Monday, July 27, 2009

The Truth About the IPCC

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is seen by some as an independent, scientific body which provides objective analysis of the climate and offers predictions about the future – predictions which then inform government policies around the world. This perception, carefully fostered over many years, is false.

The IPCC is a political agency, directed by politically supported bureaucrats who selectively use science to promote a political agenda.

Let us outline how the IPCC works. First, a small select group of bureaucrats define the agenda for the work of the panel. The focus for this work has always been on the human causes of climate change – they have never been in the business of systematically reviewing all of the causes of climate variation. Second, having defined the agenda – in 1990, there were three lines of inquiry determined by the panel. For each agenda, a team of scientists are asked to coordinate a review of the available evidence. Each “chapter” is directed by a lead author, supported by a small group of five or six lead members. Some 2,500 people are involved in this work. While some are experts in their field, others are not. For example, in the 1996 report on health and climate, one lead author was an expert in the impact of motorcycle helmets on accidents rates. Some are environmental activists with no science background and others are scientists whose interest are narrowly defined and in line with the views of the lead author.

So, scientists review evidence and the lead authors shape this evidence into so-called scientific chapters. It is commonly said that 2,500 scientists wrote the last IPCC report. In fact, there wee 1,190 who contributed and not all of them were scientists – many were political appointments, environmental activists or individuals with a vested interest in the outcomes. The actual texts we read were written by 35 scientists and not all of those whose work they summarized agree with the summaries.

The document most people see and read – especially government officials and Ministers – is known as the Summary for Policy Makers. This document is not written by scientists but by bureaucrats, aided by lead authors. The draft of this document is submitted to UN member governments who can insist that changes be made. Scientists who write the bulk of the final report do not see these drafts and have no avenue to correct errors that creep in during this governmental review process. And errors and misrepresentations do occur. For example, the 2007 Summary for Policy Makers contains errors of substance, for example in the way it represents the threat of malaria resulting from climate change. There is also poor and shoddy work in several reports, including the discredited “hockey stick diagram”.
Many assume that the Summary for Policy Makers is a summary of the consensus view of the scientists who have chosen to associate themselves with the IPCC. It is not.

Indeed, several IPCC authors have resigned as a result of the Summary misrepresenting their views and the views of others. The Summary for Policy Makers is the consensus view of Governments who have a variety of socio-economic and political agendas.

It is also assumed that the IPCC makes predictions. It does not. What they do offer is a set of scenarios based on climate computer models which, as the IPCC themselves admit, are limited in their ability to model climate. These scenarios provide speculative views of the future, based on certain key assumptions. These assumptions do not include any weighting for human adaptability, any significant role of sunspots, the earth’s orbit and tilt and several other factors which are known to impact climate. They also give undue emphasis to certain phenomenon – CO2 emissions, for example – over others. The climate models are a work in progress. They are also flawed.

In Plimer, in his book Heaven and Earth, also cites examples of data being fabricated to support global warming alarmism by IPCC authors (see especially pages 481-483). In one cases, legal measures to secure access to the data had to be used so that the claims made by the IPCC authors could be subject to peer review. In this peer review, where the data was subject to scrutiny, the evidence showed that urbanization has a significant impact on temperature data – something the IPCC said was not the case. Integrity and normal scientific processes are not the norm in many IPCC supported studies.

A great many peer reviewed scientific studies contradict the IPCC’s view of climate, climate change and its consequences and these are summarized in the report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). The existence of these studies, and the different implications they give rise to for governments, speaks to the selective use of scientific work by the IPCC.

The view that the IPCC represents the consensus of science is not an established fact. The view that the IPCC is an independent science-driven body providing “neutral” evaluative assessments is a na├»ve view of the work of this United Nations governmental body. The view that this organization offers a thoroughgoing review of the current state of the science of climate change is contradicted by many different sources. The view that the IPCC uses process which are imbued with integrity and the best practices of science is laughable. We should see the IPCC for what it is – a politically motivated and supported UN organization.

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