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Latest ‘Joint Program’ Climate Forecasts have Serious Methodological Errors and so Little Connection with Reality

MIT Integrated Global Systems Model outputs should have no bearing on public policy


Ottawa, Canada, June 4, 2009 - Climate forecasts by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change have been blasted by scientists of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) as having little connection with reality and being irrelevant to public policy.
















"To illustrate the findings of their model, MIT researchers created a pair of 'roulette wheels.' The wheel on the right depicts their estimate of the range of probability of potential global temperature change over the next 100 years if no policy change is enacted on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The wheel on the left assumes that aggressive policy is enacted." Image and quoted text Source.


ICSC advisor Professor J. Scott Armstrong, of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, explains that, “in calling for public policy to mandate severe reductions in so-called ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions, the study authors violate many principles of scientific forecasting, such as the need to keep the forecasting process separate from politics and the need to validate the forecasting procedures. The authors of the study seem to be unaware that there is extensive scientific literature on forecasting. They are making the same errors as those we noted in our 2007 audit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts” (Green & Armstrong, 2007 - see here).

Dr. Kesten C. Green of the Business and Economic Forecasting Unit at Monash University in Australia agrees, “Like the IPCC’s work, the MIT procedures are not scientific forecasts but are rather the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics. Claims that the Earth will get warmer over the 21st Century have no credence and, to date, we have found no scientific forecasts to support global warming.”

Green conducted a brief audit of the Joint Program procedures as described in the MIT report and concluded that no more than 30% of forecasting principles (re - Armstrong’s paper “Standards and Practices for Forecasting” (2001)) were properly applied by the MIT modelers and 49 principles were violated. Green’s audit also shows that the MIT report fails 50% of the applicable forecasting principles. “For an important problem such as this, we do not think it is defensible to violate a single principle — the situation is analogous to flying a large passenger plane or designing a major bridge,” said Green.

The MIT report breaks other scientific forecasting principles as well such as the need to “use diverse sources of data” or to at least “find sources with differing (and hopefully compensating) biases”.

For example, the MIT Joint Program study authors assume that global climate is highly sensitive to increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  This is not a stance shared by many leading climate experts such as University of Alabama-Huntsville climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer (UAH Global Hydrology and Climate Center) who observes, “It turns out that the belief in a sensitive climate is not because of the observational evidence, but in spite of it.  If the climate system really was that sensitive, it would have forced itself into oblivion long ago.

“The use of statistical probabilities by the MIT group does two misleading things: (1) it implies scientific precision where none exists, and (2) it implies the climate system’s response to any change is a “roll of the dice””, Spencer said.

Joint Program study authors assumed probability distribution functions for many important variables, including climate sensitivity for which there is only one ‘real world’ correct value which is yet unknown.  All other numbers are wrong and so have a zero probability of being right.

Spencer continues, “Since the sensitivity of the climate system is uncertain, these researchers followed the IPCC’s lead of using ‘statistical probability’ as a way of treating that uncertainty.  That is simply bad science.”

As CO2 levels have continued to increase over the past decade, both ground and satellite temperature data shows that the Earth has ceased warming and, according to ICSC Chair, Carleton University earth sciences professor, Dr. Tim Patterson, planetary cooling may be in store for us over the coming decades.  Patterson’s paleoclimatological research, and that of many other scientists as well, indicate a strong sun-climate connection, one that may result in lowering Earthly temperatures as solar activity is expected to drop into Solar Cycle 25 starting about 2020.  Yet the MIT study ignores this possibility and only incorporates temperature rises into ‘The Greenhouse Gamble™’ Joint Program scenarios.

Dr. Fred Singer, distinguished professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia and President of the Science & Environmental Policy Project concludes, “A quick scan of this ambitious and extremely costly MIT study (400 computer runs) shows that they have failed to properly consider the possible effects of negative feedbacks [such as cooling low and mid-level clouds and the dissipation of high level warming cirrus clouds with increasing temperature].  There is no reference to the papers of Lindzen or Spencer, for example. Needless to say, the study also plays down natural forcings, especially from variations in solar activity. I therefore consider its alarmist conclusions not just wrong, but worthless.”

Green and Armstrong question whether the MIT researchers are really concerned with 'global climate change'.   "They seem to be intent on supporting the global warming theory with no attention being given to the mounting evidence that there is no scientific support for the forecast that global warming will occur, nor even the acknowledgement that the Earth has cooled in the past decade as CO2 has continued to rise," said Armstrong.

ICSC Director Dr. Jay Lehr challenges MIT Joint Program study authors to “provide the full list of variables included in their models along with the percentage of those variables for which they have no real data and so must insert guessed numbers into their equations. 

“If this information was made available to the public, the fear mongering generated by these models, and perhaps the funding supporting this misguided approach to climate forecasting, could, or at least should, quickly evaporate,” concludes Lehr.

The ICSC is an association of scientists, economists and energy and policy experts working to promote better public understanding of climate change. ICSC provides an analysis of climate science and policy issues which, being independent of lobby groups and vested political interests, is an alternative to advice from the IPCC. ICSC thereby fosters rational, evidence-based, open discussion about all climate, and climate-related, issues.

For more information about the ICSC, visit or contact:

Tom Harris, B. Eng., M. Eng. (Mech. - thermo-fluids)
Executive Director
International Climate Science Coalition
P.O. Box 23013
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 4E2
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