The ICP report

Many of you are probably aware of a “report” which is intended to contradict the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. Its authors call it the “NIPCC” report for “Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change.” It’s supposed to represent the very best that so-called “skeptics” have to offer.

But in my opinion, a much more accurate acronym would be “ICP” report — for “Intentional Cherry-Picking.” You don’t have to look any further than their “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM) to see cherry-picking taken to the extreme. And I do mean, extreme. One of the most obvious, most egregious, and frankly most ridiculous examples is Figure 4 from their SPM. It looks like this:


Here’s what they have to say when referring to this figure:

“… a wide variety of datasets other than the HadCRUT global air temperature curve favored by the IPCC do not exhibit a warming trend during the second half of the twentieth century. See Figure 4.”

Let’s find out whether or not their claim is correct.

The first thing to notice is that there’s a significant difference between what’s in the text of their reference to figure 4, and what’s in figure 4. Their reference says “during the second half of the twentieth century” but the figure says “between 1942-1995 and 1979-1997.” What they’ve done is take the time span from 1942 to 1995 and called that “the second half of the twentieth century.” It isn’t. It leaves out everything after 1995. Can you guess what happened in those datasets they refer to after 1995?

Incidentally, for two of the data sets (satellite MSU and Hadley radiosondes) they don’t start with 1942, instead they start with 1979. We can’t blame them regarding satellite MSU data because those don’t start until 1979. But the Hadley radiosonde data start in 1950. Isn’t that the very definition of the start of “the second half of the twentieth century”? And, they still end with 1997, which leaves out everything after. Can you guess what happened in those datasets after 1997?

The reason for their choices is blatantly obvious. The time spans were specifically chosen to minimize the observed warming, so they could claim “do not exhibit a warming trend.” There’s a name for the practice of leaving out data which contradicts one’s desired conclusion. It’s called “cherry-picking.” Make no mistake about it, this figure from the NIPCC ICP report is a great big blatant blob of cherry-picking.

What if we looked at these data sets without the cherry-picking? Can you guess what they show?

Let’s start with land surface temperature from the United States, specifically the 48 conterminous states of the U.S. I don’t have access to the data from GISS, but I do have it from NCDC (the National Climate Data Center) and it’ll give the same result. Here it is:


The red line is a smoothed version of the data. The dashed blue lines mark the time span used in the NIPCC ICP report. Notice what happened after the end of their time span?

If we use linear regression to test whether or not the rate of change is different from zero with statistical significance, then using just the time span in the NIPCC ICP report it turns out not to be. But using the data since 1950 (since the beginning of the second half of the 20th century), it turns out to be strongly significant. That, my friends, is why the NIPCC ICP report omits everything after 1995.


Next up: sea surface temperature. I don’t have the data from Gouretski et al. but I do have it from the Hadley Centre/Climate Research Unit (the HadISST2 data set). Here it is:


Notice what happened after 1995?

Once again if we use linear regression on data since 1950 (since the start of the second half of the 20th century) we find that the warming is statistically significant. Strongly so.

Now for the funny part — a real belly-laugh. If we use only the data from the time span chosen by the NIPCC ICP report, the warming trend is still statistically significant!


Next up is Hadley NMAT (nighttime marine air temperature). Unfortunately global average data for NMAT isn’t readily available, and I’m not willing to do all the work required to format and average the gridded data just to show how wrong the NIPCC ICP report is. They’re not worth it.

But it is easy to get satellite MSU data, globally averaged. Here it is from UAH (Univ. Alabama at Huntsville):


Notice what happened after 1997?

Once again we can test a linear regression line for statistical significance, using only the time span mentioned in the NIPCC ICP report, and using all the data. With the cherry-picked NIPCC ICP report time span there’s no statistical significance, but with all the data there is, undeniably.


Finally we have radiosonde data from the Hadley Centre. They don’t say what atmospheric level they’re considering, but it makes sense to use the one nearest earth’s surface, which is the 850hPa level. And here’s that data:


Notice what happened after 1997? For that matter, notice what happened before 1979?

Once more into the fray: computing a linear regression using only the time span mentioned by the NIPCC ICP report does not give statistical significance. Using all the data does give statistical significance.


Look closely at that last graph. The blue line shows the data included by the authors of the NIPCC ICP report. Everything else, they left out. If there’s a more blatant example of cherry-picking, I’d like to hear about it.

The NIPCC ICP report is supposed to be the best, the most comprehensive, the most accurate representation of the truth about climate science that the so-called “skeptics” can muster. If this is the best they can do, then they’re not skeptics at all. They’re fake skeptics.


53 responses to “The ICP report

  1. Leonard Weinstein

    Why did you not go back to 1940 with data? It is interesting you go to the local minimum near 1970 to start your liner fit to the trend, and there is no reason a liner trend is useful anyway, since the data curves first down then up , then is trending down again. Talk about cherry picking, you are doing so in spades!

    [Response: I started with 1950 because the NIPCC ICP report says “second half of the 20th century.” They’re the ones who made that choice, not me. Guess what — if I had started with 1940, the result would be the same.

    The only linear fit interval I chose which is “near 1970” is for the UAH satellite MSU data. Since those data don’t start until 1979…

    Indeed the pattern of changes is not linear. But linear fits do enable us to test the “null hypothesis” of no change. For all these data sets, the NIPCC ICP report claims no change — and for all of them, they’re wrong.

    Thank you for the outstanding example of what can only be called a “crock of shit.”]

  2. T: the Hadley radiosonde data start in 1950. Isn’t that the very definition of the start of “the second half of the twentieth century”?

    BPL: Well, technically, the 2nd half starts in 1951. But you’re closer than they are, needless to say.

    [Response: And, I was mistaken. The Hadley Radiosonde data (HadAT2) don’t start until 1958.]

  3. I think they may be doing something even stupider than you think. Note they say “The difference in surface temperatures between 1942-1995 and 1979-97”.

    I would interpret that as comparing the 1942-1995 average to the 1979-1997 average, i.e. comparing (~second half of the 20th century) to (~last two decades of the 20th century). Given the overlap, that means they’re pretty close to comparing one number to itself and declaring there’s no change.

    [Response: Yes, it would seem that’s what they mean, but it can’t be so — for satellite MSU data there’s nothing before 1979, and all such comparisons fail anyway. Therefore I gave them the “benefit of the doubt.”]

  4. Using a vague description like “~zero” isn’t exactly common, is it? You’d expect a scientific report to write the trend as 0.1+-0.05 instead.

  5. Horatio Algeranon


    Would that make “Bob Tisdale pisses on leg” an instance of foreshadowing?

    [Response: LOL]

  6. Perhaps ~0 simply means a number they won’t acknowledge as meaningful? That is, any number at all? And it is very interesting to me that this ‘report’ refuses to admit the last 16 years has happened, when the same people push the ‘no warming for the past 15 years’ lie.

  7. I miss the “nobody denies that it’s warming” talking point. It was more believable than “it’s not warming.”

    • I think there’s a natural cycle of some sort that modulates between these two states–call it the ‘DBSO.’ Perhaps Dr. Scafetta should investigate possible correlations…

      • Horatio Algeranon

        — by Horatio Algeranon

        From “Warming NOT!”
        To “Overrated!”

        “Warming NOT!”
        Has reached a crest
        And you can simply guess
        The rest

  8. I wonder how peer pressure was applied during writing of that ICP report.
    And did they expect no peer review after publishing?

  9. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall during their ‘research’ on that project? Imagine the trial and error of trying to get the ‘optimal’ starting and stopping points.and what they had to keep discarding ,all the while trying to keep up the fiction that they were doing science.

    • That’s the thing that gets me.
      These people *had* to examine the data closely, in great detail, to be able to find the start and end points that give the answers they want.
      Cherry-picking it most certainly is. But what it also is, IMHO, is outright fraud. They cannot have spent much time looking at the data and *not* seen the real trends, which means they have engaged in deliberate deception and falsification.
      But I guess standards are different outside the scientific world. Look at what our elected so-called representatives get up to, with their ‘campaign contributions’ (if I did anything like that at work, I’d be fired on the spot, and probably prosecuted!)

    • I don’t think the flies would be on the wall…more likely, in profusion on the work and the authors.

      I find it hard to believe that the NIPCC authorial team includes people actually still employed by universities. There is a clear breach of ethics in their involvement in this deliberately misleading concoction.

      • Nick- That brought a big smile to my face :)

      • NIPCC team member (to NIPCC lead)- “You know sir,some people might accuse us of selecting our data to suit our reader’s biases,thus providing an ‘any port in the storm’ defense against the IPCC report.”
        NIPCC lead- ” What exactly are you getting at son? Are you going all wobbly on me?”
        NIPCC team member- “I mean sir,couldn’t we be accused of exploiting the noisy data in order to create a distorted trend?”
        NIPCC lead- “Go back to work son.No one here is interested in your port/noise complaint!”.

  10. Keith Pickering

    I rather suspect ~0 is the amount of integrity being displayed.

  11. Bern: They cannot have spent much time looking at the data and *not* seen the real trends, which means they have engaged in deliberate deception and falsification.

    Thereby earning themselves a fat bonus for outstanding performance of their assigned job.

  12. Small nitpick – the “second half of the 20th century” does not include data post 2000, so to assess whether their quote matches the statistics, you’d have to truncate data sets at December 1999. one may wonder why they restric data to that period in the first place. However…

    I read the relevant paragraph. It’s quite incoherent, but they are attempting to rebut:

    IPCC Claim #2: CO2 caused an atmospheric warming of at least 0.3°C over the past 15 years.


    Never mind that they omit the past 15 years of temperature data from their ‘analysis’, or that the paragraph doesn’t actually address actual temperature change for that period, I could not find a quote resembling this value in the final draft IPCC documents. Can anyone else?

    AR5 SPM (page 3) has the warming rate for the last 15 years at 0.05 C/decade +/-0.1C. That’s less than a third of the value NIPCC attributes to them. How wrong can these guys be?

    I flicked through the rest of the NIPCC summary. Disinformation of the highest order (or lowest, depending on how you frame it), such as stating that GCMs are not good at predicting climate change over 10-year periods, which we already know. Therefore, they assert, GCMs cannot do any better predicting climate 90 years into the future.

    The sheer volume of bollocks might make a tempting target for energetic people If anyone could be bothered, a rebuttal should be post-by-point, not a long tract, which would only add to the noise. Short, sharp and conclusive, like the article at the top of this thread.

    But if you haven’t the mental energy to wade through the document, repeatedly head-butting a brick wall should be equally satisfying.

    • Pressed the buttons at woodfortrees to get the linear trends 1979 through 1999 for UAH and RSS. Both positive (0.1C/decade, and 0.14C/decade respectively), but not statistically significant (thanks SkS trend calculator).

      NIPCC really hedged their bets omitting the last few years of the 20th century from their analysis.

  13. Lars Karlsson

    NIPCC SMP Figure 5 shouls also offer many opportunities for analysis. It starts:
    Climate models project an atmospheric warming of at least 0.3°C over the past 15 years; in fact, temperature stasis or slight cooling has occurred.
    • Climate models project an ocean warming of at least 0.2°C since 2000; in fact, no warming is observed.

  14. Michael Spencer

    I don’t think it makes sense to assign motivation. But starting with the assumption that those who prepared this report are smart people, and that they are veterans of the climate-wars, they had to see this obvious source of criticism. The unanswered question is: what is the thinking? How were these intervals chosen? Reasonable questions.

    • I believe it is entirely appropriate to draw conclusions about motivations based upon actions. .

      We have people (Singer) who have flatly misrepresented the science in multiple issues over the last few decades (tobacco, ozone, acid rain, global warming), authors (Idso, Carter) receiving major funding from Heart(less)land and other fossil fuel funded ‘think tanks’ (i.e. lobbying groups), and so on.

      More importantly, we can examine what they have chosen to present – cherry-picked data, complete misrepresentations of the science, newspeak framings, in short – complete nonsense. It’s not science, it’s not even rational; it’s factually false propaganda.

      The appropriate framing for this is to consider these people as holding the same role as Nick Naylor of Thank You For Smoking – people whose livelihood is based upon misrepresenting information for lobbying purposes. And to take what they say as seriously as such as presentation deserves – influential propaganda, but not science…

    • It could be that they are genuinely ignorant about how to apply statistics. Even experienced scientists make statistical bloopers when they don’t consult a professional statistician. However, that leaves us with two choices: The NIPCC team could be deliberately mendacious or on the bright side they could be innocently incompetent.

      • deliberate mendacity and innocent DK-afflicted incompetence aren’t mutually exclusive, are they?

      • I believe that the statistics being practiced here are what I call “straight-face” statistics. If you can keep a straight face while making your argument, then the stats are valid. This, of course, gives a significant advantage to the innumerate.

  15. I think the buried bit is- “there’s been no warming since 1997” and “see we proved there’s no warming before it either”. Don’t look behind the curtain to see that 1997 to present is warmer that before 1997. This will actually fool some people.

    I see a denier claim running around about the Hansen testimony about how the wopping El Nino year was exploited, and then I see the ICP report showing 1998 on the low side in the Continental US. One little bit of fun to save for a rainy day.

  16. Horatio Algeranon

    “Deniers’ Least Action Principle”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Deniers always act
    To minimize the fact
    That temperature increases
    By picking cherry pieces

    Of all the many paths
    They choose the one with maths
    That leads to zero action
    On greenhouse gas reduction

  17. For those wondering how the denizens of the Heartland Asylum can carry out such blatantly dishonest analyses without being themselves the pulsing heart of evil, consider this:
    1)Start with the assumption that future economic growth and stability are predicated on extracting as much petroleum and coal out of the ground as possible. Never mind that this is a false assumption, and demonstrably so. These folks believe it with all their blackened, shriveled, little hearts. If it were the case, then there is nothing we can do about warming even if we are the cause of it. Since there is nothing we can do, then it is the job of the kind masters of the Heartland Asylum to find ways of demonstrating that we are not in fact in the soup–be they true or not. They’re just telling little white lies to society to preserve hope, the little dears.

    Of course, the folks writing checks to Heartland et al. are in fact the pulsing heart of evil.

  18. These guys must not get out much. If temperatures aren’t going up we’re going to need another explanation for melting ice worldwide, increasing sea levels, increasing extreme weather events, longer more extreme fire seasons (see Australia 2013 right now!)….I could go on but most people who post/read here know the list. We’re waiting for the alternative theory that explains these physical observations. My theory here is that these guys are intentionally making stuff up and they know it. Just a theory….

    • They are satisfied to leave individual observations alone and unconnected when it suits them, the same way that anti-evolution Creationists are satisfied at leaving biology as “stamp collecting” without an underlying theory that ties everything together.

      When it doesn’t suit them to let such sleeping facts lie is when they can cherry-pick the observations and events to bundle up and present as an argument against the underlying theory, e.g. if they can just find enough places that are cold right now, AGW can’t be happening!

  19. I’m always really pleased to see debunking (and renaming) of the NIPCC. Although I’m sure many consider the NIPCC too ridiculous to be worth the trouble, it is a mistake to dismiss its impact – there must be many poor souls taken in by the NIPCC’s nonsense. I think that a good debunking of an NIPCC report would be a great induction for someone new to the fake controversies around climate change. When I first read an NIPCC report I had virtually no knowledge of climate science, and I was immediately struck by the incoherence of the NIPCC report (and I would like to think that anyone comparing the quality of IPCC reports with NIPCC reports would immediately be struck by the difference in quality). However, I didn’t want to dismiss the NIPCC just on the basis of the lack of coherence. I was confused and puzzled by some of the arguments put forward by NIPCC (little did I know that they had all been de-bunked to death years earlier). After quite a lot of trawling through various websites and papers, I came to the conclusion that the NIPCC’s arguments are laughable. And when I read the latest serving from the NIPCC, I am fascinated by the twistedness of it. It’s like super-concentrated WUWT. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can be taken in by any of it…but then I have to remember that there was a time not long ago when I wasn’t really sure whether to take it seriously or not.

  20. The psychology of denial really is different— they really don’t think they need to have any coherent theory that explains the facts (after all, they’re not interested in climate change– they just want it to go away). It’s enough, for this kind of conspiratorial thinker, to find small excuses for rejecting the obvious (anything from a short term stabilization of temperature to a failure of temperatures everywhere to correlate perfectly with CO2 levels or a critical remark from some scientist about the imperfections of our understanding of climate). Once doubt is ‘established’ they can go on happily demanding that nothing be done while the world goes on warming and the ice goes on melting… Of course the same approach to the hypothesis that a car is coming when you’re crossing the road would just get you killed.

    • Or dead from the disease the doctor told you to have an operation for, or chemo for…etc. Lost a dear friend to a curable cancer that way.

  21. As per my usual money/meme flow, this stuff is not likely meant to persuade any real skeptic (in the classic sense), especially if they already know even a little of the real science, it is meant to support the efforts of those who talk to the “convinced public, B1c”, i.e., those convinced that AGW is a hoax, equivalent to the “dismissive” segment of the Yale/GMU “Six Americas” model. The most convinced are those who read especially post in the blogospheric echo chambers above.
    A constant stream of such is needed to support the worldview, which is why one sees NIPCC, Forbes, WSJ, etc keep at it.

    • Yep. The audience for this is “people who already know the IPCC is a fraud.” This is just an excuse to hang a hat on, it is not meant to be looked at closely. It certainly is not meant to be a scientific exercise, it is propaganda pure and simple.

  22. As the folks from RealClimate say, NIPCC is simply the acronym for Not the IPCC.

    In spite of the effort from Fox News, the NIPCC, or IPC, or whatever, really get as much public attention as they deserve: none.

  23. Bimby Rawinder

    They are no different then creationists. They have no science of their own. They can only try to pick apart the real science that’s done by real scientists.

  24. Horatio Algeranon

    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Denier calculation
    Requires renormaliceation
    Subtracting out the trend
    Recovering means to end

  25. their grasp of how science works might actually be more tenuous than the other ICP’s. fucking climate, how does it work? i don’t wanna talk to a scientist, y’all motherfuckers publishing an extensive body of peer reviewed research showing that human activity is very likely causing the climate to change in damaging ways.

  26. I pointed out the problems in those statistics publicly to Fred Singer three months before NIPCC publication:
    Did it matter to Fred? No. Did it matter to any skeptics? Doubtful.

    • Larry Bell is surely aware of the financial motivation for Singer’s AGW denial. Yet Bell makes no mention of that, simply calling Singer a “highly-credentialed scientist”. I thought the Capitalist Tool motto was supposed to be ironic!

  27. John N-G:
    Of course it didn’t matter. Some people have discovered a version of Maxwell’s Demon, which let only warmer molecules through an opening. Singer’s Demon works in reverse: no data that might show warming gets through, no matter how much cherry-pickng required.

  28. Horatio Algeranon

    From “Nothing else matters” (Fredallica)

    So close no matter how far
    Couldn’t be much more from the Heart(land)
    Forever trust in who we are
    And nothing else matters

    Never cared for what they do
    Never cared for what they know
    But I know

    Never analyzed temps their way
    Data is ours, we do it our way
    All these wards I just won’t say
    And nothing else matters…

  29. > What is the thinking?
    Look at the advertisers. Seriously, as pointed out a few pages down in this piece:
    — the advertisers supporting this kind of PR are trolling for credulous people. Like spammers, they don’t need to be convincing — in fact they don’t want anyone with a dim bulb on to be able to recognize the baloney.

    They want to reach the credulous. So do the advertisers in the publications aimed at this demographic. They’re out there, they’re known, they’re targeted. And if you can fool enough of the people, enough of the time, you’ve got Representatives.

    It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to win.

  30. Nothing about the NIPCC/ICP is science. It is no more rational than an ad for shoes, cell phones, or a political party. It is in fact, an advertisement for a political policy.

    Discussing it as science, gives it credibility that it does not deserve. On other hand, the major cell phone companies do get most of their numbers correct these days, and I do think that the NIPCC should be held to the same standard of accuracy as commercial advertising. They got their numbers wrong, and that is fraud; whether in a phone add or an advertisement for a political policy. This is a matter for the Department of Justice.

    A rational argument will not sway the people that accept the NIPCC world view. Phone ads are not about “the numbers”, they are about an emotional attachment to a product concept. I just had an argument with an old friend that has been lawyer to large environmental consulting firms for a long time. (I was Senior Scientist at some of the same firms, so the man knows my work.) The man has a degree in math from Columbia, so he can do statistics. However, he accepted the NIPCC arguments. He accepted the emotional appeal (e.g., Do not worry!) without doing rational analysis. On day, on his yacht, I ran him through the problems with the NIPCC material, and he understands the issues, but his world view remains, “It cannot be all that bad!”. He really thinks his money will buy him a way out. The NIPCC/ICP is not about numbers, it is about an emotional attachment to a world view. These people think differently than the folks who read, “Open Mind” on a regular basis.

    Yes NIPCC plucks heart strings. It says, things are not really as bad as those technocrats at the UN say they are. The NIPCC says, DON’T WORRY!” Some hearts hear that, and their minds shut down.

    [Response: There are plenty of people with a degree in math (including from Columbia) who can’t do statistics right. In fact they might be more prone to Dunning-Kruger.]

    • Aaron Lewis’s friend: “It cannot be all that bad!”.
      And there, in a single sentence is the problem–they want to tell nature how bad it can be. We don’t get to say–or rather we don’t get to burn all the fossil fuel and then tell nature she’s being unfair. Ultimately, these people are comfortable and cowardly. Their lives are good. They don’t want to change. They don’t want to feel responsible for the havoc they will wreak in the lives of their children. They don’t see a magic solution. So they deny. The lie to themselves and everyone else–and the smarter they are, the better they are at deluding themselves.

      Being smart isn’t enough. You also have to be decent and courageous.

  31. You know what else ICP stands for? Insane Clown Posse. Also appropriate.

  32. Tamino,

    by definition, they cannot do any better. If they could, they are not “climate skeptics”…