An Open Letter To Bob Tisdale

knmi logoDear Mr. Tisdale,

I noticed your recent contribution to the blog Watts Up With That titled ‘Open Letter to the Honorable John Kerry U.S. Secretary of State‘ (archived here). In it you criticize the IPCC and the scientific findings they presented with their latest report.

My opinion is that you’re not accurately representing the IPCC and their latest release. The reasons for that are numerous, and if you want to get a better understanding of what I mean by that I can recommend reading ‘No, Global Warming Hasn’t Stopped‘.

But we will probably never reach agreement on that point so I’m not going to focus on it. However, what I am going to focus on is the following that you said in your letter:

The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) is concerned about the IPCC’s focus. See their document titled Submission by The Netherlands on the future of the IPCC. Under the heading of “The IPCC needs to adjust its principles”, KNMI begins:

We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human-induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change.

Now consider that suggested change of focus came from a country with 20% of its land surface below sea level and about 50% of it only a meter above sea level. If any country should be concerned about climate change, it’s the Netherlands, and they have asked for a better understanding of natural climate change. I suggest to you that the United States should also ask for that same change in research scope.

This is a misrepresentation of the intention and meaning of that passage. The KNMI isn’t saying that the IPCC should shift its focus to provide a “better understanding of natural climate change.” This is about changing the IPCC mandate so that it matches what the IPCC is already doing. That this is their intent is stated very clearly in the following response I got from them when I asked about their intent with this passage (written by Rob van Dorland, translated from Dutch, emphasis and link mine):

In response to your question, I must inform you that the mandate of the IPCC (Principles Governing IPCC Work) states the following:

“2. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of *risk of human-induced climate change*, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.”

So here they only (explicitly) mention the anthropogenic component. We (the Dutch IPCC delegation) believe it is important that the scope of this statement should be widened, namely that natural variability should be explicitly mentioned in the mandate of the IPCC.

In practice, the IPCC reports (WG1 and 2) on climate change mention natural and anthropogenic factors, simply because of the fact that the human factor only gains credence when compared to natural changes.

The proposed change from the Netherlands is that the mandate of the IPCC should be much more in line with what they’ve been doing for years. This also makes clear that the response in the media is not true, namely that the Netherlands find that natural variability is more important than the human influence. As this isn’t the intent of the Dutch submission.

This is something I already pointed out on multiple occasions to Marcel Crok, who is as far as I know the original source for this claim about the KNMI. Which makes me suspect that he might be the source for this erroneous interpretation of the statements made by the KNMI.

With this new information about the intent and meaning of this passage I hope you will correct your letter.

Collin Maessen

Update 2013-10-01 @ 18:57:
There is now a follow-up blog post called “This Is Why You Can’t Reason With ‘Climate Sceptics’” available where I talk about the responses I received from Bob Tisdale.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.