The United Nations’ climate science panel is facing further embarrassment after claims it incorrectly linked global warming to a rise in natural disasters. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in 2007 that the world had “suffered rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather related events since the 1970s”, suggesting that part of the increase was down to global warming.
But the scientific paper on which the IPCC based its claim was allegedly not peer reviewed or published by the time the report was issued. When it was eventually published in 2008, it came with the caveat: “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses”.
Despite the concession, the IPCC failed to clarify the statement ahead of last month’s Copenhagen summit. The claim formed a central argument at the climate change conference, where African nations demanded £62 billion in compensation from rich nations responsible for the highest amount of carbon emissions.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chair of the IPCC has now conceded that the evidence will be reviewed.
“We are reassessing the evidence and will publish a report on natural disasters and extreme weather with the latest findings,” he said.
Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, who commissioned Dr Muir-Wood’s paper, told The Sunday Times: “All the literature published before and since the IPCC report shows that rising disaster losses can be explained entirely by social change. People have looked hard for evidence that global warming plays a part but can’t find it,” he said.
“The idea that catastrophes are rising in cost because of climate change is completely misleading.”
Last week the IPCC was forced to admit it made a mistake by claiming the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. It made the assertion two years ago, saying it was based on detailed research into global warming, but has now conceded it was an error and the claim would be reviewed.