.

They have little understanding of the way scientific theories work. Something as robust as evolution or even climate change does not get to be a major theory without a substantial amount of independent data being generated. Data that has to be explained.

Bringing down an edifice does not happen because someone found an error in what a human reported. Newtonian mechanics was toppled by Einstein not because Newton made an addition error. It was toppled because it could not explain the data being generated.

The minor errors that a few reporters have found will not topple climate change. Data that can not be explained by climate change may. But denialists hate having to actually do science.