July 23, 2014

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Another Bogus Claim by IPCC: 40% of Amazon Rainforest at Risk from Global Warming

By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.

Disappearing Himalayan glaciers aren’t the only major fraudulent claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently exposed. Here’s another.

According to Chapter 13 (page 596) of the IPCC’s 2007 Assessment Working Group II Report, “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000). It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems . . . such as tropical savannas.” Sounds frightening. Up to 40% of one of the world’s greatest natural treasures at risk!

“So what’s wrong with that?” you say. Here’s what.

IPCC standards require that its claims be grounded in refereed scientific research. But “Rowell and Moore, 2000” is neither refereed nor scientific research. It is, just like the source of the bogus glacier claim that has brought such scandal to the IPCC, an advocacy report by the World Wildlife Fund, this time in conjunction with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—both environmentalist advocacy groups. And neither of its authors is a scientific expert on Amazon rainforests or the likely impact of global warming on them.

“Moore” is Dr. P.F. Moore, a policy analyst who claims for himself “a strong understanding of government administration, legislative review, analysis and inquiries generated through involvement in or management of the Australian Regional Forest Agreement process, Parliamentary and Government inquiries, Coronial inquiries and public submissions on water pricing, access and use rights and native vegetation legislation in Australia and fire and natural resources laws, regulations and policies in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, South Africa and Malaysia.”

It gets worse. “Rowell” is a green activist who describes himself as a “freelance writer and Investigative [sic] journalist with over 12 years’ experience on environmental, food, health and globalization issues. Rowell has undertaken cutting-edge investigations for, amongst others, Action on Smoking and Health, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, IFAW, the Pan American Health Organization, Project Underground, the World Health Organization, World in Action and WWF.”

Well, what was it that these non-scientist, non-Amazon-rainforest-specialist authors had claimed, on which the IPCC based its claim that “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could . . . be replaced by . . . tropical savannas”? They had written, “Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left.”

And where did they get their information?

From D. C. Nepstad, et. al., “Large-scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire,” (Nature, vol. 398, no. 8 [April, 1999], Vol. 398, p. 505)—an article whose very title announces that it investigates the effects not of global warming but of logging and manmade fires.

“Logging companies in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40% of the living biomass of forests through the harvest process,” the article says. “Logging also increases forest flammability by reducing forest leaf canopy coverage by 14-50%, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, where it dries out the organic debris created by the logging.”

But on further examination, it turns out that Nepstad, et al., don’t apply their “10-40% of the living biomass” to the Amazon rainforest as a whole but to those particular parts of it that are affected by logging—and those parts don’t amount to anything near 40%. They amount to, at most, 630,000 square kilometers out of the 4 to 6 million square kilometers of rainforest—i.e., 10-15%. And what Nepstad, et al., claim is that “Logging companies” (not global warming) “in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40% of the living biomass of” those parts of the rainforest. In other words, they may “kill or damage 10-40%” of 10-15%, which means anything from 1-6% of the total Amazon rainforest.

In short, Moore and Rowell, in their non-peer-reviewed advocacy piece written for and published by two advocacy organizations, substituted global warming for logging companies as the cause of the damage and inflated 1-6% to 10-40% as the extent of the damage. And then the IPCC, violating its standard of citing only peer-reviewed literature to substantiate its claims and failing even to check the accuracy of the non-peer-reviewed source, warned the world that “Up to 40%” (the upper end of the spectrum) “of the Amazonian forests could . . . be replaced by . . . tropical savannahs” because of global warming.

No wonder Richard North, a former research director with the European Parliament and co-author with Christopher Booker of Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares Are Costing Us the Earth, who carefully analyzed the whole bogus rainforest claim, opined, “the IPCC claim is a fabrication, unsupported even by the reference it gives, which it should not in any event have used as it is not a primary source.”

And, as North also pointed out, “The significance of this cannot be understated. Together with polar bears and melting ice-caps, and melting glaciers, the Amazon rain forests are iconic symbols for the climate change industry,” which has used them deftly, and illegitimately, to frighten the public and policymakers into embracing impoverishing policies to fight what is at best highly exaggerated manmade global warming.