IPCCfacts.org has its Facts Wrong

February 23rd, 2007

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

There is a webpage called IPCCfacts.org that is grossly misrepresenting my views on hurricanes and climate change, which is bizarre given my strong endorsement of the recent IPCC report. Anyone wanting to get “facts” on the IPCC should look elsewhere than IPCCfacts.org, like to the actual IPCC. Here I set the record straight and request that IPCCfacts.org correct their mistakes.

It is always nice to know who is misrepresenting one’s views and it this case the group’s origins are a bit hard to discern, but it is connected to Fenton Communications, which coincidentally is also associated with RealClimate. IPCCfacts.org receives funding from the United Nations Foundation.

Anyway, IPCCfacts.org misrepresents my views on the recent IPCC report on the subject of hurricanes and climate change. As anyone who reads Prometheus knows, I was quite complementary of the IPCC’s judgment on this issue. Nonetheless, IPCCfacts.org sees fit to cite my views as representing a “myth”:

Myth: The report shows that the overall number of hurricanes is expected to decline, undercutting the argument that global warming produces extreme weather events.

“So there might be a human contribution [to increased hurricanes] … but the human contribution itself has not been quantitatively assessed, yet the experts, using their judgment, expect it to be there. In plain English this is what is called a ‘hypothesis’ and not a ‘conclusion.’ And it is a fair representation of the issue.”
–Roger Pielke Jr. climate scientist, University of Colorado, Blog post, February 2, 2007.

First, the report indicates that there is little confidence in estimates of how the number of hurricanes will change—up or down.

Second, the really important issue is not frequency, but intensity and damage potential. Hurricanes and other tropical cyclones draw their energy from warm ocean waters, which typically, under the right conditions, lead to increases in the size and intensity of hurricanes. The warmer ocean waters that result from global warming thus provide an environment suitable to the generation of larger hurricanes.

And larger hurricanes are characterized by all the elements that increase potential destructiveness: higher wind speed, greater intensity of rainfall and higher storm surges in advance of landfall.

In response, first a minor point — they call me a “climate scientist” which is only accurate if one includes climate impacts under that designation, which is typically not done. I don’t characterize myself as such. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) certainly does not.

Second, the quote from me that they suggest represents a “myth” comes from this blog post. The part that they ellipsis out is the following parenthetical:

(and presumably this is just to the observed upwards trends observed in some basins, and not to downward trends observed in others, but this is unclear)

At no point (in the post that they reference or anywhere else) do I suggest that there will be less hurricanes, nor do I suggest that such a decline undercuts the argument for an increase in extreme events in the future. Where they get this impression I have no idea. This is simply a gross misrepresentation. In fact, my writings say much the opposite, such as the following (PDF):

For future decades the IPCC (2001) expects increases in the occurrence and/or intensity of some extreme events as a result of anthropogenic climate change.

Peer-reviewed papers I have co-authored (here in PDF and here in PDF) that survey the literature on tropical cyclone science, impacts, and policy are actually 100% consistent with the IPCC SPM.

And of the blog post of mine that they cite summarizing the IPCC SPM, here is what one of the scientists on the U.S. delegation had to say:

Thank you for your thoughtful and balanced assessment of what the IPCC SPM says. You have got it right. Your careful analysis on what the report says and how it compares to the WMO consensus statement is most appreciated.

Then IPCCfacts.org start talking about the size of hurricanes, a discussion which is nowhere to be found in the IPCC SPM. In short, IPCCfacts.org have got their facts wrong and are spinning some “myths” of their own.

12 Responses to “IPCCfacts.org has its Facts Wrong”

  1. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Just sent, in the off chance that they don’t read Prometheus;-)

    To :joel@fenton.com
    Cc :
    Subject : errors in ipccfacts.org
    —– Message Text —–

    Dear Mr. Finkelstein-

    I am writing to request that you correct errors in my views cited on your
    WWW page, as described here:


    I’ll be happy to post your reply.


    Roger A. Pielke, Jr.
    Professor, Environmental Studies
    Director, Center for Science and technology Policy Research
    University of Colorado

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  3. William Connolley Says:

    “Associated with RC” is a bit misleading. Apparently they organised our initial press release… but if there is more, I don’t know it.

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  5. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    Thanks, that is why I linked to the RC explanation of this … it is not clear to me how Fenton and EMS are “associated” or the value of the services provided by EMS to RC. Nor do I much care.

    It is an interesting coincidence — when I Googled Fenton I saw this page:


    . . . and was surprised to see RC listed. I this “associated” is fair enough given all this ambiguity. It is not a big deal.

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  7. bubba Says:

    Dr. Pielke, I regret to inform you that your reputation has been targeted for termination.

    If, as it appears, the United Nations Foundation has decided to set up this IPCCfacts.org sock-puppet by hiring Fenton Communications, you are probably going to be under assault from more such shell advocacy organization. And I doubt the U.N. Foundation will be the only sugar-daddy sponsoring that site.

    Fenton’s purpose is to insulate the funders from the unethical behaviour needed to tear down and defame those who are seen as a threat to the funders agenda. And many a Fenton graduate work directly for, in the old boy/girl network that dominates the foundations, the funders as well.

    I know this because I worked at a foundation active in funding such environmentalist sock-puppets for three years. And anytime a particularly nasty piece of wet-work needed to be performed, Fenton was the assassin of choice.

    With the rolodexes that Fenton maintains, I strongly doubt the recent Wikipedia and Grist attacks, or Mr. Adam’s visit are unrelated.

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  9. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    William- Also — Seems like a post from RC on the “facts” in IPCCfacts.org would be a good use of RC time. Lots of stuff in there looks like it might benefit from some expert eyes . . .

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  11. Richard Tol Says:

    It is worrying that they get their stuff wrong. However, it is more worrying that they exist. Why does the UN support a foundation that is obviously there only to say those things the IPCC leaders want to say, but cannot because it violates their mandate.

    Very worrying.

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  13. bubba Says:


    The UN Foundation is an advocacy organization representing the special interests of its constituent, well constituent in this case.

    Every organization or association in the nation, even foreign countries and our own federal states, maintain such lobbying bodies to try and affect their chances during the appropriations contest in congress.

    The UN is a special interest like any other panting after federal largesse.

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  15. Joel Finkelstein Says:

    We regret that your views were misrepresented on IPCCfacts.org, and have removed the post.

    The intent of the site is to follow the conversation around the IPCC report and, where mischaracterizations about the report are made, clearly and directly present the IPCC findings. We stand behind our presentation of the IPCC report findings.

    We regret the error.

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  17. Lubos Motl Says:

    Do I understand well that the United Nations Foundation is a private lobby group that is not affiliated, in any official sense, with the United Nations? Is it OK for the United Nations if similar bizarre groups use the name of the international organizations as parts of their names?

    I think that the name creates a lot of confusion. The “scientists” on the website write a lot of absurd things, e.g. they deny that the new report has excluded the previous speculative predictions about a catastrophic sea level rise – and the design looks like these crackpots represent the United Nations which is no good.

    But I am afraid that this sequence of events reflects the situation that de facto exists anyway: it’s similar political lobby groups and foundations that are the primary authors of key decisions about the United Nations. The IPCC panel may contain many honest and smart scientists but the conclusions that become important are being invented by people like Mr Moss.

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  19. Tim Clear Says:

    Bubba -

    You underestimate the UN. They are not salivating after federal monies – unless federal is plural… After whetting their appetite via the Iraqi Oil for Food scam, they’re going global.

    And yes, multiple Google searches show Fenton to be around the periphery of the carbon trading scene.

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  21. JamesG Says:

    I always thought that the cyclone phenomenon arose from temperature differences, not temperature absolutes, so as long as both the warm and the cold fronts increase temperature by the same amount there would be no change in frequency or intensity. Am I wrong?

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  23. Lab Lemming Says:

    While fronts are important for temperate and polar weather, tropical storms like hurricanes are driven, at least in part, by the compositional bouyancy of water vapour. The theoretical limit on this is the partial pressure of H2O, which is a function of ocean temperature. What is not known is how climate change will change the practical factors needed to initiate and mantain tropical cyclones.

    At least, that’s a mineralogist’s understanding of the issue. Maybe a climate guy can correct me.