Workers often earn only $1 an hour at Mexican farm labor camps that ship produce to the US and enrich agribusiness. Workers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat infested camps, often without beds-LA Times, Dec. 2014 results of 18 month study


Mexican labor camps pay workers only $1-$1.50 per hour, $8-$12 per day, for 6 day weeks at farm complexes that ship produce to the US.Workers were required to disinfect their hands before picking cucumbers. Yet they were given just two pieces of toilet paper to use at the outhouses.” Many labor camps are in the dangerous Sinaloa area so media and others rarely stop by to check on conditions.

Dec. 2014 article:
12/7/2014, Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables,” LA Times, Richard Marosi

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers arrive year-round by the ton, with peel-off stickers proclaiming “Product of Mexico.”

Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade (2004-2014), enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.

American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.

These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers.

But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

The Times found:

*Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.

  • Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.
  • Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.
  • Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.
  • Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.

The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico’s poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day.

The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.

The contrast between the treatment of produce and of people is stark.

In immaculate greenhouses, laborers are ordered to use hand sanitizers and schooled in how to pamper the produce. They’re required to keep their fingernails carefully trimmed so the fruit will arrive unblemished in U.S. supermarkets.

“They want us to take such great care of the tomatoes, but they don’t take care of us,” said Japolina Jaimez, a field hand at Rene Produce, a grower of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. “Look at how we live.”

He pointed to co-workers and their children, bathing in an irrigation canal because the camp’s showers had no water that day.

At the mega-farms that supply major American retailers, child labor has been largely eradicated. But on many small and mid-sized farms, children still work the fields, picking chiles, tomatillos and other produce, some of which makes its way to the U.S. through middlemen. About 100,000 children younger than 14 pick crops for pay, according to the Mexican government’s most recent estimate.

During The Times’ 18-month investigation, a reporter and a photographer traveled across nine Mexican states, observing conditions at farm labor camps and interviewing hundreds of workers.

At half the 30 camps they visited, laborers were in effect prevented from leaving because their wages were being withheld or they owed money to the company store, or both.

Some of the worst camps were linked to companies that have been lauded by government and industry groups. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto presented at least two of them with “exporter of the year” honors.

The Times traced produce from fields to U.S. supermarket shelves using Mexican government export data, food safety reports from independent auditors, California pesticide surveys that identify the origin of imported produce, and numerous interviews with company officials and industry experts.

The practice of withholding wages, although barred by Mexican law, persists, especially for workers recruited from indigenous areas, according to government officials and a 2010 report by the federal Secretariat of Social Development. These laborers typically work under three-month contracts and are not paid until the end. The law says they must be paid weekly.

The Times visited five big export farms where wages were being withheld.. Each employed hundreds of workers.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, bought produce directly or through middlemen from at least three of those farms, The Times found.

Bosses at one of Mexico’s biggest growers, Bioparques de Occidente in the state of Jalisco, not only withheld wages but kept hundreds of workers in a labor camp against their will and beat some who tried to escape, according to laborers and Mexican authorities.

Asked about its ties to Bioparques and other farms where workers were exploited, Wal-Mart released this statement:

“We care about the men and women in our supply chain, and recognize that challenges remain in this industry. We know the world is a big place. While our standards and audits make things better around the world, we won’t catch every instance when people do things that are wrong.”

At Rene Produce in Sinaloa, The Times saw hungry laborers hunting for scraps because they could not afford to buy food at the company store.

The grower, which exported $55 million in tomatoes in 2014, supplies supermarkets across the U.S., including Whole Foods, which recently took out full-page newspaper ads promoting its commitment to social responsibility.

Asked for comment, Whole Foods said it did not expect to buy any more produce “directly” from Rene, which it described as a minor supplier.

“We take the findings you shared VERY seriously, especially since Rene has signed our social accountability agreement,” Edmund LaMacchia, a global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods, said in a statement.

Rene Produce was named one of Mexico’s exporters of the year in September.

Jose Humberto Garcia, the company’s chief operating officer, said Rene had consulted with outside experts about ways to enhance worker welfare. “We have tried in recent years to improve the lives of our workers,” he said. “There’s still room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement.”

Executives at Triple H in Sinaloa, another exporter of the year and a distributor for major supermarkets across the U.S., said they were surprised to hear about abusive labor practices at farms including one of their suppliers, Agricola San Emilio.

“It completely violates our principles,” said Heriberto Vlaminck, Triple H’s general director. His son Heriberto Vlaminck Jr., the company’s commercial director, added: “I find it incredible that people work under these conditions.”

In northern Mexico, agro-industrial complexes stretch for miles across coastal plains and inland valleys, their white rows of tent-like hothouses so vast they can be seen from space.

Half the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, mostly from the area around Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. Many farms use growing techniques from Europe. Walls of tomato vines grow 10 feet tall and are picked by laborers on stilts.

Agricola San Emilio raises crops on 370 acres of open fields and greenhouses 20 miles west of Culiacan. In a tin-roofed packinghouse, tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers are boxed for the journey north to distributors for Wal-Mart, Olive Garden, Safeway, Subway and other retailers.

In 2014, the company exported more than 80 million pounds of tomatoes alone, according to government data.

Every winter, 1,000 workers arrive at San Emilio by bus with backpacks and blankets, hoping to make enough money to support family members back home. Some simply want to stay fed.

Behind the packing facility lies the company’s main labor camp, a cluster of low-slung buildings made of cinder block or corrugated metal where about 500 laborers live.

The shed-like structures are crudely partitioned into tiny rooms that house four to six people each. The floors are concrete. There are no beds or other furniture, nor any windows.

The workers’ day begins at 3 a.m. when a freight train known as “The Beast” rumbles past the dusty camp, rousting the inhabitants. They get coffee, a biscuit and a short stack of tortillas before heading to the fields.

When Times journalists visited the camp in March, Juan Ramirez, a 22-year-old with a toddler back home in Veracruz, had been working at San Emilio for six weeks and had yet to be paid.

He and other laborers spent their days picking, packing and pruning, or scouring the plants for weevils. They lined up for their daily meals: a bowl of lentil soup for lunch, a bowl of lentil soup for dinner.

Ramirez, wearing a stained white T-shirt, chatted with two young men who were recent arrivals. They complained of hunger and constant headaches. Ramirez knew the feeling. He had lost 20 pounds since he starting work at the farm.

“We arrive here fat, and leave skinny,” he said.

Ramirez and several hundred others recruited by the same labor contractor earned $8 a day and were owed as much as $300 each. They said they wouldn’t be paid until the end of their three-month contracts. That would be in six more weeks.

Workers said they had been promised $8 in pocket money every two weeks but received it only sporadically.

If they left now, they would forfeit the wages they’d earned. The barbed-wire fence that ringed the camp was an added deterrent. Farm owners say the barriers are meant to keep out thieves and drug dealers. They also serve another purpose: to discourage laborers from leaving before the crop has been picked and they’ve paid their debts to the company store.

Even if the workers at San Emilio jumped the fence, as some had, they wouldn’t be able to afford a ride to Culiacan, let alone $100 for the bus ticket home.

Juan Hernandez, a father of five from Veracruz, was worried about his wife, who had been injured in an accident back home. “I want to go,” he said. “But if I leave, I lose everything.”

Hernandez slept atop packing crates padded with cardboard. A suitcase served as his dinner table. In another building, Jacinto Santiago hung a scrap of cardboard in the open doorway of his room, which he shared with his son, daughter and son-in-law.

Santiago said that in some ways, he had been better off back home in the central state of San Luis Potosi. There, he had a thatched-roof house with windows and a hen that laid eggs.

Santiago, like the other laborers, said he was promised that he would be able to send money home.

His family was still waiting, because he hadn’t been paid. “My family isn’t the only one that suffers.

Anyone who has a family at home suffers,” he said.

Efrain Hernandez, 18, said recruiters told him his earnings would be held back so he wouldn’t get robbed: “They said it was for my own good.”

Outside one of the buildings, a group of men gathered under a dim light. It was nearing the 9 p.m. curfew, when the camp’s heavy metal gate rolls shut and workers retreat to their rooms.

Their voices echoed across the compound as they swapped stories about conditions in various camps.

There are at least 200 across Mexico, 150 in Sinaloa alone.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, complained that unlike some other camps, San Emilio didn’t offer beds or blankets. Then again, there were fewer rats, he said.

The conversation attracted a camp supervisor, who was surprised to see a reporter and photographer.

“When the people from Wal-Mart come,” she said, “they let us know in advance.”

She walked the journalists to the exit. The pickers went back to their rooms. The gate rolled shut.

The road to labor camps like San Emilio begins deep in the indigenous regions of central and southern Mexico, where advertising jingles play endlessly on the radio, echoing from storefront speakers.

“Attention. Attention. We are looking for 400 peasants to pick tomatoes.”
“You’ll earn 100 pesos per day, three free meals per day and overtime.”
“Vamonos a trabajar!” — Let’s go work!

On a warm January morning this year, dozens of indigenous people looking for work descended from mud-hut villages in the steep mountains of the Huasteca region. Nahuatl men wore holstered machetes. Women cradled children in their arms. Young men shouldered backpacks stuffed with the clothes they would wear for the next few months.

The laborers approached a knot of recruiters gathered outside a gas station in the town of Huejutla de Reyes, about 130 miles north of Mexico City.

Among those offering jobs at distant farms was Luis Garcia, 37. Garcia, a stocky Nahuatl Indian with silver-rimmed teeth, had risen from child picker to field boss to labor contractor for Agricola San Emilio. He lived just outside town, in a hilltop house behind tall gates, and was known to locals as “Don Luis.”

“We all owe our livelihoods to the farmworkers,” he said. “We have to treat them well, or the gringos don’t get their tomatoes.”

Labor contractors are key players in the agricultural economy, the link between export farms in the north and peasants in Huasteca and other impoverished regions. An estimated 150,000 make the pilgrimage every harvest season.

The contractors, working for agribusinesses, transport laborers to and from the farms. Often, they also oversee the camps and distribute workers’ pay.

Many contractors abuse their power, according to indigenous leaders and federal inspectors. They lie about wages and living conditions at the camps. Under pressure from growers, they sometimes refuse to bring laborers home, even at the end of their contracts, if there are still vegetables to be picked.

Earlier this year, 25 farmworkers walked 20 miles across a Baja California desert after a contractor left them on the roadside, short of their destination.

At the gas station in Huejutla de Reyes, villagers listened warily to the recruiters’ pitches. One was said to be representing a contractor wanted on human trafficking charges. Another worked for a contractor notorious for wage theft and other abuses.

Garcia had his own brush with controversy several years ago, when dozens of pickers accused him of holding them captive and abusing them at an onion farm in Chihuahua.

“They said I beat people. Lies, all lies,” Garcia said, bristling. “I wouldn’t be here today talking to you if it was true, would I?”

He depicted himself as a reformer who wanted to establish a trade association to set standards and drive out unscrupulous contractors.

But he saw no need to do more for workers. “The more protected they are, the less they work,” he said.

As he spoke, recruiters tried to outbid one another for laborers, boosting their offers of spending money for the two-day bus trip to Sinaloa.

Garcia won the day’s competition. With his smooth baritone, he persuaded about 40 people to get on his bus.

Garcia read their contract aloud to the workers, including the provision that they wouldn’t be paid until the end of their three-month term. He later acknowledged that federal law requires weekly payments but said that there were other issues to consider.

“Paying them every week is a problem because it causes lots of issues with drinking and drugging and violence,” Garcia said. “Huasteca people are fighters when they’re drunk.”

Proud of his success in a cutthroat business, Garcia portrayed himself as the product of a farm labor system in which the real bosses were U.S. companies.

“The gringos are the ones that put up the money and make the rules,” he said.

The U.S. companies linked to Agricola San Emilio through distributors have plenty of rules, but they serve mainly to protect American consumers, not Mexican field hands.

Strict U.S. laws govern the safety and cleanliness of imported fruits and vegetables. To meet those standards, retailers and distributors send inspectors to Mexico to examine fields, greenhouses and packing plants.

The companies say they are also committed to workers’ well-being and cite their ethical sourcing guidelines. Retailers increasingly promote the idea that the food they sell not only is tasty and healthful but was produced without exploiting workers.

But at many big corporations, enforcement of those standards is weak to nonexistent, and often relies on Mexican growers to monitor themselves, The Times found.

In some low-wage countries, U.S. retailers rely on independent auditors to verify that suppliers in apparel, footwear and other industries comply with social responsibility guidelines.

For the most part, that has not happened with Mexican farm labor. American companies have not made oversight a priority because they haven’t been pressured to do so. There is little public awareness of harsh conditions at labor camps. Many farms are in areas torn by drug violence, which has discouraged media coverage and visits by human rights groups and academic researchers.

Asked to comment on conditions at Agricola San Emilio, Subway said in a statement: “We will use this opportunity to reinforce our Code of Conduct with our suppliers.” The code says suppliers must ensure that workers “are fairly compensated and are not exploited in any way.”

Safeway said: “We take any and all claims regarding worker conditions seriously and are looking into each of the points you raise.”

In its vendor code of conduct, Safeway says that suppliers must offer a “safe and healthy work environment” and that it “will not tolerate any departure from its standards.” Vendors are expected to “self-monitor their compliance,” the code says.

Wal-Mart sought to distance itself from Agricola San Emilio, saying in a statement: “Our records show that we do not currently take from this facility.”

Asked if it had received produce from the farm in the past, Wal-Mart repeated its statement.

Executives at Agricola San Emilio and two firms that have distributed its produce — Triple H of Culiacan and Andrew and Williamson of San Diego — said Wal-Mart received shipments from the Mexican farm this year.

John Farrington, chief operating officer at Andrew and Williamson, said that his company shipped San Emilio tomatoes to the retailer and that inspectors from Wal-Mart had been to the farm.

Mari Cabanillas, an assistant camp supervisor at Agricola San Emilio, said Wal-Mart inspectors visited regularly, recommending cleanups and fresh coats of paint.

“They try and improve conditions here,” she said. “They’re very strict.”

As for Agricola San Emilio’s pay practices, Daniel Beltran, the firm’s director and legal counsel, said workers from the Huasteca region whose wages were withheld until the end of their three-month contracts had agreed to that arrangement. He said they could opt to be paid weekly, as others were.

A dozen workers, however, said in interviews that they had no choice in how they were paid.

Withholding workers’ pay is illegal even if they agree to it, according to Mexico’s federal labor law, a senior federal labor official and two labor lawyers.

In regard to living conditions, Beltran said the company stopped providing beds because workers dismantled them for firewood. The laborers are from regions where it’s common for people to sleep on the floor, he said.

He took issue with workers’ claims that they were underfed. “Some people, even if you give them chicken or beef every day, they’ll still want a different menu,” he said, adding that workers could supplement company rations by purchasing food from vendors.

SunFed, an Arizona firm that has distributed produce from Agricola San Emilio, said its representatives had inspected the fields and packinghouse at the farm but not the labor camp.

“The Mexican government would be the first line of protection for Mexican workers,” said Dan Mandel, president of SunFed, a distributor for supermarkets across the U.S.

Enforcement of Mexican labor laws in Sinaloa is feeble. One state official insisted, incorrectly, that withholding wages until the end of a contract was legal.

Federal labor inspectors are clear on the law but said they were largely powerless to crack down on deep-pocketed growers, who can stymie enforcement with endless appeals.

They just laugh at us,” said Armando Guzman, a senior official with Mexico’s federal Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare. “They mock authority and mock the letter of the law.”

Agricola San Emilio is no outlier. Harsh conditions persist in many camps.

At Agricola Rita Rosario, a cucumber exporter near Culiacan in Sinaloa, workers said they hadn’t been paid in weeks. Some were pawning their belongings to pay for diapers and food when Times journalists visited a year ago. Laborers said company managers had threatened to dump their possessions in the street if they persisted in demanding their wages.

“We have nowhere to go. We’re trapped,” said a 43-year-old man, looking around nervously.

Rita Rosario, under new management, started paying workers their back wages this year before suspending operations, according to a U.S. distributor who did business with the farm.

Workers at Agricola Santa Teresa, an export farm nearby, were doing odd jobs outside the camp on Sundays to earn spending money because their wages had been withheld.

The tomato grower supplies U.S. distributors whose customers include the Albertsons supermarket chain and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Told that workers hadn’t been paid, Enrique Lopez, director of Santa Teresa, said it wasn’t the company’s fault. Santa Teresa pays them by electronic bank deposit every week, he said.

Lopez said he suspected that the laborers handed over their ATM cards to the contractor who recruited them, a practice he said was customary for workers from indigenous regions.

“That is the agreement they have,” Lopez said. “We can’t control that situation.”

An LAUSD spokeswoman, Ellen Morgan, said the district requires suppliers to inspect farms from which they buy produce, primarily to ensure food safety. She said the district was formulating a new procurement policy that would probably address labor conditions too.

Albertsons declined to comment.

At Agricola El Porvenir, also near Culiacan, workers were required to disinfect their hands before picking cucumbers. Yet they were given just two pieces of toilet paper to use at the outhouses.

At Campo San Jose, where many of them lived, workers said rats and feral cats had the run of the cramped living quarters and feasted on their leftovers.

Laborers and their families bathed in an irrigation canal because the water had run out in the showers. In March, a snake was sighted in the canal, sparking a panic.

Carmen Garcia stepped out of the fetid waterway after washing her 1-year-old grandson. His skin was covered with boils that she blamed on insect bites.

“He itches constantly,” Garcia said. “I want to get a blood test, but I can’t get to a doctor.”

Agricola El Porvenir’s legal counsel, Eric Gerardo, said the company rents Campo San Jose from another agribusiness to handle the overflow when its own camps fill up. Efforts to reach the owner of the other business were unsuccessful.

“We don’t invest in it because it’s not ours,” Gerardo said.

Twenty miles away, at Campo Isabelitas, operated by the agribusiness Nueva Yamal, families used buckets in their room to relieve themselves because, they said, the toilets were filthy and lacked water.

Men defecated in a cornfield. Workers could be seen bathing in an irrigation canal; they said the camp’s showers were out of water.

Charles Ciruli, a co-owner of Arizona-based Ciruli Bros., which distributes Nueva Yamal tomatoes, visited the camp after being told about conditions there by The Times.

Through an attorney, he said that the men’s bathrooms “did not meet Ciruli’s standards” and that repairs had been made to “reinstate running water.” The attorney, Stanley G. Feldman, said in a letter that the women’s showers and toilets were “fully functioning,” with a paid attendant.

Asked why workers were washing in the irrigation canal, Feldman wrote: “Ciruli cannot explain this with certainty, bit it was told that may be a cultural practice among some workers.”

He added: “Ciruli will consult with the on-farm social worker and doctor to determine if a worker education campaign may be appropriate in this case.”

In June 2013, Bioparques found itself under rare government scrutiny. Three workers at one of the tomato grower’s labor camps escaped and complained to authorities about the wretched conditions.

Police, soldiers and labor inspectors raided the camp and found 275 people trapped inside. Dozens were malnourished, including 24 children, authorities said.

People were desperate, but at least the camp had showers and stoves, said laborer Gerardo Gonzalez Hernandez.

“To tell you the truth, Bioparques was a little better than other labor camps I’ve been to,” Gonzalez, 18, said in an interview at his home in the mountains north of Mexico City.

“That’s why I didn’t complain. I’ve seen a lot worse.””

Image: “At Campo Sacramento in Guasave, Sinaloa, barbed wire runs along the perimeter, and arrivals and departures are controlled around the clock.” LA Times


Added: Powerful forces have reduced working class wages around the globe:

“Whichever approach is taken by the political parties to lure the white working class, it’s going to have to go up against powerful forces that have reduced working-class wages around the globe.”

9/25/2014,Why Working-Class White Men Make Democrats Nervous, Newsweek, by

Comment: A free people wouldn’t allow barbarism. Definition of barbarism: “Absence of culture and civilization.” 

Dr. Judith Curry kindly relates comments by Professor Hegerl of UN IPCC and ClimateGate emails fame

“JC comment:  To me, the emails argue that there is insufficient traceability of the CMIP model simulations for the the IPCC authors to conduct a confident attribution assessment and at least some of the CMIP3 20th century simulations are not suitable for attribution studies.   The Uncertainty Monster rests its case (thank you, hacker/whistleblower).”

12/15/11, “Hegerl et al. react to the Uncertainty Monster paper,” Judith Curry, Climate Etc.,

Hegerl et al. comment

Curry and Webster (2011) discuss the important topic of uncertainty in climate research. While we agree that it is very important that uncertainty is estimated and communicated appropriately, their discussion of the treatment of uncertainty in the IPCC assessment reports regarding attribution is inaccurate in a number of important respects.

IPCC has placed high priority on communicating uncertainty (Moss and Schneider, 2000; Mastrandrea et al., 2010, 2011). Since detection of climate change and attribution of causes deals with distinguishing ‘signals’ or ‘fingerprints’ of climate change from climate variability, an approach requiring substantial use of statistics (see Hegerl et al., 2007), this area of research has always placed high priority on estimating uncertainties appropriately. Hence the chapter on attributing causes to climate change of IPCC AR4 (Hegerl et al., 2007) discusses the uncertainty in its findings in detail, including in an overview table where remaining uncertainties are explicitly listed for each finding. In this brief comment we will limit our focus to the four key errors and misunderstandings in Curry and Webster (2011) regarding the treatment of uncertainty in the detection and attribution chapter of IPCC AR4:

1) The authors claim that ‘The 20th century aerosol forcing used in most of the AR4 model simulations (Section relies on inverse calculations of optical properties to match climate model simulations with observations’ and thus claim ‘apparent circular reasoning’. This is incorrect. The inverse estimates of aerosol forcing given in are derived from observationally based analyses of temperature and are compared in Chapter 9 with “forward” estimates calculated directly from understanding of the emissions in order to determine whether the two are consistent. But it is critical to understand that such inverse estimates are an output of attribution analyses not an input, and thus the claim of ‘circular reasoning’ is wrong. The aerosol forcing used in 20C3M (see climate model simulations was based on forward calculations using emission data (Boucher and Pham, 2002; references in Randall et al., 2007). Further, detection and attribution methods determine whether model-simulated temporal and spatial patterns of change (referred to as ‘fingerprints’) that are expected in response to changes in external forcing are present in observations. For example, the aerosol fingerprint shows a spatial and temporal pattern of near-surface temperature changes that varies between hemispheres and over time (see Hegerl et al., 2007 section The solar fingerprint shows a vertical pattern of free atmosphere temperature changes that has warming throughout the atmosphere unlike the observed pattern of warming in the troposphere and cooling in the stratosphere, and also has a distinct temporal pattern, particularly on longer timescales. These patterns make the response to solar and aerosol forcing distinguishable (with uncertainties) from that due to greenhouse gas forcing. The amplitude of those fingerprint patterns is estimated from observations. Therefore, attribution of the dominant role of greenhouse gases in the warming of the past half-century is not sensitive to the uncertainties in the magnitude of aerosol forcing, or of other forcings, such as solar forcing. If the observed response were (at a given significance level) consistent with a smaller aerosol signal, balanced by a smaller greenhouse gas signal than that used in the models, then the results from fingerprint studies would include these possibilities within their statistical uncertainty ranges. Thus, attribution studies sample the range of possible forcings and responses much more completely than climate models do (Kiehl, 2007). Also, the IPCC AR4 assessment carefully explores other possible explanations, such as solar forcing alone, and finds that ‘it is very likely that greenhouse gases caused more global warming over the last 50 years than changes in solar irradiance’, based on studies exploring a range of solar forcing estimates and using a range of data (section, Hegerl et al., 2007). Such studies also attribute the warming in the first half of the 20th century to a combination of external natural and anthropogenic forcing and internal climate variability (table 9.4) Thus, Curry and Webster misrepresent the role of forcing magnitude uncertainties in attribution, and do not appreciate the level of rigour with which physically plausible alternative explanations of the recent climate change are explored.

2) ‘.. no traceable account is given in the AR4 of how the likelihood assessment in the attribution statement was reached’: Expert open reviews are designed to ensure that the steps taken during the AR4 were clear to attribution experts. An explanation of how the assessment was obtained is given in the introduction to the chapter, and includes a description of how the overall expert assessment is based on technical results and an assessment of their robustness, downgraded to account for remaining uncertainties (section 9.1.2, second-to-last paragraph). The detailed assessment of the causes of a variety of observed climate changes, including the results from published studies, the remaining uncertainties, and the overall assessment is given in table 9.4, which extends over more than 3 printed pages. However, improving the communication of such material to the broader audience of scientists who are not directly involved in attribution studies is also an important goal, and this exchange shows this can be improved.

3) ‘The high likelihood of the imprecise ‘most’ seems rather meaningless’: We disagree. The likelihood describes the assessed probability that ‘most’, i.e. more than 50%, of the warming is due to the increase in greenhouse gases. This statement has a clear meaning and an associated uncertainty, although explicitly listing ‘>50%’ in the text to ensure that no misunderstandings are possible could be helpful in future work.

4) The authors claim that ‘Figure 9.4 of the IPCC AR4 shows that all models underestimate the amplitude of variability of periods of 40-70 years’. This is an incorrect conclusion because Curry and Webster do not appear to have considered the uncertainties that were presented in the chapter. The figure (figure 9.7, not figure 9.4 of the assessment, see figure) clearly shows that the simulated variability of annual global mean temperature on time scales of 40- 70 years is consistent with the variability estimated from observations, given uncertainty in spectral estimates. Detection and attribution methods account for the contribution by internal climate variability to observed climate changes. Since the estimates of climate variability that are used for this purpose are generally obtained from climate model data, the chapter also contains a detailed discussion of the reliability of climate model variability for detection and attribution. Section states that detection and attribution methods yield an estimate of the internally generated climate variability in observations and palaeoclimatic reconstructions (see section 9.3.4) that is not explained by forcing. This ‘residual’ is comparable to the variability generated by climate models, and the patterns of variability in models reproduce modes of climate variability that are observed (see chapter 8). The remaining uncertainty in our estimates of internal climate variability is discussed as one of the reasons the overall assessment has larger uncertainty than individual studies (see, e.g. table 9.4).”

Curry/Webster response
We would like to thank the authors of the Comment (Hegerl et al. 2011), all of whom played leadership roles in the IPCC AR4, for their interest in our paper (Curry and Webster 2011). The authors are correct that since the Third Assessment Report, the IPCC has placed a high priority on communicating their conclusions about uncertainty. Our paper raises the issue of how the IPCC nonetheless again, in the AR4, fell short in this priority again as well as in investigating and judging uncertainty. Hegerl et al. focus on the section in our paper on Uncertainty in attribution of climate change,” which addresses the IPCC AR4 conclusion regarding attribution: “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
We are encouraged that Hegerl et al. acknowledge the importance of improving traceability—a recommendation made by the InterAcademy Council (IAC 2010) as well. We believe an independent person or group—and not just members of the small community of attribution experts—should be able to understand how the result came to be and to walk through the decision process and achieve the same result. The IPCC should consult with the larger scientific and engineering community experienced in traceability standards to determine what is meant by IPCC’s traceability guidelines, and what kind of traceability is actually suitable for the IPCC assessments. Beyond the quote we provided in our article, the IAC Review provides a starting point for a description of what is suitable: “… it is unclear whose judgments are reflected in the ratings that appear in the Fourth Assessment Report or how the judgments were determined. How exactly a consensus was reached regarding subjective probability distributions needs to be documented.”
Some fields (e.g. medical science, computer science, engineering) have stringent traceability requirements, particularly for products and processes that are mission critical or have life-and-death implications. We expect the level and type of traceability required of IPCC will be related to the complexity of the subject matter and the criticality of the final product. Increasing traceability in its assessment reports will enhance both accountability and openness of IPCC.
Hegerl et al. state: The remaining uncertainty in our estimates of internal climate variability is discussed as one of the reasons the overall assessment has larger uncertainty than individual studies.” Translating this uncertainty in internal climate variability (among the many other sources of uncertainty) into a “very likely” likelihood assessment is exactly what was not transparent or traceable in AR4 attribution statement. We most definitely “do not appreciate the level of rigor with which physically plausible non- greenhouse gas explanations of the recent climate change are explored,” for reasons that were presented in our paper. In our judgment, the types of analyses referred to and the design of the CMIP3 climate model experiments that contributed to the AR4 do not support a high level of confidence in the attribution. Hegerl et al. take issue with our statement “The high likelihood of the imprecise ‘most’ seems rather meaningless.”
Hegerl et al.’s proposal to add “>50%” to the attribution statement might have improved communication of uncertainty on this point. Nonetheless, this small change would still fall short of addressing the problems our article described (and quoted from assessment users) about the fundamental difference between 51% and 99% attribution.Hegerl et al. object to our statement in the original manuscript: “Figure 9.7 of the IPCC AR4 shows that all models underestimate the amplitude of variability of periods of 40-70 years,” on the basis that we do not consider the uncertainties presented in the chapter. Figure 9.7 is presented on a log-log scale, and the magnitudes of the uncertainties for both the model simulations and the observations are approximately a decade (a factor of 10).
Considering uncertainty, a more accurate statement of our contention would have been: The large uncertainties in both the observations and model simulations of the spectral amplitude of natural variability precludes a confident detection of anthropogenically forced climate change against the background of natural internal climate variability.Acknowledgements. Comments from the Denizens of Climate Etc. at are greatly appreciated. Particular thanks to Steve Mosher, John Carpenter and Pekka Perila on traceability.
[ClimateGate CRU, approx. 2007] Emails
subject: Re: 5AR runs next iteration- reply by 26th
to: Karl Taylor <>
Hi all,
about attribution in some house subcommittee, I was very happy to be able to resort to Tim’s argument that the model runs were older than the heat uptake data and therefore, there was no secret tuning in the 2001 ocean attribution
So using the 20th c for tuning is just doing what some people have long suspected us of doing…and what the nonpublished diagram from NCAR showing correlation between aerosol forcing and sensitivity also suggested. Slippery slope… I suspect Karl is right and our clout is not enough to prevent the modellers from doing this if they can. We do loose the ability, though, to use the tuning variable
for attribution studies.
Should we ask to admit in their submission what variables were considered when tuning, and if any climate change data were considered and at what temporal and spatial representation (global mean trend?), and advise that we will not be able to use those models for any future attribution diagrams? That would at least lay it in the open…
Karl Taylor wrote:
> Hi Peter and all,
> There will clearly be different perspectives on this.  A model
> developer will want to make use of all available observational
> information to help decide whether his model is realistic or not.
> We can envision two candidate models that appear equivalent in most
respects, but one fails to produce ENSO’s.  The developer would choose

> the one that simulated ENSO.
> Likewise, suppose two candidate models were identical in most
> respects, but one could accurately simulate the climate of the 20th
> century (when all forcings were included), whereas the second had a
> very low global sensitivity and produced too little warming.  The
> developer would again want to choose the model that reproduced the
> observed trends.  In fact this model would probably produce a better
> estimate when forced by future emissions scenarios too (because,
> presumably, its sensitivity is closer to the truth).
> It would be hard to argue that information about 20th century trends
> shouldn’t be used in model development.
> I agree that this may rule out attribution studies (following the
> established approaches), but wouldn’t we have to argue that
> attribution studies are more important that model projections to
> convince the groups not to consider trends in the model development
> cycle?
> cheers,
> Karl
>> Hello everybody,
>> change experiments should be run as part of the model development
>> process, ie whether model developers should test their model against
>> climate change as they are developing their model. I think it might be
>> worthwhile us developing and expressing a view on this as we don’t want
>> to risk getting into a position where attribution results in AR5 are
>> undermined by the development and model tuning procedure adopted by
>> modelling centres.
Also I don’t think you quite captured the point that another reason for

>> separating out the ghg response from the response to other forcings is
>> to aid understanding, as we are finding out in trying to understand the
>> precipitation response. I think that requesting ALL, GHG, and NAT
>> ensembles would be the basic set.
>> Best wishes,
>> Peter
>> On Fri, 2007-05-18 at 10:33 -0400, Gabi Hegerl wrote:
>>> Hi all.
>>>  From your comments, I assembled a word file with our suggestions on
>>> the 5AR run
>>> proposal, but I am not sure
>>> I caught it all completely. Also, I had a chat with Jerry yesterday,
>>> and he said getting

>>> suggestions of what should be stored will be useful at this point.
>>> My plan is to communicate this with Jerry when we are done with it,
>>> and then propose
>>> it at the WGCM meeting.
>>> I drew a strawman list of what I could think of in 3 minutes, and am
>>> asking you to
>>> add to it. Its all in track changes, so dont hesitate to go wild
>>> (but please keep in mind that
>>> we need to restrict data requests to something you think you will
>>> work with in the next
>>> years, since it is a fair amount of effort from the modelling
>>> centres to haul the data over
>>> etc, and the more we request, the more likely it is that only few
>>> ensemble members etc
>>> get sent…)
>>> Karl, I am cc;ing you since your perspective would be useful

JC comment:  To me, the emails argue that there is insufficient traceability of the CMIP model simulations for the the IPCC authors to conduct a confident attribution assessment and at least some of the CMIP3 20th century simulations are not suitable for attribution studies.   The Uncertainty Monster rests its case (thank you, hacker/whistleblower).”
Ed. note: Most bolding was added by me. The “JC comment” appears as you see  near the end of Dr. Curry’s post. I placed it additionally at the top of this post. This article by Dr. Curry came to my attention in the course of doing research on Hegerl. UN IPCC author Hegerl says, “IPCC has placed high priority on communicating uncertainty,” but this isn’t what US taxpayers are told. We’re told human CO2 is a life and death matter, killing every second, settled science, that Americans are the biggest murderers, and therefore must write a check for millions each day in perpetuity. This was declared “settled science” in the US by George Bush #1 when he mandated CO2 danger and action in US law in 1990, commanded 13 federal agencies act to solve global change, and that US taxpayers write checks for climate research all over the world for endless global “changes.” CO2 is mentioned near the end in section 204. The CO2 screaming going on today is an act. Most US politicians know they’re just trying to steal a lot more money from defenseless chump taxpayers. And that doesn’t being to talk about billions being stolen yearly from Americans via regulation. The vast majority of laws impacting the US economy today are not decided by congress but by regulatory agencies. Keeping most Americans unaware of all this has worked out great. The mafia wish they’d thought of a cash business this good. Politicians and profiteers get to demonize America, say we’re selfish because we don’t pay enough and we need to sign a “treaty.” They don’t mention that even if CO2 terror does exist, US CO2 has plunged and is no longer a factor in the global number. 90% of US politicians should be in jail. Americans are in a worse situation today vs their “rulers” than they were vs British occupying troops in 1776. The Bush family and Fox News are the country’s 2 biggest problems. They’ve merged with the radical left to combine forces against what they view as the biggest enemy: ordinary Americans, the ‘Silent Majority’ types.
$18.5 billion worth of climate regulations were issued in 2012 alone. No need for congress. “The vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations.”

In 2011, the US Congress passed a total of 81 new “laws” while government agencies issued 3,807 new regulations.” Congress is irrelevant.
At the outset of 2013 a substantial portion of America finds itself un-represented, while Republican leaders increasingly represent only themselves. By the law of supply and demand, millions of Americans, (arguably a majority) cannot remain without representation. Increasingly the top people in government, corporations, and the media collude and demand submission as did the royal courts of old. This marks these political orphans as a “country class.””…

Current heat wave in western US ‘won’t set records,’ and at the same time Texas is having ‘cool-even record cool-temperatures-AP, Borenstein


The extreme heat should continue for about a week, but it won’t set records, James said.”

7/1/13, “Why this heat wave’s so scary and what’s behind it,” AP, Seth Borenstein

“Q: So what’s causing all this?

A: Part of it is normal summer heat spurts, said meteorologist Kenneth James of the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md. But there’s another factor and that’s the jet stream.

Normally the jet stream moves generally west-to-east, but when it slows and swings dramatically to the north or south, extreme weather can happen.

What’s happening now is “a really big kink in the jet stream, about as big as you can see anytime, covering the whole western U.S.,” said heat wave expert Ken Kunkel, a professor of atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University.

To the west of the kink, in Arizona and Nevada, there’s a high pressure system just parked there with stagnant heat, Kunkel said. And to its east are cool — even record cool — temperatures in Texas, he said.

Q: When will it end?

A: The extreme heat should continue for about a week, but it won’t set records, James said.”…


Comment: The AP headline didn’t match the story.

CO2 realists have scientific and ethical high ground yet fail to claim it. Two simple charts show it’s never been about CO2. GOP ‘leadership’ won’t let members talk about CO2 science, that CO2 isn’t a danger, instead forces them to change subject to jobs

The facts about CO2 speak for themselves, that it’s not a danger.  It’s literally impossible to defend CO2 terror. The entire hypothesis is that CO2 causes rising temperatures but that hasn’t happened  in 15-17 years. If it ever happened. Even if you ignore CO2 science, US CO2 has plunged while other countries’ has risen. It’s beyond criminal to continue diverting time and taxpayer money on Co2 terror. Beltway “GOP leadership” won’t let members talk about the science when it’s a simple case to make with ample evidence. Members are told to change the subject to jobs if CO2 comes up. The case against CO2 danger in 2013 couldn’t be clearer. GOP perhaps wants the big money pushing non-existent CO2 terror.

6/27/13, “GOP climate tack: Talk jobs, not science,” Politico, Darren Goode

“The jobs-centric rhetoric is no accident, GOP consultant Mike McKenna said — although he noted that many Republicans won’t go along with that approach.

This is a strategy that leadership wants to take, especially in the House,” McKenna said. Rank and file are perfectly willing to talk about the underlying science.”


7/1/13, “Seizing the High Ground,” Joe Bastardi, The Patriot Post

The president’s recent climate speech has rekindled the fire of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) debate. I believe skeptics have the high ground scientifically, ethically and economically — yet they fail to seize it….

It only takes one example to disapprove their idea. So when this chart comes up, CO2 vs. temps through the ages [the purple line showing CO2 much higher in the past]:


or this (below) chart demonstrating the disconnect with Co2 as air temperatures move in tandem with ocean temps:”

Jan. 2013, “The phase relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature, Global and Planetary Change, Ole Humluma, b, Corresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author,Kjell Stordahlc, Jan-Erik Solheimd

“Fig. 1. Monthly global atmospheric CO2

(continuing): “It satisfies right off the bat the idea this carbon theory is wrong. If saying it’s wrong is too harsh, at the very least it calls into question its relevance, enough so that it’s open for debate. But it should also lead us to ask: Why would one be trying to force this idea on people when there’s at least obvious doubt, if not outward refutation?…


What is ethical about suppressing other ideas in a debate about the future, when there is obvious doubt? Doubts raised by skeptics are dismissed out of hand, with the hope that the public doesn’t know about such examples as listed above. The mere fact that the other side always claims there’s no doubt, when obviously there is given recent temperature trends that they struggle to explain — and when they do (the so-called missing heat in the ocean) we can find Dr. Bill Gray explaining it with the paper above — calls into question not only their ideas, but motives (I will leave dealing with motives out in this missive).

But here’s the other angle. By advocating draconian solutions that cut down the lifeline of the economy with no clear cheaper alternative, they suppress the chance for society as a whole to thrive. It threatens the ideas that are the basic foundation of this nation to even survive. Does anyone remember “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? A life without liberty has no pursuit of happiness, and without a vision, the people perish. It’s not a hard equation. So I don’t think it’s ethical to destroy the chance for people to make a better life for themselves. And handcuffing the economy certainly does that — and in reality, it’s unethical.”…


2/21/13, IPCC Head Pachauri Acknowledges Global Warming Standstill,” The Australian, Graham Lloyd
The UN’s climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain’s Met Office, but said it would need to last “30 to 40 years at least” to break the long-term global warming trend.”…
Latest global CO2 emissions:

6/10/13, “US Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall as Global Emissions Rise,, Paul C. ‘Chip’ Knappenberger
Notice that the U.S. is far and away the leader in reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while China primarily is responsible for pushing global CO2 emissions higher. In fact, CO2 emissions growth in China more than offsets all the CO2 savings that we have achieved in the U.S.”


Chart from IEA report, p. 2 


134 scientists write to UN Sec. Gen., ask him to desist from blaming climate disasters on global warming that hasn’t happened for 16 yrs.:

The NOAA “State of the Climate in 2008” report asserted that 15 years or more without any statistically-significant warming would indicate a discrepancy between observation and prediction. Sixteen years without warming have therefore now proven that the models are wrong by their creators’ own criterion.”…(2nd parag. fr. end of letter). “Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years.”…
NOAA study says US 2012 weather extremes due to natural
causes, not global warming:
4/12/13, Study Reveals Global Warming Not To Blame For Last Year’s Crippling Drought,” with AP
A new federal study reveals that global warming is not to blame for last year’s extreme drought that crippled the central Great Plains. The study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Drought Task Force places the blame on natural variations.“…
News of US CO2 plunge has been described as:


6/20/13,The Economist on The New Republic on the ‘pause’, Dr. Judith Curry, 

1/27/12, Nobel Prize-winning scientist and Obama supporter Dr. Ivan Giaever resigned from elite American Physical Society over its policy advocating global warming.

16 scientists sign WSJ article supporting facts that CO2 is not a pollutant and isn’t harming the world.

Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.”

1/27/12, No Need to Panic About Global Warming, Wall St. Journal, opinion

There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.”

“Editor’s Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:”…

A May 2013 CBO report commissioned by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) states US on its own has little effect on global climate:

p. 14: “Acting on its own, the United States could have only a modest effect on the amount of warming.”

May 2013 CBO report, “Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment


The May 2013 Waxman commissioned report also says further US CO2 reductions will be meaningless, that global emissions won’t improve without significant reductions from countries like China and India (page 14, left column), and that any further US CO2 reductions:p. 14, “would be offset by increases in emissions overseas—.”…