Commissioner Wright’s wrong – Part 2

Changing climate and rising seas: Understanding the science

UPDATE No.1 12 FEB 2015 9:50PM

Go to UPDATE 1.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, published a report last November, Changing climate and rising seas: Understanding the science (CCRS) (pdf, 2MB). While reading it I marked more than a hundred places where her evidence or reasoning is questionable. Part 1 discussed a first batch of questions; this post discusses another.

Power and privilege

The Commissioner for the Environment enjoys a privileged position: the Environment Act 1986 grants the Commissioner wide powers to investigate and engage staff and consultants, along with millions of dollars. The Parliamentary Vote for this financial year permits a departmental expenditure of $3,258,000, including a personal salary of $296,000. The Commissioner enjoys the same powers as a commission of inquiry, and the same immunities and privileges as a District Court Judge. For investigations the Commissioner initiates, she has “such powers as may be necessary” to see them through—extensive powers, for whatever she wants to do, she has the power to do.

The powers and privileges of public service cast a long shadow, for a high salary is attended by high performance standards. It would ill become the Commissioner to make mistakes in data collection or reasoning. It was disappointing in our first report to catalogue five major errors in her descriptions of the science. Let us look further.

The Commissioner’s Overview

In the first pages we learn our sin and the means of our absolution. First this:

A rising sea will be with us for a long time to come – one way or another we will have to adapt. But how high and how fast the water rises will be influenced by the speed at which the world – including New Zealand – reduces greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades [emphasis added].

Then this:

The IPCC’s prediction of a 30 centimetre rise in average sea level by the middle of the century is ‘locked in’ – it is expected to occur regardless of action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [emphasis added].

Putting aside for now the attention-grabbing but fanciful forecast, these two paragraphs give the impression that sea levels only recently started rising. In fact, they haven’t stopped rising since the last Ice Age ended 12,000 years ago. The report announces that “we will have to adapt” as though we haven’t been adapting for our entire history. The reader is told that sea level rise is determined only by our emissions of carbon dioxide, which is profoundly untrue, but it doesn’t mention the natural factors that are involved—such as a recent Ice Age.

Propaganda, not science

But this is the policy prescription—willy-nilly, we are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, yet we’re given no evidence to support the prescription—nothing to link our emissions with sea level rise, no evidence that the solution will work and no idea of the cost.

The Cabinet Manual requires a cost-benefit analysis before approving public expenditure; for the humblest public building, Ministers of the Crown must honestly examine the benefits, the disadvantages and the costs—how much more important it is to do that when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. One would think that the Commissioner, though independent of the government, would be mindful of good practice or, just to get our agreement to fund a ‘battle’ against climate change, would want to present a clear description of the perils we face, precisely how they are caused, how the emissions reductions will ameliorate those perils and how much it will cost us.

But the report omits fundamental information and gives us propaganda instead. It is also riddled with errors.

Purpose of the report

The science of the IPCC reports draws on a range of academic disciplines and has been intensely scrutinised. Much is highly technical and not accessible to a general audience. This report has been written with the intent of making the science of climate change, and sea level rise in particular, both accessible and relevant for New Zealanders. Certainly the impacts of sea level rise will vary from place to place. But an understanding and acceptance of the basic science provides a basis for the debate on what action must be taken. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.13.

To make the conclusions of climate science available to a broader range of readers is laudable, but not at the expense of accuracy. For example, assertions that anthropogenically-warmed air significantly warm the oceans have no scientific support, and predictions of strong atmospheric warming come from computer models which cannot reproduce the past and so cannot reliably predict the future.

Climate instability

The last seven thousand years has been a time of relative climatic stability, but this is now changing. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.13.

By any measure, on any time scale, the unfolding of our earth’s chaotic climate is soaked in unpredictability and abrupt change. The Commissioner confirms this by describing the recent past as ‘relative climatic stability’ (no doubt hoping we read it as ‘stable’ though it still means ‘unstable’) and she observes that this instability is becoming changeable. There is no reason to disagree, though we wonder why she says ‘but’—it’s not as if change differs from instability.

So the Commissioner tries to deceive us, for, out of a history of instability, she conjures an image of us changing the planet—but not with evidence, just clever words which betray her reasoning, for if instability were to change, could it become anything other than stability?

Arctic sea ice – not melting

the Arctic is expected to be nearly ice free in summer by the middle of the century. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.21.

Anonymous expectations are of no account; unattributed to a knowledgeable person, they simply constitute the logical error of appeal to authority and their only intention is to inspire fear. Russell Norman told me in an email just before he resigned the ‘co-leadership’ of the Greens a couple of weeks ago:

“Do you think I will have time to grow up and get old and die before the world ends?” This is an actual question from a Green Party member’s 8-year-old child. It must be frightening growing up in a world where runaway climate change hangs like a cloud over the future.

It is frightening. But the child is not being frightened by global warming. There has not been any in his eight years—nor twice that. He is frightened by the fears his adults feed him. Only the radical, the timorous or the cruel teach their children to fear climate change for it is not occurring by our hand and the only source of the ferocious predictions of runaway climate change which the earth has never fallen into is empty-headed computers programmed by scatterbrained, misinformed anthropophobes somehow convinced that we know everything about the climate.

Not dramatic

Since the 1970s there has been a dramatic decrease in both the extent and thickness of sea ice in the Arctic. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.21.

Sea ice’s major effect on climate is not through its thickness but its albedo, which is unchanged whether the ice is one metre or four metres thick, so here I ignore ice thickness. There are claims that loss of thickness is another indication of atmospheric warming, but I disagree, because it’s clear that water is much more effective than air in melting sea ice. Ice floating in water is destined to melt, whereas air moving over ice will always be chilled.

So, beginning in 1979, the satellite record of Arctic sea ice extent displays a gentle decline which briefly reached about 20% in 2012. Both 2007 and 2012 (second and first in record minimum summer sea ice extent) represented a sharp increase (caused by strong winds) in the rate of ice loss. The sea ice swiftly recovered, and the next winter it rose to higher levels, as shown here (years of record loss highlighted):

whole Arctic sea ice record

The satellite-era record of Arctic sea ice extent. Click to enlarge.

Now here is a simplified version from the same source with monthly values and a vertical scale showing actual sea ice extent. The red circles mark the maximum winter extent at top and the minimum summer extent at bottom to show the magnitude of the gradual ice loss. Between each pair of yellow lines is the amount of the reduction: the total winter decline was 1.8 million square km (about 12%) and the summer decline was 3.3 m sq. km (about 22%).

Arctic sea ice record showing amount of maximum loss

Arctic sea ice extent showing the magnitude of the reductions (winters at top, summers at bottom). Click to enlarge.

After only 36 years of accurate observation, claims that these amounts are extreme must be somewhat premature. Even calling them high labours for evidence.

No continuing decline

Sea ice in the Arctic has continued to decline since 2007. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.21.

Since 2007 Arctic sea ice extent has presented a more complex picture than a simple decline and, amazingly, in 2013 and 2014 it regained the levels of 2005—nine years earlier.

Recent Arctic sea ice extent

IPCC claims Arctic sea ice is about to vanish. The truth is that it varies a lot, it’s been measured accurately for only a short time and it’s not governed solely by the air temperature. Click to enlarge. – Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Anomaly at

We should stress that the precipitous (but transient) ice loss in 2007 and 2012 was not caused by high air temperatures but by winds. Notwithstanding the shrill cries of alarm from warmists, there are natural climate forces at work. If you think our carbon dioxide has increased the temperature in the Arctic and caused the ice loss, just examine the Arctic temperature record shown below. There’s good reason to discard the claims of anthropogenic interference in the climate.

First, there’s little discernible difference between the Arctic air temperatures of 2007 and 2012.

This alone points to meteorological factors other than temperature causing the ice loss, but there’s an even better reason why temperature is not responsible. In all eight adjacent years, indicated by the yellow bar, maximum temperatures were higher than in the two years of record sea ice minima, yet sea ice extent was also higher. Check it out for yourself.

It wasn’t extra heat. Something else was going on. NASA said it was the wind. If you want to disagree, then you’re welcome to comment below, but show some evidence. I don’t want to have it wrong, I would rather have it correct.

Arctic temperatures this century

Significantly, the Commissioner leaves us to infer that the sea ice was lost by melting, caused by global warming. But winds forced the ice out of the Arctic—why does the Commissioner not tell us that?

NASA, in a study published in October 2007, found that the heavy loss of summer sea ice that year was caused by unusual winds blowing the ice into the North Atlantic, where it quickly melted. The report said:

Unusual atmospheric conditions set up wind patterns that compressed the sea ice, loaded it into the Transpolar Drift Stream and then sped its flow out of the Arctic. When that sea ice reached lower latitudes, it rapidly melted in the warmer waters.

The National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) reported in October 2012 that the record minimum in September “probably” reflected the previous loss of some multi-year ice in the Arctic, “as well as other factors,” citing an August storm in the Arctic that “helped break up the weakened ice pack.”

A year later, NASA reported that “a big storm caused havoc on the Arctic Ocean’s icy cover” in August 2012. Neither of those scientific agencies attributed the transient reduction in Arctic sea ice to global warming. Instead, they gave credible descriptions of natural causes.

Why does the Commissioner not report this? Why does she imply that man-made global warming caused the recent temporary loss of Arctic sea ice? Why does she imply it’s continuing? Why does she say nothing about the concurrent steady increase in Antarctic sea ice, covering the entire satellite era? If loss of Arctic sea ice confirms man-made global warming, why does accretion of Antarctic sea ice not disprove it?

Why don’t we get this kind of analysis and these questions from our professional journalists?

Satellites began accurate measurements of sea ice in 1979—and sea ice has waxed and waned around the Arctic for as long as 15 million years. Thirty-six years is not enough to have discovered everything about it.

That will do for now. Let me know your thoughts. Thank you.


Christopher Monckton of Brenchley has just announced at WUWT that global warming has shown no significant increase for more than 25 years. He says:

On the RSS satellite data, there has been no global warming statistically distinguishable from zero for more than 26 years. None of the models predicted that, in effect, there would be no global warming for a quarter of a century.

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13 Thoughts on “Commissioner Wright’s wrong – Part 2

  1. Alexander+K on 14/02/2015 at 2:31 pm said:

    Sadly, the proliferation of television sets in the World’s living rooms translates into the great social mass that once took themselves off to theatres and music halls to participate in whatever was going on is now so differentiated and isolated that nobody knows what is going on outside of their own ‘bubble’.
    Our society could do with an injection of the talents of some really expert piss-takers such as Flanders and Swan or Gilbert and Sullivan to put such fraudulent oracles as Commissioner Wright, ‘a very model of a self-inflating catastrophist…’ into perspective.
    I can almost hear the music!

  2. Richard C (NZ) on 14/02/2015 at 3:37 pm said:

    You don’t get much for your money with 300 grand these days evidently. Or in this case, the taxpayer doesn’t get much for the 300 grand of taxpayer money the government spends on Commissioner Wright. And that’s just the salary. And that’s just one year.

    You’ve left out her ignorant solar case but I said enough about that in Part I. Apart from that this has been an exhaustive 2 part dissection of Jan Wright’s incompetance RT. Kudos.

  3. Richard C (NZ) on 14/02/2015 at 3:49 pm said:

    >”The science of the IPCC reports draws on a range of academic disciplines and has been intensely scrutinised. Much is highly technical and not accessible to a general audience.”

    It is? Gee, where is it then? All this time I thought I’d been reading The Physical Science Basis, without difficulty once familiar with the nuances, when there’s a whole other bunch of stuff that is too technical for me (a technician), not accessible, and apparently has to be dumbed down and interpreted for me to understand.

    I’m sure glad I know not to waste any more time at the IPCC website now.

  4. Richard C (NZ) on 14/02/2015 at 4:11 pm said:

    >”The last seven thousand years has been a time of relative climatic stability, but this is now changing. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.13.”

    Well yes it is. In the last 2000 years (the Common Era) it looks like it started changing around 500 CE and it’s been changing ever since.

    CO2 not so much.

    Moberg et al (2006) Temperature vs Law Dome CO2

    >”an understanding and acceptance of the basic science provides a basis for the debate on what action must be taken. – CCRS, Chp 2, p.13″


    1) What is the “basic science” from 500 – 1000 CE?

    2) What is the “basic science” from 1000 – 1500 CE?

    3) What is the “basic science” from 1500 – 2000 CE?

    4) “What action must be taken” on what “basic science”?

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 20/02/2015 at 4:59 pm said:

    Some well educated comments at Slater’s, except for one guy who doesn’t know what an anomaly is.

    Not holding my breath that Wright’s boss, the Hon Dr Nick Smith, is as educated though.

  6. HemiMcK on 27/02/2015 at 5:03 pm said:

    Not sure what they are actually measuring here.

    Can someone comment on the significance of this

  7. Richard C (NZ) on 27/02/2015 at 5:38 pm said:

    >”Can someone comment on the significance of this” [Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley study]

    Yes Hemi, lots in this thread starting here:

    It’s overspun, not really anything much new, but of interest is that it reveals the fatal flaws in the catastrophe meme. In other words, they’re undermining their own case in amusing fashion.

    They’re only measuring the small component of DLR that is made up by CO2 and the change to it over a decade. No temperature, no OLR, or any other corroboration for a forcing effect.

    And as usual, nothing about the ineffectual heating effect of DLR on surface material.

  8. Andy on 27/02/2015 at 6:43 pm said:

    Just an observation about this “amazing discovery” that CO2 causes increased DLR

    Wasn’t the science “settled” years ago? They have only just found this out?

  9. HemiMck on 27/02/2015 at 7:11 pm said:

    Thanks for the explanation that makes sense. Monitoring one parameter and claiming a field test proof of theory would be fraudulent if I wasn’t so stupid.

    I had to go and look up Downward and Outward Longwave Radiation. A glossary of terms in your side bar might be an idea.

  10. Richard C (NZ) on 27/02/2015 at 7:45 pm said:

    >”Just an observation about this “amazing discovery” that CO2 causes increased DLR. Wasn’t the science “settled” years ago? They have only just found this out?”

    Heh. Not quite Andy, CO2 doesn’t “cause” increased DLR and that’s not what the study found either. But also spot on – they’re a bit late on DLR. CO2 is only 10% of the DLR “forcing” (DLR change) in their study. They measured DLR change at 2 sites over only 10 yrs (get that – 2 sites !!! 10 yrs !!!). DLR was rising at 2 W.m-2 in that particular decade but only 0.2 of that (10%) was CO2. The rest (90%) was water vapour and clouds (they say, actually the general temperature of the air mass is the major factor. WV, clouds, CO2 etc, are the components of the “forcing”, CO2 being minor).

    Now consider the normal state (not the change or “forcing”). In the tropics DLR can be 400 W.m-2 but in the US standard atmosphere 1976, CO2 only makes up 6 W.m-2 of that. So a 0.2 CO2 “forcing” change per decade adds a whopping 0.8 W.m-2 over 40 yrs i.e. CO2 makes up 6.8 W.m-2 of DLR now. I don’t think that should scare anyone, especially as there’s no proven heating effect by DLR on surface materials anyway.

    “They” (Berkeley Lab/UC) think they are on to something (or so they hype) from just 2 sites over just 1 decade but I can cite a number of papers (see the Kiwi Thinker link in the other discussion thread on this) that find DLR goes up, down, whatever, on a decadal/multi-decadal basis and even different on a seasonal basis at the same site (e.g. Great Plains – Gero and Turner). There is no consistency globally.

    There are several DLR studies of multiple (many) sites around the world and US in particular using SURFRAD, BSRN and ARM over several decades. What is so special about 2 sites over 1 decade?

    Worse. 0.2 W.m-2 is only 69% of the IPCC CO2 forcing estimation using dF = 5.35 ln(C/Co) over the decade of study.

    Much more in the ‘Kyoto’ thread I’ve linked Hemi to above

  11. Richard C (NZ) on 27/02/2015 at 7:59 pm said:

    >”A glossary of terms in your side bar might be an idea.”

    That’s Richard Treadgold’s sidebar Hemi, not mine. I’m Richard Cumming.

    You’ve got to get to grips with Robin Pittwood’s post and comments that I’ve linked to in the ‘Kyoto’ thread above Hemi. Huge background there dealing with observations of OLR and many attendant issues including DLR. Takes the topic waaaayyyy further than this single paper. Unfortunately you’ll have to cope with the cached version.

    Basically, the enhanced greenhouse effect is a busted flush.

  12. Richard Treadgold on 27/02/2015 at 10:27 pm said:

    “A glossary of terms in your side bar might be an idea.”
    Yes, it’s a good idea. But if I added to the sidebar every term I looked up I wouldn’t get anything else done and the sidebar would become an encyclopaedia. Climate science must be the apex study: it subsumes every science worth naming.

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