Posted 31 August 2010

The powerful international panel set up to advise governments on the effects of global warming needs a major overhaul, an independent investigation has concluded.  - The Independent     More 

Official media release by Inter Academy Council   here 

"One of the most shocking things for those who champion science, as I do, has been the sight of the science Establishment reacting to each scandal in climate science with indifference or contempt ."  Matt Ridley, in The Times, UK.

This Discredited IPCC Process Must Be Purged
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 06:04 Matt Ridley, The Times

We cannot make sane decisions on global warming if the 'experts' present
us with evidence that is biased

This month, after a three-year investigation, Harvard University
suspended a prominent professor of psychology for scandalously
overinterpreting videos of monkey behaviour. The incident has sent shock
waves through science because it suggests that a body of data is
unreliable. The professor, Marc Hauser, is now a pariah in his own field
and his papers have been withdrawn. But the implications for society are
not great - no policy had been based on his research.

Yesterday, after a four-month review, a committee of scientists
concluded that the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) has "assigned high confidence to statements for
which there is very little evidence", has failed to enforce its own
guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored
critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest".

Enormous and expensive policy changes have been based on the flawed work
of these scientists. Yet there is apparently to be no investigation,
blame, suspension or withdrawal of papers, just a gentle bureaucratic
fattening of the organisation with new full-time posts.

IPCC reports are supposed to be the gold standard account of what is -
and is not - known about global warming. The panel boasts that it uses
only peer-reviewed scientific literature. But its claims about mountain
ice turned out to be anecdotes from a climbing magazine, its claims on
the Amazon's vulnerability to drought from a Brazilian pressure group's
website and 42 per cent of the references in one chapter proved to be to
reports by Greenpeace, WWF and other "grey" literature. Yesterday's
review finds that guidelines on the use of this grey literature "are
vague and have not always been followed".

For instance, the notorious claim that glaciers in the Himalayas would
disappear by 2035 seems to have been based on a misprint (for 2350) in a
document issued by a pressure group. When several reviewers challenged
the assertion in draft, they were ignored. When Indian scientists
challenged it after publication, they were not just dismissed but
vilified and accused of "voodoo science" by the IPCC chairman, Rajendra

By contrast, when two academics, Ross McKitrick and Pat Michaels, found
a strong link between temperature rise and local economic development -
implying that recent warming is partly down to local, not global factors
- their paper was ignored for two drafts, despite many review comments
drawing attention to the omission. It was finally given a grudging
reference, with a false assertion that the data were rebutted by other
data that turned out to be non-existent.

We now know the back story of this episode: the e-mails leaked from the
University of East Anglia include this from Professor Phil Jones,
referring to exactly this paper: "I can't see either of these papers
being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow -
even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

(Note that the IPCC had appointed Professor Jones as co-ordinating lead
author to pass judgment on his own papers, as well as those of his
critics. Learning nothing, it has appointed one of Professor Jones's
closest colleagues for the next report. This is asking not to be taken
seriously.) These are not merely procedural issues. They have real
consequences for science and society. All the errors and biases that
have come to light in recent months swerve in the direction of
exaggerating the likely impact of climate change. According to the
economist Richard Tol, one part of the 2007 report (produced by Working
Group 2) systematically overstated the negative impacts of climate
change, while another section (written by Working Group 3)
systematically understated the costs of emissions reduction. Indur
Goklany, an independent science scholar, likewise noticed that the
report had quoted a study that estimated the number of people at
increased risk of reduced water shortage in the future as a result of
climate change, but omitted to mention the same source's estimate of the
number of people at decreased risk. The latter number was larger in all
cases, so that "by the 2080s the net global population at risk declines
by up to 2.1 billion people".

This is not a new problem. The unilateral redrafting of IPCC reports by
"lead authors" after reviewers had agreed them, and the writing of a
sexed-up "summary for policy makers" before the report was complete,
have discomfited many scientists since the first report. It is no great
surprise that the "experts" who compiled one part of the 2007 report
included three from Greenpeace, two Friends of the Earth
representatives, two Climate Action Network representatives, and a
person each from the activist organisations WWF, Environmental Defense
Fund, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Frankly, the whole process, not just the discredited Dr Pachauri (in
shut-eyed denial at a press conference yesterday), needs purging or it
will drag down the reputation of science with it. One of the most
shocking things for those who champion science, as I do, has been the
sight of the science Establishment reacting to each scandal in climate
science with indifference or contempt. The contrast with the thorough
investigation of the Hauser affair is striking.

Three years ago, not having paid much attention, I thought that IPCC
reports were reliable, fair and transparent. No longer. Despite coming
from a long line of coal-mining entrepreneurs, I'm not a "denier": I
think carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. I'm not even a sceptic (yet):
I think the climate has warmed and will warm further. But I am now a
"lukewarmer" who has yet to see any evidence saying that the current
warming is, or is likely to be, unprecedented, fast or tending to

So I have concluded that global warming will most probably be a fairly
minor problem - at least compared with others such as poverty and
habitat loss - for nature as well as people. After watching the
ecologically and economically destructive policies enacted in its name
(biofuels, wind power), I think we run the risk of putting a tourniquet
round our collective necks to stop a nosebleed.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 September 2010 )
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