WG2 Misleads on Undernourishment Trend

Food security was one of the touchstone issues of the IPCC WG2 Summary for Policy Makers.

In its chapter on food security (Chapter 7), IPCC’s single statement on changes on undernourishment was that 75 million were added to the undernourishment rolls between 2003-5 and 2007:

FAO’s provisional estimates show that, in 2007, 75 million more people were added to the total number of undernourished relative to 2003–2005 (FAO, 2008); other studies report a lower number (Headey and Fan, 2010). More than enough food is currently produced per capita to feed the global population, yet about 870 million people remained hungry in 2012 (FAO et al., 2012).

However, yields have steadily increased for nearly all major crops and, according to the most recent FAO statistics, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013 published in September 2013, the number of undernourished [in developing countries] decreased by 17% between 1990-92 (995 million) and 2011-13 (827 million), as illustrated in their figure below. [The corresponding world decrease - see central points in 2013 online data is also 17% - from 1.015 billion in 1990-2 to 842 million in 2011-2013.]

fao 2013 undernourished
Figure 1. From FAO, The State of Food Insecurity 2013.

The FAO 2013 report does not directly show the difference between 2003-5 and 2007 undernourishment, but current online FAO data shows a decline in undernourishment of 44 million from 2003-5 (central point) to 2007, as opposed to the increase of 75 million reported by IPCC. [The online FAO data reconciles exactly to 2013 Annual Report Table 1 by comparing the central point in the three-year intervals to the annual figure in the online data.]

The glaring inconsistency between the most recent FAO numbers and the IPCC report raises some obvious questions.

Why the difference?

The IPCC’s reference “FAO (2008)” is “FAO, 2008: Policy Measures taken by Government to Reduce the Impact of Soaring Prices. Global Information and Early Warning System.” Googling the title returns only a 2008 webpage. I was unable to locate any support “75 million” in this reference.

In the same sentence, IPCC also cited “Headey and Fan, 2010″ (as supposed authority for the assertion that “other studies report a lower number”). Headey and Fan 2010 turns out to be a “policy-relevant monograph” from the International Food Policy Research Institute, a K Street (Washington) “intergovernmental organization” (see (here), entitled Reflections on the Global Food Crisis: How did it happen? How has it hurt? And how can we prevent the next one?. It contains the “75 million” figure, indicating that the IPCC obtained its figure of “75 million” from a somewhat dated “policy-relevant monograph”, rather than up-to-date FAO statistics:

In its 2008 state of food insecurity publication, FAO (2008) estimates that the number of chronically hungry people in 2007 increased by 75 million over its estimate of 848 million undernourished in 2003–05, with much of the increase attributed to high food prices…Rosen and Shapouri (2008) of the USDA estimate an increase of 133 million extra malnourished people in some 70 countries.

Ironically, Headey and Fan 2010 does not support the IPCC assertion for which it is cited as authority – that “other studies” show lower figures. The only other relevant study cited by Headey and Fan actually shows a higher increase (133 million).

Headey and Fan’s “FAO (2008)” reference links to the 2008 FAO report on World Food Insecurity, which indeed reported an increase of 75 million from 2003-5 to 2007. At that time, FAO numbers showed little change in undernourishment during the 1990s, but an increase around 2007, as shown in the following figure from the 2008 FAO report:

fao 2008 undernourished
Figure 2. From FAO The State of World Food Insecurity 2008

In 2011-12, the FAO carried out a thorough re-assessment of their procedures for estimating world undernourishment. According to their revised numbers in The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, there was a substantial decline in undernourishment from 1990-2 to 2010-12 (similar to the 2013 numbers shown above.)

The updated figures emerging as a result of improvements in data and methodology indicate that the number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have declined more steeply than previously estimated until 2007, although the rate of decline has slowed thereafter (Figure 1)
fao 2012 undernourished

The IPCC cited the 2012 FAO report on World Food Insecurity as authority for their figure of “870 million” (which occurs prominently in the report). This report showed a steady decline in undernourishment during recent temperature increases. So the authors of this section were aware of the up-to-date data.

Conclusion
Rather than using up-to-date FAO data showing a steady decline in undernourishment during a period of increasing temperatures (which they either were aware of or ought to have been aware of), the IPCC chose to feature an increase in an obsolete data set that had been previously highlighted in an “policy-relevant monograph” cited by IPCC. IPCC coyly described this earlier dataset as “provisional”.

Why didn’t IPCC clearly report the long-term decline in undernourishment during a period of temperature increase. This is information that is relevant to policy-makers. And, in particular, why did IPCC highlight a supposed increase in “provisional” data (more precisely now long obsolete data) when the increase changed to a decrease in the up-to-date version of the data?

It’s hard to think of a good reason.

Postscript:
Tom Curtis observes below that there is a slight difference between undernourishment in the developing world and undernourishment including the developed world. The difference in 2012 was 827 million in the developing world versus 842 million in the developed world. FAO only shows figures for the developing world: these are about 1.5% less than the world total. I doublechecked that the online data that I referred to is for the world total. None of the comparisons in my post were “apples and oranges”. I’ve added some text in square brackets to add clarification to which figures are for the developing world.


143 Comments

  1. Richard S.J. Tol
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

    IFPRI is not an NGO. It one of the 15 institutes of CGIAR, an intergovernmental organization.

    Steve: thanks. Corrected.

    • thisisnotgoodtogo
      Posted Aug 16, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Richard, warmest congratulations on your Nobel Prize win!

      ” Awards, honours, rankings
      Nobel Peace Prize 2007 …”

      • thisisnotgoodtogo
        Posted Aug 17, 2014 at 2:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Richard, check your several university pages. There are multiple claims of Nobel Prize win…

  2. thechuckr
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It is not that hard, IMO, to think of a “good reason.”

  3. Brian H
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Well, there are these “computer model” things, see. Their purpose is to improve the raw data and what they seem to imply. Deletion and slope-reversal are only two of their many tools. You’ll be amazed and amused!

    Steve: I do not share or endorse the apparent antipathy of many readers to “computer models”. Too often, this is merely anti-intellectualism. I think that some models may well be flawed and that modelers may well have biased GCMs on the warm side, but I see no need to disavow the enterprise. Nor does the issue raised in this post have anything to do with “computer models”.

    • Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 6:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I do not share or endorse the apparent antipathy of many readers to “computer models”. Too often, this is merely anti-intellectualism.

      Well said Steve. I write as someone who’s modeled things in software all their adult life. Plus, as you say, it has nothing to do with this thread, which is about something of great humanitarian importance. Thank you for asking the question.

    • Bob
      Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Brian H (Aug 7 14:54),

      Steve, I don’t believe skeptics have as much antipathy towards models as you suggest. It is no coincidence that they all run on the warm side, and all of us should be curious as to why. That skeptics point out that that many of models integrate the “CO2 Control Knob” paradigm is not anti-intellectual, especially when they continue to under-perform.

      Steve: In the comment that I objected to, the objection to “computer models” included much more than GCMs running warm. I think that it is entirely reasonable to take issue with GCMs running too warm and have done so myself. I think that it is also a reasonable question as to why there is such a bias. But that’s entirely different from castigating “computer models” in general. But the comment to which I objected has nothing to do with the thread. Nor does this discussion.

      • Steven Mosher
        Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Reply

        “Steve, I don’t believe skeptics have as much antipathy towards models as you suggest. It is no coincidence that they all run on the warm side, and all of us should be curious as to why. That skeptics point out that that many of models integrate the “CO2 Control Knob” paradigm is not anti-intellectual, especially when they continue to under-perform.”

        Simple test. Go to WUWT and read a post that mentions models. You will see what steve says. Your belief about skeptics is not supported
        by the data.

        Second: arguing that GCM use a C02 control knob is anti intellectual. Go look at the model code online
        you wont find a c02 control knob.

        Third: the reasons for over estimating temperature cant be broadly classified
        A) Missing or bad physics
        B) missing or bad forcing data

        What you’ll note is that any time a climate scientist suggests an improvement in either area, the typical skeptical response is
        “That’s an excuse” look at how WUWT characterizes the 20-30 suggestions people are working on to improve the models or understand
        the problem. Note, when you wonder about why a model doesnt work you call it CURIOUSITY. When a climate scientist works on
        the problem you call it an excuse.


        Steve: This discussion of models has nothing to do with the post. Mosh, this isn’t WU or CE. While I wish that “skeptics” would not hyperventilate about “models”, they can surely be forgiven for believing that the climate community has failed to explore the parameter space (your phrase :) ) of low-sensitivity models and that they have desperately sought explanations for the building discrepancy between observations and models anywhere but in lower sensitivity. But this discussion has nothing to do with food and does not belong on this thread.

        • GeoChemist
          Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 1:18 PM | Permalink

          Mosher – although what you say is undoubtedly true, the most “models are worthless” or “models are manipulated to present a certain outcome” statements are made by people who wouldn’t even be able to understand the code if they read it. But they, like I do to some extent, resent that there is rarely an admission that there is anything wrong with the models and that they still can be trusted to inform the proper policies 50 or 100 years in the future. An honest admission that theere is missing or bad physics or missing or bad forcing data would go a long way toward trusting the motives of (esp. politically active) climate scientists.
          Mike

          Steve: OT. See inline to Mosher.

        • Bob
          Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 3:02 PM | Permalink

          snip

          Steve; nothing to do with thread. I’ve been offline all day and didn’t intervene earlier.

        • Mike Jonas
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 2:20 AM | Permalink

          snip

          Steve: I repeatedly asked that readers not coat-rack discussion of models.

  4. See - owe to Rich
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There’s a lot of this exaggeration happening from using out of date data. Another recent example which I noticed, of a mythical 1.4K spring warming in England, is at http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/6/6/lwec-report-card-a-microcosm-of-global-warming-exaggeration.html .

    Rich.

  5. Joe Born
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Hunger statistics are malleable. Here in the U.S. we are bombarded with statistics to the effect that one out of every five people in this country is food insecure (or some such vague phrase). Yet ask your U. S. doctor acquaintances how many non-substance-abuser cases of malnutrition they’ve seen. Many will say zero. None will say one out of five.

    Steve: this post refers to FAO statistics. I haven’t parsed their methodology but their definition did not result in any suggestion that one in five U.S. residents was undernourished.

    • DayHay
      Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 4:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Agreed, the definition of “hunger” can vary widely. In my state the definition of “hunger” was if you had to skip one meal in the last 30 days because of lack of money/food. That made you a statistic for that year.

    • H.M.
      Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The FAO definition of undernourishment identifies people habitually consuming less than the MINIMUM supply of dietary energy, i.e. below the calories required to maintain the MINIMUM acceptable weight for their height while performing ‘light’ physical activity.

      The average per capita requirement of dietary energy varies with age-sex structure, attained stature, and physical activity, but usually hovers about 2100 kilocalories per day per person. The minimum threshold for undernourishment also varies, but is usually about 1700-1800 kcal, enough to be alive and in good health, though rather thin. The absolute minimum to be alive is basal metabolism (energy spent by lying down at rest) which is about 1300-1400 kcal, but nobody can live on that: the mere ingestion and digestion of food takes some 100-200 kcal/day, let alone standing up and moving around. These figures are for the average person (children and adults, male and female; typically adult women needs are about 2200 kcal and about 2800 for adult men, varying with average stature and level of physical activit; tall men with very active lifestyles, e.g. basketball players, may require 3400 kcal to sustain themselves.

      Transient lack of food does not qualify for the FAO undernourishment indicator, since the definition focuses on HABITUAL consumption (FAO takes 3-year averages to avoid short term fluctuations). Few if any inhabitants of the US and other developed country are included in the definition, which is however useful to identify most affected areas and groups.

      • thisisnotgoodtogo
        Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I wonder if disease and parasite burden significantly affects the stats for some countries.

      • Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for info on caloric requirements including digestion.

        I suspect energy required to digest food varies with type of food, and that cooking reduces it (but requires energy outside the body).

        A guess at examples is sugar, and alcohol which quickly converts to sugar in the body. Neither is a sustainable diet, and alcoholics are usually malnourished because they do not eat properly.

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

          Also have to watch the distinction between undernourished and malnourished

    • Joe Born
      Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 9:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It was completely deserved that Mr. McIntyre reply in kind to my inapposite comment; I yielded to the temptation to vent about a pet peeve rather than focus on the point of the head post.

      Obviously, the IPPC was, well, selective in its choice of FAO statistics, independently of how reliable or not those statistics are.

  6. manicbeancounter
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The rising food prices in the middle of last decade is concurrent with, and often attributed to, the development of bio fuels. Something that is not surprising given that short-term food prices have always been highly elastic with respect to price. So any attribution should have been attributed to climate change policy, not to rising temperatures.

    • Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 2:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Manicbeancounter, i believe rising food prices are associated to USA corn ethanol, rising energy prices and China’s economic growth. Rising energy prices are also attributable to China and a difficulty the oil industry has finding new oil fields to satisfy demand.

  7. bernie1815
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve: As ever an intriguing post. The bottom line of declining undernourishment does not surprise me. When WG2 came out I remember that the yield data was all moving in the right direction, but the numbers were not particularly current. I checked the USDA data and their numbers indicated that for both wheat and rice the growth of world production was outstripping overall population growth. Obviously this is a coarse measure but it certainly supports your underlying argument.
    For example see Table 22 http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rice-yearbook-2014.aspx

  8. Joe Public
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for your interesting post.

  9. pesadia
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “It’s hard to think of a good reason”

    It’s very hard to think of a legitimate reason.

    Thats another fine mess you have got the IPCC into.

  10. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 4:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “It’s hard to think of a good reason.”

    Perhaps the IPCC can (attempt to) provide an answer. SteveM have you queried the IPCC? I would think as a past participant in the IPCC proceedings you would have a better chance than perhaps others reading here of obtaining one.

    • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

      One could always try posing question via twitter. Much to my surprise, I actually recently received a same-day response from the IPCC to a question I had posed via twitter.

      My question pertained to their definition of “individual agents”. And I learned that in their books this phrase covers quite a lot of ground:

      can be individuals, companies, countries, other organizations etc — it’s technical economic language

      Why the the tweeting aficionados at the IPCC would choose to use “technical economic language” in a free-for-all forum is left as an exercise for the reader ;-)

  11. H.M.
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 4:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    FAO revised previous estimates of undernourishment, and methods of estimation, in the 2012 issue of its annual SOFI report on The State of Food Insecurity in the World. The new methodology showed errors in previous years due to a variety of causes.

    Besides methodological shortcomings, it is probable that in previous years some preliminary estimates were rather on the high side, e.g. the preliminary estimates in 2008 forecasting more than one billion undernourished, mostly motivated by fears of a food crisis after the 2007-08 surge in the international price of food commodities. It turned out the world food crisis never materialised, and high prices caused no famine. Even during the Great Recession, incomes continued to grow in developing countries, and more people were so able to cope with higher food prices (which, on the other hand, have subsequently subsided). Some localised famines did occur, but due to other causes (drought and mismanagement in the Horn of Africa, violence and isolation in some poor and war-torn territories such as Somalia or Darfur, and so on). In fact, fewer famines have occurred in 2005-2014 than in any similar period during the precedent few decades, and the highest inflation-adjusted food prices in recent history were recorded not in recent years but in the mid 1970s (as per FAO’s real food price index).

    FAO figures are periodically updated (even retrospectively) as some countries provide updated data on food supplies or population, but adjustments after the methodological overhaul of 2012 have been minor. Undernourishment measured in million people makes little sense in a world of increasing population (if it were not so, we could say that the US has more poverty now than in 1776, just because the number of the officially poor now is higher than the entire population of the country at the time of the independence declaration). The only proper measure for this and other prevalence rates is the headcount percentage (affected people as a percentage of the exposed population, which in this case, the entire population of the countries concerned).

  12. Salamano
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 5:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Perhaps Occam’s Razor will show up again, and the authors will simply state they made a good-faith effort to be accurate, and any insinuation to the contrary permanently reprobates you into that realm of ‘bad faith’.

    There shall be no questions…

  13. Sandy McClintock
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 8:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Is this a case of “hide-the-increase” ;)

  14. kim
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 8:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I suggest the answer is really quite simple: these researchers have never gone hungry.
    =============

  15. Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 9:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    A numbers question…

    Doing the simple math on the numbers in Figure 1, trying to see how the world population figured in – since it is always growing these days – the world population numbers came out weird.

    1990-1992: calculated 4.2 billion (actual 5.4 billion)

    1999-2000: calculated 4.9 billion (actual 6.1 billion)

    2004-2006: calculated 5.3 billion (actual 6.5 billion)

    2007-2009: calculated 5.5 billion (actual 6.75 billion)

    2010-2012: calculated 5.7 billion (actual 7.0 billion)

    They are basically leaving out ~20% of the world population. Or my simple division is wrong. Or the simple language doesn’t mean what the simple language reads.

    • H.M.
      Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 10:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

      @Steve Garcia: FAO undernourishment estimates refer to DEVELOPING COUNTRIES only. Hence the difference to total world population. The source for population estimates is the same for both developed and developing territories: the UN Population Estimates and Projections, updated every 2 years (http://esa.un.org/wpp/Excel-Data/population.htm).

      • Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 11:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, H.M.

        I don’t agree with them doing it that way, but hey, who am I? . . . LOL

        • H.M.
          Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

          @Steve Garcia,
          the reason it is done that way, Steve, is that estimates for all developed countries (and in fact for a number of developing ones) result in percentage prevalence rates that are within the imprecision margin implicit in the methodology, and thus FAO refuses to publish the figure because it might be misleading. Such imprecision comes from several sources; for instance, calorie needs are calculated (by sex and age) for persons of average height, but actually people differ in their height; there is also variation in energy needs for other causes (body shaes, metaboilic efficiency, and so on), so that a person consuming little energy may still be well nourished if the person is naturally small or has a higher metabolic efficiency.
          Besides, the distribution of consumption across households (which is supposed to follow a skew-normal shape) is estimated on the basis of variance of food consumption as per household income/expenditure surveys, which have also a margin of error; surveys are besides not available for all years or all countries and must often be replaced by imputations or guesstimates. When the formula implies that, say, 1% of the US (or UK, or Sweden) population is undernourished, it is probable that such estimate is a mere statistical artifact; instead, when you find that the prevalence in some African country is, say, 50%, you can be pretty sure the prevalence is high there, even if the figure is wrong by +/- five points or so. The policy implications would not vary on account of that margin of uncertainty. The prevalence of undernourishment should be read as an estimate of the probability of a random person to be habitually undernourished; values below 5% are regarded by FAO as not significant.

        • H.M.
          Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:46 AM | Permalink

          In the fifth line of my previous comment, “body shaes” was intended to be “body shapes”.

          Body shape affects energy needs by way of the proportion of upper and lower body lengths. Long-leg/short-torso people have naturally less body mass (for a given height and a given amount of body fat) than the opposite kind of body shape, because 10 cm of leg weigh less than 10 cm of torax; and thus the long legged (other things being equal) require less dietary energy to go along. This source of variation is not considered when estimating average energy needs.

  16. Jim S
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “Despite temperature increases over the past few decades, yields have steadily increased for nearly all major crops and, according to the most recent FAO statistics,….”

    Couldn’t this read:

    Because of temperature increases over the last 150 years, yields have steadily increased…

    • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 7:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Though they’d never say it, it’s increased temperature and also due to much needed CO2 providing additional chemistry for plant growth.

      • JasonScando
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 8:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Actually, almost all of the increases in yield have been in corn/soybeans/cotton, with each due to genetically modified seeds and/or agricultural strategies from Monsanto, DuPont, or BASF. I don’t have any evidence that “climate change” (whatever the cause) was a net positive or net negative to worldwide crop yields, although I would guess that any change to warmer temperatures would increase yields in the long run and that short-term climate volatility would decrease yields.

  17. Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 10:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Reblogged this on JunkScience.com and commented:
    If the data don’t fit your hypothesis, don’t use the data.

    • Brian H
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 2:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, that’s kind of what I was cryptically trying to suggest with my “models” and “data deletion” and “slope reversal” crack above. Buried too many layers deep, I guess. The pliability of models and their graphic output is well suited to painting a preferred picture, and I rather assume this kind of tailoring has been done here. I assume there was something underlying that graph besides pure imagination or prevarication.

  18. Wm Hayden Smith
    Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The production of food PER CAPITA has steadily increased while the global population has more than doubled since the first Earth Day in 1970, when the apocalypse of 100’s of millions starving each year was all the vogue.
    War, poverty, and civil unrest drive starvation, not climate warming, which, in any case, has been AWOL for one and one-half decades now.

  19. Vinny Burgoo
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 7:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Here’s Headey of the IFPRI ‘reporting a lower number’ for the increase in malnourishment during the 2007/2008 food crisis: _Was the Global Food Crisis Really a Crisis? Simulations versus Self-Reporting_ (2011).

    http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ifpridp01087.pdf

    Much lower – indeed negative. Headey’s conservative provisional estimate of global food insecurity in 2007/2008 was a reduction of between 60 and 90 million people. Other methods produced greater reductions.

    Perhaps one of the Chapter 7 authors had this later Headey doc in the back of his mind and messed up the citation.

  20. David Smith
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This chart indicates that food prices are strongly correlated with energy (oil) prices:

    So, fracking leads to lower oil prices which lead to lower food prices which lead to better nourishment in developing countries.

    • Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 12:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Makes sense because:
      – lack of energy for shelter heating increases the requirement for food energy
      – fertilizer, equipment fuel, and transportation fuel are substantial components of food cost thus price

  21. Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Well, the answers to your well posed questions are fairly clear at this point. I wonder how much of the improved food distribution can be attributed to increasing incomes industrialization brings?

    • H.M.
      Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 8:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

      @Jeff Id: Of course the improvement is due to better incomes, and incomes growing faster in developing countries than in developed ones. Food security is not primarily about food production but about access to food; food is produced abundantly, and production rises every year; even after deducting food waste, biofuels and other uses of food, actual food availability is now about 2900 kilocalories per person per day at the world level, much above average needs of around 2100 kcal; distribution is of course unequal: starvation in Somalia and other poor countries coexists with widespread obesity in the US and elsewhere. Income is the main cause of undernourishment; affluence matched with lack of nutritional awareness (plus some genetic component, it seems) cause people to eat too much.

  22. Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve asks:

    ‘Why didn’t IPCC clearly report the long-term decline in undernourishment during a period of temperature increase. This is information that is relevant to policy-makers. And, in particular, why did IPCC highlight a supposed increase in “provisional” data (more precisely now long obsolete data) when the increase changed to a decrease in the up-to-date version of the data?

    It’s hard to think of a good reason.’

    Surely the anwer is that ther is no good reason. Steve himself and most of us jere on climate Audit are focused on the fcts whereas the IPCC reperts are focused on CO2 alarmism. CO2 is demonized no mater what and any notion that the consquences of extra CO2 outwiegh the eminuses is brushed aside,

  23. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I changed the order of the first and second paragraphs to improve the flow of the article. Other than very slight changes in seque, no content change.

  24. oeman50
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It may be a moot point since FAO revised their methodology, but Figure 2 shows an inflection after 2005. Inflections happen, but I find them interesting to question, since they can reveal otherwise hidden mechanisms or flawed methodologies at work.

  25. Craig Loehle
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This analysis leaves out the huge number of malnourished/dead under Mao. So if you go back farther the picture of improvement looks even better.
    US crop yields have been linearly increasing for decades, due I believe to gradual adoption of improved technologies. My farmer friend for example a few years ago bought a GPS guided precision tractor–no more running over the crop with the wheels.
    Africa has just entered this phase of improved agriculture. South America could benefit from it far more than they have so far.

    • MrPete
      Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Craig Loehle (Aug 8 09:51),
      About a decade ago, a farmer friend in California’s central valley was bemused to discover that he was spending more on technology than tractors. That’s a Very Big Deal for a farmer. As Craig notes, “small” tech improvements can make a radical difference in production.

      Seems to me the unstated uncertainties inherent to the IPCC analysis would obliterate whatever confidence they have in their results.

  26. mpainter
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It is convenient to say IPCC in reference to this issue but in fact it
    is individuals who are responsible for the errors. Is there no day to identify the persons who wrote and vetted this?

  27. ducdorleans
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

    the reason is a tiny variation of H.L. Mencken’s 1918 quote “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    politics in this case is the whole intergovernmental, and NGO nomenclatura …

  28. pdtillman
    Posted Aug 8, 2014 at 2:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    snip

    Steve: OT. see inline comment to Mosher.

  29. Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 3:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This is interesting and feeds into the bigger picture of a steadily improving situation regarding the number of hungry people in the world.

    According to the World Food Programme, the hunger target in the UN’s first Millennium Development Goal is potentially now within reach (although set to miss the target by a single percentage point):

    http://www.wfp.org/news/news-release/global-hunger-down-millions-still-chronically-hungry

    “Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.”

    So economic growth and increased agricultural productivity have been steadily reducing world hunger for several decades now – during exactly the same time period the globe has been allegedly suffering the bad effects of man-made global warming.

    One reason, I think, that the IPCC are downplaying this improving picture is that if they don’t, more people will legitimately ask: where’s the looming catastrophe?

    • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Probably the simplest statistics regarding this were published last year, when FAO said that all grain increases averaged 1.5% a year and that population growth averaged 1.1% a year. Since we already grow enough food to feed the planet’s population it would look as though this is a non-issue.

      As soon as we quit letting half of the food we grow rot before it’s eaten I think we’ll have a pretty good handle on the issue.

      There are some fairly respectable studies saying the rate of growth may slow down due to climate change. There are also factors not considered in those studies, such as genetic modification for temperature resistance, etc.

      I do find it difficult to read about this issue when the impacts of biofuels on food availability is not considered. But maybe that’s just me.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Tom, I agree with you that the comparison between increase in production growth and population growth is the most obvious (and, indeed, only reasonable) starting point when reflecting on food insecurity. Remarkably the IPCC WG2 chapter on food has no graphic showing increase in food production or food yields. Nor was I able to locate any mention of such increases in the running text in my initial look. On the other hand, they have a number of graphics showing decreases in yield attributed to climate change. From a policy perspective, a decision maker ought to know that the supposed climate change effects (the calculation of which is very speculative) has thus far been much overwhelmed by technological improvements. It is a reasonable to inquire about this balance in the future, but the IPCC chapter omits so much relevant information that it sems more like an NGO brochure – unsurprising given the past of WG2, but disappointing when one actually examines the document.

        • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

          IIRC, what I think you call ‘decreases in yield’ is actually decreases in rate of growth, right? It’s been a while since I looked at it, but that was the impression I had at the time.

      • mpainter
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 8:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

        There are also agricultural studies which attribute increased yield to higher CO2 , in part. Plus a warmer world means a longer growing season and less crop loss via early/late frosts, or so it would seem.

  30. Martin A
    Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 6:48 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Joe Born… Posted Aug 7, 2014 at 3:11 PM | Permalink | Reply
    … Yet ask your U. S. doctor acquaintances how many non-substance-abuser cases of malnutrition they’ve seen. Many will say zero. None will say one out of five.

    Of course. For the obvious reason that malnourished people in the USA don’t go the the doctor as you or I do.

    I lived in the USA for a while years ago and my wife did volunteer work providing food to homeless people. Some of them were genuinely undernourished – no question about it.

    Those people simply did not get to see a doctor routinely – and any doctors they *did* get to see would probably not be the same doctors who are acquaintances of people who post on Climate Audit.

    Steve: the comment to which you responded coat-racked. The line of discussion is unrelated to IPCC. So OT going forward.

  31. Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    All this condemnation of the IPCC and nobody, least of all McIntyre, bothers to find out that the FAO has significantly revised its figures in the 2013 report relative to earlier reports, and that the discrepancy is entirely a result of that revision. With the FAO 2013 report not becoming available to October 2013, the IPCC did not have the capacity to revise for the later figures, both because of well known methodological rules, and because the IPCC report would have been written by the time of the FAO’s revision.

    The above could be found out by the minimal means of checking the IPCC cited documents to see if they are accurately quoted by the IPCC (they are), and then trying to find out why the FAO documents are inconsistent with each other (there was a revision of the data). Steve did not discover this, and therefore by inference he did not even bother checking the IPCC cited source documents to see if they were accurately quoted. An abysmal performance.

    Steve: In my post, I clearly reported that IPCC had revised its figures: “In 2011-12, the FAO carried out a thorough re-assessment of their procedures for estimating world undernourishment.” In a later comment, Tom apologizes for failing to read what I actually wrote. While Tom is sometimes too quick on the trigger and while I regularly disagree with him, I pay attention to his comments and he stands alone among his allies in acknowledging and apologizing for errors. I do wish that he’d take a deep breath and maybe even wait until the morning from time to time before slagging me though.

    • TerryMN
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Tom,

      First, pardon if I consult the FAO instead of your website. I looked through the 2012 FAO report to see if I could find where it supported the +75 million in 2007 number, but couldn’t find it. The 2012 FAO report shows an under-nourished decrease of 33M from the earlier period. For your convenience, the report is available here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i3027e/i3027e.pdf

      Unless you’re referring to something else, I don’t believe your first sentence “entirely a result of that revision” is accurate.

    • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 11:09 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom:

      Here’s an excerpt from the 2012 FAO report (http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i3027e/i3027e.pdf) :

      “The updated figures emerging as a result of improvements in data and methodology indicate that the number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have declined more steeply than previously estimated until 2007, although the rate of decline has slowed thereafter (Figure 1). As
      a result, the developing world as a whole is found to be much closer to achieving the MDG target of reducing by half the percentage of people suffering from chronic hunger by 2015. The current assessment pegs the undernourishment estimate for developing countries at slightly more than 23.2 percent of the population in 1990–92 (substantially higher than previously estimated), thus implying an MDG target of 11.6 percent for 2015. If the average annual decline of the past 20 years continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries would reach 12.5 percent, still above the MDG target, but much closer to it than previously estimated.”

      This suggests that improved methodologies were introduced before 2013. The graph Steve shows from the 2013 report is there (one year shorter) in the 2012 report as well.

      Ian.

    • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom:

      The 2012 FAO report actually makes it clear that the revised methodologies were introduced that year – so would have been fully available to the IPCC WGII team.

      See the discussion in Box 1 on p. 12 of the above cited report.

    • TerryMN
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 5:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I do hope to hear back from you, Tom – yours was a bit of a wild accusation.

  32. jim2
    Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This whole idea of “helping the poor” …snip

    Steve: sorry. OT coat-racked editorial

  33. Rud Istvan
    Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    With respect to the underlying FAO data, the big four grains plus potatoes provide directly or indirectly (corn and soybeans for animal feed trading carb calories for protein ) about three fourths of all human food calories. Fishing, grazing, and all other crops provide the rest. the following can be gleaned from FAO details:
    Wheat yields have plateaued everywhere as the Borlaug revolution (rust resistance and dwarfing) has run its course. Threatened by evolution of UG99 rust.
    Rice yields have plateaued in best practice countries including Japan and China with adoption of IR8 dwarfs and synthetic fertilizer. They can still double elsewhere.
    Soybean yield continues to improve slowly (maybe 15% more by 2050) but only where GMO is permissable (Roundup Ready) like Brazil and US.
    Corn yield continues to improve, perhaps another 35-40% by 2050, under two circumstances. One, GMO (e.g. BT versus corn borer provides 25% gain in Latin America) and two drought resistance is important (e.g. In Africa). Where neither applies, corn yield plateaued over a decade ago, for example in all of Europe, China.
    Potato yields have plateaued in important producing countries China (#1) and India (#2). There are no reliable data for Russia (#3).
    Taking arable land, irrigation, fertilizer, and yields on all crops classes into consideration, it is just possible to adequately feed the UN projected 2050 population of 9.1 billion under the presumptions of minimum healthy calories, minimum meat, and unlimited virtual water (imported foodstuffs). Not otherwise. Food becomes a likely constraint on carrying capacity by mid century independent of climate change. Lots of fact Details in my book Gaia’s Limits.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The effect of CO2 increases that increase plant yield is not taken into account in your numbers here. I find it hard to believe that most developing countries are anywhere near their potential to produce food since most still depend on small farmers using primitive methods without fertilizer or improved crops or machinery. US yields continue a linear rise as of recent years–no plateau.
      To get back to the “undernourished” statistic–I find it hard to believe that these numbers are very solid. What would be a more solid number is the drastic drop in actual famine deaths in the world over the past 50 yrs.

  34. Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 5:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Terry MN, the 75 million figure is from a 2008 report, as stated by the IPCC. It is certainly stated in “The State of Food Security in the World 2008″.

    ian005, the undernourishment figures are revised every year, including from the 2011 report to the 2012 report, and from the 2012 report to the 2013 report. The 2013 report (as does the 2012 report) advises:

    “Countries revise their official statistics regularly for the past as well as the latest reported period. The same holds for population data of the United Nations. Whenever this happens, FAO revises its estimates of undernourishment accordingly. Users are advised to refer to changes in estimates over time only within the same edition of The State of Food Insecurity in the World and refrain from comparing data published in editions for different years.”

    Direct comparison of the data between the 2012 and 2013 report shows that indeed the figures have been revised between them, with 868 million reported as critically undernourished for 2010-2012 (table 1) in 2012, which drops to 842.3 million for 2011-2013 for the 2013 report, with a clear revision of previous figures.

    I do owe Steve an apology for he does discuss this in his OP (something my superficial reading late at night missed). However, he is also clearly guilty of quoting the IPCC out of context. The full paragraph from which he quotes reads:

    Many definitions of food security exist and these have been the subject of much debate. As early as 1992, Maxwell and Smith (1992) reviewed over 180 items discussing concepts and definitions, and more definitions have been formulated since (Defra, 2006). While many earlier definitions centred on food production, more recent definitions highlight access to food, in keeping with the 1996 World Food Summit definition (FAO, 1996) that food security is met when ‘all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’. World-wide attention on food access was
    given impetus by the food ‘price spike’ in 2007-08, triggered by a complex set of long- and short-term factors (von Braun and Torero, 2009)
    . FAO’s provisional estimates show that, in 2007, 75 million more people were added to the total number of undernourished relative to 2003–2005 (FAO, 2008); other studies report a lower number (Headey and Fan, 2010). More than enough food is currently produced per capita to feed the global population, yet about 870 million people remained hungry in 2012 (FAO et al., 2012). The questions for this chapter are how far climate and its change affect current food production systems and food security and the extent that they will do so in the future
    (Figure 7-1).

    (My emphasis)

    Steve’s quote leaves out the bolded section. If the purpose of the IPCC quote of the 2008 figure is to illustrate the bolded sentence, ie, to illustrate perceptions of a food crisis at the time, it is an appropriate citation. Therefore, contrary to Steve, it is quite easy to think of a reason for quoting the 2008 figure. However, that does leave the IPCC open to the charge of insufficient clarity.

    • TerryMN
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom – Are you saying this piece of AR5 was based on a report from 2008 when there were several newer from the same organizaiton?

      • Carrick
        Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 2:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Well, 2008 was when the AR5 committee was formed. The “Summary for Policy Makers” was published in September 2013, AR5 and “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability ” was published in March 2014.

        So clearly it could and should have been more up to date than this.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

          Carrick, the more that I think about it, that it wasn’t up-to-date is the most provable, but not the most objectionable. As I mentioned to Tom Curtis, if undernourishment had increased during the period, the IPCC would have been all over it like a dog on a bone. The data would have been prominently presented with a graph showing the upward trend. Because it didn’t go the “right” way for them, they didn’t do show the downward trend, thereby hiding the decline, so to speak.

    • Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Accuse in haste, repent at leisure.

    • Kneel
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 7:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

      They went back and cherry-picked something that matched their desired story-line, simple as that.

      2009 (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i0876e.pdf):
      “Even before the food and economic crises, hunger was
      on the rise.
      The World Food Summit target of reducing the
      number of undernourished people by half to no more than
      420 million by 2015 will not be reached if the trends that
      prevailed before those crises continue. ”

      Sounds bad, right?

      2010 (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i1683e.pdf):

      The number and the proportion of undernourished
      people have declined, but they remain unacceptably
      high.
      After increasing from 2006 to 2009 due to high food
      prices and the global economic crisis, both the number and
      proportion of hungry people have declined in 2010 as the
      global economy recovers and food prices remain below their
      peak levels. But hunger remains higher than before the crises,
      making it ever more difficult to achieve the hunger-reduction
      targets of the World Food Summit and Millennium
      Development Goal 1

      Ah, some improvement there!

      2011 (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i2330e.pdf):

      Thus, this year is one of
      transition while the FAO methodology is being revised.
      Therefore, no updated estimates for the number of
      undernourished people in 2009 and 2010 are reported in
      this year’s
      State of Food Insecurity in the World,
      nor has an
      estimate been made for 2011.

      Oh, nothing available this time.

      2012 (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3027e.pdf):

      The revised results imply that the Millennium
      Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the
      prevalence of undernourishment in the developing world
      by 2015 is within reach,

      So one does NOT need to have the 2013 report to conclude that the now well outdated 2008 report didn’t turn out to match later reports – that, in fact, the later reports REVERSE the conclusions of 2008 and show a positive outcome – although I would certainly agree that we need to stay on top of this to ensure continued improvement.

      Would you suggest that the 2012 report was unavailable to them (IPCC) in 2013? Why didn’t they use it?

  35. Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 8:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

    TerryMN, I am saying that the IPCC said that there was a rise in global attention to hunger due to a perceived crisis in food supply at the time, as evidenced by a report from the period. Steve McIntyre definitely left out the relevant part of the quote as to the first point, so that my accusation that he quoted the IPCC out of context is correct. So also would be an accusation that he made an apples to oranges quotations in that he compared FAO figures on hunger in developing nations to the IPCC citations of world hunger, the former being a slightly (1.8% for the most recent period in FAO2013) smaller portion of the later. These errors by Steve take what is evidence of poor phrasing by the IPCC and turn it into “evidence” of intentional misstatement of the facts.

    Steve: Tom, I try to be thorough in documentation. I quoted extensively from original FAO reports. I try not to quote of context and do not think that I did in this case. In my opinion, the additional “context” that you adduce – the extra IPCC sentence “World-wide attention on food access was given impetus by the food ‘price spike’ in 2007-08, triggered by a complex set of long- and short-term factors (von Braun and Torero, 2009)” – in no way justifies the use of obsolete data. Particularly when the final data is not provided and IPCC nowhere reported that FAO undernourished were declining through the period. I did not assert that IPCC “intentionally” misstated the facts. I generally avoid imputing motives. My presumption would be that their misstatement was negligent, rather than intentional. Indeed, that is surely the suggestion of the post: that they relied on a somewhat dated “policy-relevant monograph” from a K Street IGO and neglected to consult up-to-date FAO statistics. Surely you must also have expected better due diligence from a large committee of coauthors and small stadiums of reviewers.

    I do not agree that the above comparisons are “apples and oranges”. I showed three figures from different FAO reports, all consistently showing undernourishment in the developing world. The differences between undernourishment in developing countries and undernourishment including developed countries is, as you point out, very slight and does not affect the 75 million issue. Nor, in the post, did I directly compare FAO figures for developed countries with FAO figures including developed countries. I noted that there were slight differences between FAO figures and did not editorialize on these slight differences, which, as you point out, appear to come from slightly different calculations.

    • TerryMN
      Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom,

      As user Kneel demonstrates above, this is an annual report, where the FAO itself says that improved methodology has corrected earlier, erroneous numbers (good job, FAO).

      Since the 2012 report was current during the writing of AR5, the facts that the IPCC would go back four issues to an erroneous, since corrected report for a stat, and that you defend them on the issue and find fault with Steve Mc for pointing it out are astonishing to me. It does your credibility absolutely no good.

  36. Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 9:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,
    1) Your conclusion clearly imputes motive. If it was a simple error, such descriptors as “coyly described”, and the series of rhetorical questions would be pointless. That you are not honest enough to come out and say what you mean is not a virtue.

    2) Regardless of what else it may or may not be, the 2008 citation is evidence of the “World-wide attention” that was drawn to food access by “… the food ‘price spike’ in 2007-08″. Therefore the immediately preceding sentence to the 2008 cite is clearly relevant context to that citation. Whether or not the citation was intended to provide evidence of that, or of something else can be disputed, but the context cannot reasonably be so disputed. That is particularly the case when you coyly state “It is hard to think of a good reason” as to why the IPCC used the 2008 citation. It is in fact damned easy to think of a good reason with the full context, even if difficult to establish that it was the reason.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 9, 2014 at 10:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom, you’re turning into Nick Stokes.

      It seems absolutely indisputable to me that WG2 should not use obsolete data on a sensitive topic, when the obsolete data gives readers the opposite impression to the final data. You’d be merciless with Pat Michaels or John Christy if they did something like this – pause and think about this for a minute.

      You stated that “the 2008 citation is evidence of the “World-wide attention” that was drawn to food access by “… the food ‘price spike’ in 2007-08″”. I disagree totally with your reading. The two sentences are:

      World-wide attention on food access was given impetus by the food ‘price spike’ in 2007-08, triggered by a complex set of long- and short-term factors (von Braun and Torero, 2009). FAO’s provisional estimates show that, in 2007, 75 million more people were added to the
      total number of undernourished relative to 2003–2005 (FAO, 2008); other studies report a lower number (Headey and Fan, 2010).

      The statement about the supposed increase in undernourishment is not given as evidence of increased worldwide attention. On the contrary, in context, it makes the reader think that there was an increase in undernourishment concurrent with the price increases – a viewpoint which FAO statistics in 2013 did not support.

      I’ve done dozens of monthly, quarterly and annual reports in my life and the purpose of these reports is to provide up-to-date data. It is unconscionable to use obsolete data. I totally disagree that you’ve provided a “good reason” for using obsolete data.

      Think of a corporation where the unaudited 2007 quarterly statements showed a profit, but the final audited annual statements had a huge loss. Any executive who subsequently told new investors that his unaudited 2007 statements showed a profit would be met with derision.

      You shouldn’t waste credibility trying to defend IPCC’s misrepresentation on this point. This sort of point should just be conceded. It doesn’t mean that “everything” in the chapter or report is “wrong”, but it does mean that this point is wrong. I noticed the point incidentally while I was looking at the statistical work supporting Lobell et al – which looks pretty ropy, but that’s another story.

      The other rhetorical question to which you object:

      Why didn’t IPCC clearly report the long-term decline in undernourishment during a period of temperature increase. This is information that is relevant to policy-makers.

      Quite aside from the misrepresentation of the “increase” in 2007, why didn’t IPCC provide a proper statistical summary of FAO statistics on undernourishment? Thinking about the issue some more, I’m 100% convinced that IPCC would have prominently featured undernourishment statistics if they had gone the other way – I’m sure that they’d have been in the Summary for Policy Makers.

      As to their motives – they appear to have known that the data was obsolete, hence their odd term “provisional” – a term that seems inappropriate to me, since the data was not put forward as “provisional”. it was the final data at the time; they subsequently changed the methodology and the data became obsolete. I used the word “coy” to describe the odd use of the word “provisional”, since one cannot tell from the text itself whether the omission of up-to-date data was negligent or intentional. One cannot tell from the present record. In my opinion, neither is acceptable.

      • b4llzofsteel
        Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 8:09 AM | Permalink | Reply


        Think of a corporation where the unaudited 2007 quarterly statements showed a profit, but the final audited annual statements had a huge loss. Any executive who subsequently told new investors that his unaudited 2007 statements showed a profit would be met with derision.

        Yes, no doubt the company would get into trouble with their shareholders, taxes and accountans. But here it’s politics and climate science which, as proved many times, have their own standards…

      • Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Steve, thankyou for the compliment of comparing me to Nick Stokes (although it is probably not deserved).

        With regard to context, a preceding sentence in the same paragraph from which a quote is taken is always relevant context if it has a bearing on understanding what was intended by a sentence in the quote. Your claim that the preceding sentence in this case was not relevant context (ie, that you were not quoting out of context) amounts to a claim that the probability of the interpretation I provide is so low as to not be worth considering. In particular, given that your alternative explanation is deliberate misrepresentation, you are tacitly arguing that the probability that the IPCC might illustrate a historical point is inconsequential relative to the probability that they might be deliberately deceptive. That you prior probabilities are so ranked can only be considered a massive bias against the IPCC.

        It is worse than that, however, for you do not explicitly state the message you intend us to receive (ie, that the IPCC deliberately misrepresented the situation). Instead you point to that conclusion, with rhetorical questions, leading to the conclusion that “It is hard to think of a reason” as to why “… didn’t IPCC clearly report the long-term decline in undernourishment …” etc. But if it is hard to think of a reason, it is ipso facto hard to determine whether or not the preceding sentence provides necessary context to understanding that reason. Ergo your rhetorical conclusion to your OP is inconsistent with a claim that the preceding sentence that you omitted is not relevant context. Either you know the reason with reasonable surety, or you do not know whether or not it is relevant context, and accordingly should have included it so that readers could judge for themselves.

        As to why the IPCC not “…provide a proper statistical summary of FAO statistics on undernourishment”, that is a different question to the purpose of the first sentence in your quote from the IPCC. It may be that the IPCC simply do not believe the FAO figures or relative changes in undernourishment. Certainly there was a food price spike in 2007-8, and a larger one 2010 (with sustained high prices since then). There are good theoretical reasons to think a spike in food prices will result in a fall in food consumption (supply and demand), particularly among the poorest. Further, world bank research suports that theoretical intuition, with qualitative data showing the poor do respond to food price spikes by cutting back food intake. Therefore, there is good reason to have expected spikes in undernourishment in 2007-8, and again in 2010/11. No such spike is apparent in the FAO data. That means we need to call into question one of the fundamental laws of economics, or the details of FAO index of undernourishment.

        Further, as I understand it (and I have not gone into it in great detail), the FAO index tracks the calory content of food production and imports into countries but does not track consumption within the country, relying instead on a statistical model. That is due to the poverty of global data on per capita intake at a subnational level. That methodology means, however, that a shift in food consumption so that one group gets far more, while another poorer group gets less will not show up as an increase in undernourishment in the FAO data. Potentially shifting grain use from food for the poor to grain feed for meat for the rich would also not show up.

        This does not mean the IPCC do not believe the FAO figures to be the best available, only (if this is the case) that they do not trust them to pick up short term variability. The IPCC do note (section 7.1.2) that there is only “medium evidence, medium agreement on absolute numbers” on undernourishment (specifically in the context of Africa for that claim, but presumably true more generally), and only endorse the FAO 2012 figure with the qualifier “about”, so clearly they think the margin of error is fairly wide.

        • thisisnotgoodtogo
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 1:04 AM | Permalink

          “… if it is hard to think of a reason, it is ipso facto hard to determine whether or not the preceding sentence provides necessary context to understanding that reason.”

          That’s a non-sequitur.

      • AntonyIndia
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 12:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

        The spike in world food prices between 2007 and 2008 was primarily due to the experiment of subsidizing bio fuels in the US and EU according to the World Bank, taking away acreage from food production. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:21753440~menuPK:34457~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

        No prices for guessing who demanded bio fuels subsidies.

        • AntonyIndia
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 1:02 AM | Permalink

          In their 90 page report on biofuels (Jan 2008) The Royal Society wrote only this about food prices: “However, it must be accepted that, without specific intervention, the urban poor in developing countries will suffer as a result of increased food prices, unless economic prosperity rises as a whole and a reasonable amount of the value generated by biofuels is retained locally (Woods 2006). We do not assess these issues, but we are aware of the dangers of an overly simplistic food versus fuel debate when synergistic opportunities for food and fuel exist and should be maximised.” https://royalsociety.org/~/media/Royal_Society_Content/policy/publications/2008/7980.pdf

          In their urge to fight anthropogenic global warming they neglected the main stumble block – world food prices – and focused on technicalities and policies: exactly simplistic.

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

          AntonyIndia, I entirely agree that grains should not be used for biofuels because doing so drives up the price of food. For the same reason, grain should never be fed to cattle. Advertising meat as grain fed is a guaranteed way to ensure I will not purchase it. In contrast, ethanol from cane sugar makes an ideal biofuel, especially as the land used for producing sugar cane is unsuitable for grains. Having said that, the rush to grain based biofuels owes more to farm lobbies than to pushes to tackle global warming.

          More importantly for this topic only, your point is irrelevant to the preceding discussion. It is, however, a more important point than any made in this discussion in real terms.

        • AntonyIndia
          Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 12:04 AM | Permalink

          Tom, The IPCC itself recommended biofuels in its summary for policy makers in May 2007: see table SPM7. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg3/ar4-wg3-spm.pdf

          National Geographic in April 2014 wrote: “Milestone IPCC Climate Report Shifts on Biofuels” : Additionally, IPCC says that land acquisition for biofuels production may have “negative impacts on the lives of poor people,” by depriving them of land and increasing food prices. http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/01/milestone-ipcc-climate-report-shifts-on-biofuels/

          The IPCC is not infallible.

    • mpainter
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom,
      You seem to impute to Steve the motive of imputing motives to the IPCC, which motive you derive by your own particular construction of meaning. Surely it is valid question as to how this error came to be. No need to impute motives to the questioner, but there is a need to improve the reporting of the IPCC, whose reports are designed for policy making.

      • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Ah yes, policy making. Another reason Tom’s comment of 6:50 AM was far from adequate:

        … the IPCC already strive to be accurate and to be clear. That they occasionally fail (far less frequently than their vociferous critics IMO) only indicates that they are human.

        Sure, but we take it as read that some humans are held to higher standards – directors of companies reporting their accounts, for example – than others. The IPCC exists to inform policy makers worldwide and with the kudos comes responsibility. At stake are decisions potentially costing billions, if not trillions. For that reason sceptics and, more broadly, anyone with any sense, expect that they should be held to a higher standard than someone wanting to sound off on a blog about the deafness disability of an opponent. (Not that there shouldn’t be limits in that case, based on basic compassion and conscience. The point is that nobody expects an individual blogger to be held to the same standard as the IPCC.)

  37. Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 5:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve (10:42 PM):

    It seems absolutely indisputable to me that WG2 should not use obsolete data on a sensitive topic, when the obsolete data gives readers the opposite impression to the final data.

    Perhaps not so sensitive. Lack of care means lack of care.

    I noticed the point incidentally while I was looking at the statistical work supporting Lobell et al – which looks pretty ropy, but that’s another story.

    I’ll hazard a guess it’s the more revealing of the two. Low-hanging fruit. Why multiple PhDs aren’t always needed to know there’s something rotten in the state of the IPCC.

  38. thisisnotgoodtogo
    Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 1:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    And nobody at FAO noticed that IPCC did this.

  39. Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve McIntyre (2:12 PM): Yeah, it’s Hide the Decline Mark II. And, with all respect to the work needed to expose Mark I, this is morally far worse. The undernourished and starving of the world clearly only exist for the authors to draw attention to The Cause. No good news that doesn’t support the gloomiest view of climate will be allowed to pass. (News that is also vital, note, in reallocation of resources to maximise further progress.) The data selection of the sewer.

    • Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 1:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s not the only example of Hide the Decline, to the clear detriment of policy makers, from the WG2 stable. How about the treatment of deaths from extreme events in the SREX SPM in November 2011? H/t Indur Goklany and WUWT for the underlying stats. But that sin of omission has always seemed to me to deserve far more attention than it received.

  40. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 5:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Why is the IPCC discussing statistics that by its own admission have to do with food prices and a public interest generated by a supposed food price spike? The available food supply as a function of crop yields (given a reasonably stable acreage) would appear to me to be the most directly related metric that can be used as a starting point for relating climate change and food availability. There are other exogenous effects that can interfere with what otherwise should lead to greater(lesser) food availability from higher(lower)yields such as interference with the market system and political considerations. I am not at all sure that the IPCC, given the starting weakness of advocating, would be able to handle these complications and complexities. I noted in browsing the WG2 related report that comments in the Executive Summary come out to the effect that crop yields would have been even higher had it not been for climate change. Determining that would take a bit more than a throwaway line that is used by some in power these days to explain (away) actions that fail/succeed.

    Would the IPCC ever broach, for example, the off-topic to climate of food security by noting the unintended consequences of India’s handling of food by government purchases from farmers with intent to provide part of this to the poor and losing huge amounts of this food in storage by bureaucratic delays and corruption?

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-india-modi-trade-wto-edit-0809-jm-20140809-story.html

  41. Curious George
    Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The Law of Inertia: Lying, once started, is difficult to stop.

    • Jeff Norman
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Unless acted upon by an external farce.

  42. stevefitzpatrick
    Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 7:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I can think of one very good reason: WG2 needs to identify very bad effects of warming. If there are no very bad effects from warming, then they have not fulfilled their primary function as an organization. Pointing out the truth (global malnourishment has been declining for many years and continutes to decline, due mainly to economic development) is absolutely not the message they want to send. That is the only plausible reason.

  43. Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 10:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There used to be conversations about playing politics with hunger. The concept was not well received. The idea that an organization such as the IPCC would use dated statistics to create the impression that climate change is already impacting food supplies should really raise the hackles of both those who are working on hunger issues and those who are working on climate change.

    Mr. Curtis, I can understand you wanting to defend the IPCC. I can understand you raising issues with Mr. McIntyre. What I cannot understand is your failure to call for the clearest possible communications based on the best data possible regarding the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and food production.

    Regarding which the record could be both clear and explicit. The 0.8C of warming seen in the past century has not negatively impacted food production. The IPCC has said that in other documents. It has not caused an increase in the number or severity of droughts or damaging precipitation or floods, according to the IPCC SREX. During the period of this 0.8C food production has risen consistently and yet dramatically. This is primarily because of the effective use of science and technology–but it has happened most dramatically in regions the IPCC has labeled as most vulnerable to climate change.

    That the IPCC chose not to be both clear and explicit warrants criticism–arguably more severe criticism than Mr. McIntyre levels here.

    • Posted Aug 10, 2014 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom Fuller, I think it goes without saying that the IPCC should be as clear in its reports as possible, and as accurate as possible as well. I do not think my interspersing my comments randomly with a call for such clarity will increase the probability of that clarity in any respect. For that reason, I do not waste time doing so – nor calling for clarity in newspaper reporting, political speeches etc etc.

      • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 2:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Mr. Curtis, I think a lot of things that we used to believe could go without saying turned out to need to be said. Many of those things were said here and only here. I honestly think you should one of those thanking Mr. McIntyre. Which doesn’t mean he is above criticism, as I imagine he would be the first to acknowledge.

        But you of all people should realize that the IPCC practice here–“you can find the real figures if you look hard enough” is not best practice. And you of all people should be among the first to urge them to improve.

        And that’s because you have shown yourself to have integrity and to advocate elsewhere for better behavior.

        Nobody on the consensus side is going to listen to Mr. McIntyre. If not you, then who?

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 6:50 AM | Permalink

          Tom Fuller, there is no reason why the IPCC would listen to me anymore than any other random stranger of the street. More importantly, the IPCC already strive to be accurate and to be clear. That they occasionally fail (far less frequently than their vociferous critics IMO) only indicates that they are human. However, because they already try to be accurate, and have mechanisms in place to improve that accuracy, commenting on blogs will not further improve the accuracy over mechanisms that already exist.

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 7:35 AM | Permalink

          Tom, this is inadequate. There was an indefensible error in WG2 using out-of-date data to support a incorrect statement of increased undernourishment, when up-to-date data would have supported the opposite conclusion, and this had just been discovered by Steve McIntyre. A walk of a thousand miles begins with a single step and Steve took that step. It’s not asking much of every contributor to agree with him about the basic point, that presenting such an statement through use of obsolete data, about something so important, was wrong. That’s how momentum for change builds. That’s what needed here.

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Permalink

          Richard Drake, I have seen no evidence that McIntyre has taken the first, step, ie, sending an email reporting the “error” as per the IPCC error protocol:

          “The IPCC decided in May 2011 to adopt an IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports. This Protocol is the new Annex 3 of Appendix A.

          In case of a suspected error in an IPCC report, please send a mail to ipccerrorprotocol@wmo.int containing the following information:
          Complete name,
          Telephone,
          Organization,
          Country,
          Publication,
          Chapter,
          Page,
          Line,
          Comments”

          If he has in fact done this, my also having done it would be irrelevant as the relevant process would already have been implemented. If not, then his commenting about it on the blog is largely irrelevant. And please, note, the “scare quotes” around “error” are because I disagree as to the nature of the error – not that it was an error.

        • kim
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

          Pitiful.

          Step back and think about it.
          ======

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

          Tom Curtis,

          If this were an error in “accuracy” we would see a bi-directional failure WRT the preferred message of the IPCC.

          Objectively there are multiple failures heavily weighted in a single IPCC-preferred direction and that cannot be characterized as a problem with “accuracy”. In fact, I know of no inaccuracy by the recent IPCC report in the other direction – do you?

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Permalink

          Jeff Id, you should check out my comment below (and the link within it). I discuss a similar situation in the IPCC AR5 WGII report which goes in the opposite direction.

          Our host asks it not be discussed here, but I thought I should point you to it.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 7:41 AM | Permalink

          Brandon, thanks for the link.

          My point is that the IPCC fails to the preferred direction in their publication quite regularly. Examples are nearly 100% in that direction and I know of no examples where they have made a mistake by underestimating warming or perceived dangers but there may be one. In your example, the creation of a new worse graph after the publication of the IPCC report, doesn’t affect my argument. The field regularly spews new “worse than we predicted before” graphs. The link is interesting but because the result was published after the report, it doesn’t support or reject the argument I made.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

          Jeff Id, no problem.

          I don’t think the fact “the result was published after the report” makes it as irrelevant as you say though. The person responsible for that result not being published earlier is the same person who added the outdated results to the IPCC report. That person had updated his results multiple times in the past. It’s difficult to see how he could have not been aware of the impact of the new data. Saying it is irrelevant seems akin to saying one abuse justifies the other.

          But I’ll shut up about it here now. If people want to discuss it further, there are other locations to.

        • Jeff Id
          Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM | Permalink

          Brandon,

          It’s not a big deal to me because there has to be one example out there somewhere, but there is a cutoff time for papers introduced to the IPCC, and there are regular introductions of the “worse than we ever imagined” sort in print. Had your example been included in the report, the story would be about the guy who ignored the deadlines to rush through his own even more dire predictions. Predictions which appear flatly ridiculous on the face of them by the way. Warmer is mostly better for life on a generally too cold planet IMHO.

          I do have to note that were future papers the standard for judging whether accuracy is the issue for the IPCC, the IPCC would be known for regularly underestimating global doom rather than the tweaked and bodged representations of “science” in the preferred direction that we have come to know and love.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 2:14 PM | Permalink

          Jeff Id, I don’t agree with your view, but I think I’ve already gone off-topic enough. Before I leave the conversation though, I should point out you’re focusing on only one, relatively small part of what I described.

          I think it’s interesting Tol’s decision not to update his results could be used to justify his inclusion of an outdated conclusion in the IPCC report, but it couldn’t justify a number of other things I described him doing.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

          It is not possible that IPCC non-citation of an at the time nonexistent paper is evidence either for or against the IPCC bias. It don’t make no sense.

          IMO Tol’s decision to update his results a little too late probably stems from a need to strengthen climate doom scenario’s in the face of very moderate observed warming. It certainly didn’t stem from actual observed doom as that has been quite impossible to find as this article points out.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

          Jeff Id, that may “make no sense,” but it’s not the extent of the matter, much less the multiple other matters I brought up.

          I think if you tried to address the subject as a whole, you’d find it far more difficult to defend what was done.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

          Brandon, I did not ‘defend’ anything to my knowledge. You definitely made some interesting points in your article. I was rather hoping Tom Curtis would reply to my critique of his characterization that the IPCC was interested in accuracy.

          It seems to me that accuracy is bumped down the list of priorities in favor of other pressures both personal and otherwise. Your article fits right in in my opinion.

        • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

          Jeff Id, sorry for saying you “defend” this. When you say something is a problem and people disagree, it seems like they’re defending it.

          I’m sorry to say I might have played a role in Tom Curtis not responding. He’s expressed very negative views of me ever since an exchange between us on my blog (on this post, if you’re curious), and I’ve gotten the impression he doesn’t want to participate in any exchange I’m involved in.

      • thisisnotgoodtogo
        Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Tom Curtis, you said”

        “I do not think my interspersing my comments randomly with a call for such clarity will increase the probability of that clarity in any respect. For that reason, I do not waste time doing so … ”

        Tom, you comment to Steve, on a blog, but not to IPCC – so obviously you believe that your efforts here, if on topic and correct, are not wasted – but would be on IPCC.

        I think you’re right to think that.

  44. Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 1:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Tom Curtis (11:42 PM):

    I do not think my interspersing my comments randomly with a call for such clarity will increase the probability of that clarity in any respect. For that reason, I do not waste time doing so …

    What kind of corrupted organisation do you think you are dealing with, that a call to be accurate with published statistics of undernourishment is a waste of time? However revealing that may be, the call should be made. And your ire in this case seemed to be far more for the man who discovered the problem and did exactly that. That made you look really bad. This response makes the system of which you’ve chosen to be part even worse.

    • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 2:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Tom Curtis may be more used to posting at sites such as Skeptical Science where even the mildest criticism or questioning of the IPCC is severely censured and usually ends in the poster being banned from that site. As a consequence only those totally unable to comprehend that pointing to errors of fact is essential for the progress of good science, become regular posters at that site. This in turn results in an inevitable downward spiral of self congratulation and fierce defence of the faith called global warming. It perhaps is sufficient to observe that the site is run by John Cook and his acolytes for those familiar with Mr Cook’s work to be fairly certain of the level of scientific integrity displayed at Skeptical Science.

    • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 6:45 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Richard, that is a deliberate misinterpretation of my words, and dishonest.

      • kim
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Worse interpretations can be made of that.
        ============

  45. HaroldW
    Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 7:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The IPCC’s reference “FAO (2008)” is “FAO, 2008: Policy Measures taken by Government to Reduce the Impact of Soaring Prices. Global Information and Early Warning System.” Googling the title returns only a 2008 webpage. I was unable to locate any support “75 million” in this reference.

    There is a section by that name in some of FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation Reports, but none seemed to provide any quantitative estimate of persons affected by the price increase.

    Interestingly, the Second Order Draft provided a different figure with the same citation: “According to some estimates, the ‘price spike’ increased the number of hungry people by some 40 million (FAO, 2008) but other studies report a lower number (Headey and Fan, 2010).” My guess is that the authors changed the number to that of the “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008″ but omitted changing the citation. [One FAO 2008 is as good as another?]

    One comment on this line in the SOD was from the Netherlands: “By now, numerous peer-reviewed estimates have been made of the number of people affected by the 2007-2008 price hikes, so referencing to grey (and rather old) literature should be unnecessary.” There was another comment wondering if the ‘price spike’ was global.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

      HaroldW, thanks for consulting the Second Draft and Review Comments. The “40 million” figure from the Second Draft appears to come from an FAO news release http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/8836/icode/ on Dec 9, 2008 announcing the release of the 2008 Report.

      Another 40 million people have been pushed into hunger this year primarily due to higher food prices, according to preliminary estimates published by FAO today. This brings the overall number of undernourished people in the world to 963 million, compared to 923 million in 2007 and the ongoing financial and economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty, FAO warned. …FAO Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem, presenting the new edition of FAO’s hunger report

      The “40 million” is the supposed increase from 2007 to 2008 (to 963 million), while the “75 million” is the supposed increase from 2003-5 to 2007 (to 923 million). As previously noted, neither of these “increases” was sustained in the revised data used in the most up-to-date numbers.

      • HaroldW
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 2:57 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Along with the updated methodology in 2012, the FAO indicated that their indicator is not appropriate if the intent was to show the effect of a short-term price increase: “the current methodology does not capture the impact of short-term price and other economic shocks, unless these are reflected in changes in long-term food consumption patterns.”

        And attributing the price increase to climate change — or even weather — is questionable. The 2011 FAO “State of Food Insecurity” report focused on the 2007/08 price spike. Talking of the tripling in rice prices, it concluded: “it was ultimately government policies that led to the crisis.”

        • Kenneth Fritsch
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 6:30 PM | Permalink

          “it was ultimately government policies that led to the crisis.” HaroldW, perhaps with imagination of IPCC authors we could read that as “it was ultimately government policies made under the duress of climate change that led to the crisis” – yeah that’s the ticket.

        • HaroldW
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 7:30 PM | Permalink

          Kenneth Fritsch –
          The FAO’s argument — and I don’t know enough to know if it’s credible — is that the crisis started with a small upward pressure on price. Many governments, fearing a shortage, restricted or banned rice exports in order to ensure adequate domestic supply, which exacerbated the problem internationally.

        • Kenneth Fritsch
          Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Permalink

          HaroldW, the FAO argument makes sense, but what does that have to do with climate change. To me the issue, besides the one SteveM brings to the fore on the IPCC using obviously outdated data, is why the IPCC would be reporting on a supposed food price spike that has little to nothing to do with yields of food crops and food supply.

          If one wants to follow a torturous route to implicating climate change on food here is one:

          In the US the use of alcohol in gasoline is subsidized by the government in order to encourage the use of renewable fuels. The US government also makes the use of cheaper sugar-based alcohol from Brazil more difficult to use due to import restrictions. The corn-based alcohol used in the US has led to increased corn acreage and to higher corn prices. Those higher corn prices can lead to higher meat prices and prices where corn is used directly such as sugar (sucrose) substitutes. Oh and by the way the US government controls imports of refined sugar to protect sugar producers in the US.

        • Kenneth Fritsch
          Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

          Harold when I said:

          “HaroldW, perhaps with imagination of IPCC authors we could read that as “it was ultimately government policies made under the duress of climate change that led to the crisis” – yeah that’s the ticket.”

          I thought I was being facetious, but then I read this from the link below:

          http://ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WGIIAR5-Chap10_FGDall.pdf

          “Other studies (Acemoglu et al., 2001; Acemoglu et al., 2002; Easterly and Levine, 2003) argue that
          climatic influence on development disappears if differences in human institutions (the rule of law, education, etc) are accounted for. However, (Van der Vliert, 2008) demonstrates that climate affects human culture and thus institutions, but this has yet to be explored in the economic growth literature.”

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s also instructive to see the changes from the Second Draft to the Final Draft in the very first paragraph.

      The Second Draft (the one sent to external reviewers) said that other “social and economic issues” were the “main drivers” in food security:

      Since AR4, there have been several periods of rapid food price increases demonstrating the partial sensitivity of current markets to climate variability. The role of climate change in these recent price changes is poorly understood but likely small relative to other factors. . Social and economic issues such as energy policy and changes in household income will remain the main drivers of changes in food security in the near-term, regionally and locally.

      Reviewer Richard Tol (uniquely among WG2 reviewers) pointed out that the 2008 price changes did not arise from “climate variability”, at most “weather variability” and that policy contributed to it as well:

      That would be weather variability rather than climate variability. There are also studies that attribute price rises to climate policy, particularly the US biofuel mandate, rather than climate change. (Tol, Richard S.J., Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

      In the Final Draft, the important association of food security to “social and economic issues” was deleted, as well as the conclusion that the contribution of climate change to the price increases was likely small, replacing the language with much more alarmist language:

      Since AR4, there have been several periods of rapid food and cereal price increases following climate extremes in key producing regions, indicating a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes among other factors. Several of these climate extremes were made more likely as the result of anthropogenic emissions (medium confidence).

      In other words, although IPCC trumpets its review process, these important changes were not passed by external reviewers, but made by chapter authors.

  46. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 9:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It is rather obvious to those who read from the IPCC reports with any objectivity that much of what it presents comes from advocacy for immediate and comprehensive government action on AGW. That does not mean that what it presents is intentionally inaccurate or that important reviews of the literature concerning AGW cannot be garnered from their reports. The IPCC is like the lawyer presenting arguments in a US courtroom for its client in an adversarial setting. There is no doubt in my mind that under these conditions the IPCC is much less likely to find errors in data that supports its view. That is the human nature of the situation which is different than:

    “That they occasionally fail (far less frequently than their vociferous critics IMO) only indicates that they are human. However, because they already try to be accurate, and have mechanisms in place to improve that accuracy, commenting on blogs will not further improve the accuracy over mechanisms that already exist.”

    In evaluating the information coming from the advocate it is critically important to know whether the advocate is truly an honest and innocent broker of information by testing how well and whether the advocate reacts to the inevitable errors that are going to arise in its presentations.

    That is why up thread I asked SteveM if he were going to pursue this issue with the IPCC. They could ignore him or attempt to put him off, but that would speak volumes about the advocacy character of the IPCC.

    • kim
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It might be instructive for Tom C to report the error. He can see for himself if he is ignored or put off.
      ==============

      • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Reply

        +1

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I don’t think that it’s Tom Curtis’ obligation to report the error. The larger issue is IPCC’s failure to report the positive trend in yields. As a reviewer, Richard Tol raised this defect during SOD comments (“This is all standard alarmist fare. Why don’t you emphasize positive trends in yields”, but IPCC still refused to show positive trends in yields.

        • Kenneth Fritsch
          Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

          Perhaps Tom Curtis could explain how the IPCC checks and balances worked or failed to work in this instance – and further up the chain in replying to Richard Tol.

        • Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

          Steve McIntyre (12:26 PM):

          I don’t think that it’s Tom Curtis’ obligation to report the error.

          Agreed. It would make for a nice example of cooperation though.

          The larger issue is IPCC’s failure to report the positive trend in yields. As a reviewer, Richard Tol raised this defect during SOD comments (“This is all standard alarmist fare. Why don’t you emphasize positive trends in yields”, but IPCC still refused to show positive trends in yields.

          All you’re reporting from the SOD to final (h/t HaroldW also) is truly astonishing. Kudos to Richard Tol but woe to the lead authors and a system that seems to turn a blind eye to such abse. The result being that the world’s undernourished are used by the IPCC to support the unsupportable, “social and economic issues” be damned.

          But I’m sure in making these criticisms of WG2 we are guilty once again of ‘voodoo science’.

    • mpainter
      Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, and it is its advocacy viewpoint that is the root of the problem.

    • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 3:49 AM | Permalink | Reply

      This is actually quite similar to the IPCC’s creation of statistical deaths due to climate change, which went from an unsubstantiated 150,000 to 300,000 equally unsubstantiated deaths overnight.

      The same is true of climate refugees. It’s pretty much cli-fi disaster porn.

      I cannot fathom how people can defend this type of behavior with a straight face.

      • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Permalink | Reply

        A leftie with a conscience when confronted with cynical manipulation of the predicament of the most unfortunate on the planet. How we need more of those.

  47. Posted Aug 11, 2014 at 7:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Hey guys. I tried to resist commenting on this post because I’m tired of harping on the same point. However, a couple comments pushed me over the edge, especially Richard Drake’s:

    Kudos to Richard Tol but woe to the lead authors and a system that seems to turn a blind eye to such abse.

    I agree Tol should be given credit for saying what he said. However, I don’t understand how people can be so critical of what is discussed in this post and so apathetic toward Richard Tol doing an incredibly similar thing in the exact same report.

    I wrote a post highlighting the similarities. I’m not particularly happy with it, but I think it conveys the similarities well enough. I think it shows if you’re going to be critical of what happened in this case, you should be just as critical of what Richard Tol did.

    One of the biggest differences in the two examples is Tol’s changes heavily promoted his own work. Nobody has suggested anyone sought personal glory in the example this post highlights. Another big difference is the changes made in this case were relatively small (but still quite significant) while the changes Tol made were far larger.

    Steve: My interest in chapter 7 arose because of the argument that crop yields already demonstrate negative relationships with temperature – statistical analysis about which I have questions. Chapter 7 draws heavily by articles by Lobell – Lobell is also Lead Author of Chapter 7. Lobell has also been a frequent coauthor with Christopher Field, who was WG2 Co-Chair. I do not have time or energy to parse all issues of potential interest (I am finishing far too little these days) and am not in a position to comment one way or another on Tol. Readers interested in the topic should comment at Brandon’s blog as it is off-thread to food issues.

    • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 12:09 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I often push people over the edge – :) – but I deeply agree with, and sympathise with, Steve here. There’s clrealy something really important in Chapter 7. Getting that right will set a benchmark for all the others.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Brandon, I do not see where Tol’s cogent comments in one part of the IPCC process has much to do with his using the weaknesses in the review process in another part. The problem(s) come back to the IPCC process and that is what deserves criticism and discussion here.

      The graphs you show at your website, as I interpret it, shows 7 additional models (not data) to Tol’s original 14 models for the effect of temperature change on Welfare Impact. Somebody then puts the 21 model results together with 95% CIs. A proper discussion of those results would require a detailed look at all the models and also determining how 7 additional models dramatically changed the overall result. Like SteveM says an analysis for another time and place.

      • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Kenneth Fritsch, I don’t much care about Richard Tol as a person. I just thought it was funny to see him praised in the same sentence as other people were condemned for something he also did. Also, I thought it was interesting nobody seemed to mind what Richard Tol did.

        Why his results changed is easy to figure out, but I won’t go into that since our host doesn’t want this discussed here. Suffice to say Tol used the same methodology to publish results multiple times, updating them with new data. At some point he stopped updating his results then snuck outdated one into the IPCC report. Afterward, he updated his results and got a dramatically different answer.

        I think that goes a long way in showing the IPCC process is corrupted. Results, which if had been updated would have been dramatically different, were added in by the person responsible for not updating them, and this was done absent external review. I think the similarities make it worth mentioning in this topic as its another example of the same general problem.

  48. mpainter
    Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 8:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It seems that this thread has slipped away from the main point of the thread: my dictionary defines “provisional” as 1. Serving only until permanently replaced
    2. Something tentatively adopted
    The word indicates that the author foresaw the possibility that a correction would be needed.

    • Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 9:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

      But, as Steve says, provisional was the wrong word. Obsolete would have been more accurate. But that would have raised questions.

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Aug 12, 2014 at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

      “The word (provisional) indicates that the author foresaw the possibility that a correction would be needed.”

      The thread I believe discusses the issue that the author should have seen that a correction was needed and there was on further investigation nothing provisional about it.

  49. Craig Loehle
    Posted Aug 13, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The idea that climate change will cause more malnutrition and therefore the data most likely will show that obviously biases how people search for and respond to the data. It fits with the general meme that everything is getting worse: that there is an epidemic of gun violence when in fact this is at a 40 yr per capita low (and a 20 yr declining trend) according to FBI statistics, or that there is an “epidemic” of rape on college campuses when no data support this statement, or that pollution is getting worse when it is clearly getting better. Something about human nature loves to roll in bad news like a dog in a dead animal.

5 Trackbacks

  1. By Wie erschreckt man mit Statistik? | on Aug 8, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    […] den Daten und Quellen der amtlichen Apokalypse näher auf den Grund zu gehen. Dann kann man, wie es Steven McIntyre von Climate Audit getan hat, feststellen, dass der IPCC in seinem jüngsten Gutachten zu den Folgen des Klimawandels […]

  2. […] http://climateaudit.org/2014/08/07/wg2-misleads-on-undernourishment-trend/#more-19456 […]

  3. […] “[UN IPCC Working Group 2] WG2 Misleads on Undernourishment Trend” “Why didn’t IPCC clearly report the long-term decline in undernourishment during a period of [which UN IPCC claims] temperature increase? This is information that is relevant to policy-makers.” http://climateaudit.org/2014/08/07/wg2-misleads-on-undernourishment-trend/#more-19456 […]

  4. […] year in a row and reach 303 million tonnes ” … and better fed too – “The corresponding [undernourished] world decrease … is also 17% – from 1.015 billion in 1990-2 to 842 […]

  5. […] WG2 Misleads on Undernourishment Trend; http://climateaudit.org/2014/0… […]

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