The IPCC’s attribution methodology is fundamentally flawed

by R. McKitrick, Aug 18, 2021 in ClimateEtc.

One day after the IPCC released the AR6 I published a paper in Climate Dynamics showing that their “Optimal Fingerprinting” methodology on which they have long relied for attributing climate change to greenhouse gases is seriously flawed and its results are unreliable and largely meaningless. Some of the errors would be obvious to anyone trained in regression analysis, and the fact that they went unnoticed for 20 years despite the method being so heavily used does not reflect well on climatology as an empirical discipline.

My paper is a critique of “Checking for model consistency in optimal fingerprinting” by Myles Allen and Simon Tett, which was published in Climate Dynamics in 1999 and to which I refer as AT99. Their attribution methodology was instantly embraced and promoted by the IPCC in the 2001 Third Assessment Report (coincident with their embrace and promotion of the Mann hockey stick). The IPCC promotion continues today: see AR6 Section 3.2.1. It has been used in dozens and possibly hundreds of studies over the years. Wherever you begin in the Optimal Fingerprinting literature (example), all paths lead back to AT99, often via Allen and Stott (2003). So its errors and deficiencies matter acutely.

The abstract of my paper reads as follows: