06 April 2007

IPCC - Bad Science, Bad Policy

You do not conduct good science by letting politicians completely rewrite the research of scientists prior to its publication - just as, one might add, you don't develop good diplomatic and military strategy by letting politicians rewrite the intelligence prior to its publication.

Yet, that is the unedifying process that we are witnessing today in Brussels, as "last-minute wrangling" delays today's launch of "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," the second working group's contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). On February 2nd, the Summary for Policy-Makers was released with great fanfare. We were told that global climate change is now undeniably human-induced. What we were not told was that the rise in sea level was larger in the early part of last century than in the latter part, that there has unexpectedly been no increase in sea level for about 15 years, and that the Summary continued the trend found in the IPCC's previous assessments of lowering its estimates for sea level increases. What we were further not told was that the projected temperature increase is significantly lower than what was being projected in the last IPCC report in 2001. So, the headlines should have read Climate Panic Exaggerated.

As I have clearly stated before, irrespective of the extent of any global climate change and the extent to which mankind might be contributing to the effect, politicians need to be addressing how we are going to end our dependency on the world's finite reserves of oil and to achieve energy security without damaging either our economy or our ability to compete internationally.

However, it ultimately does nobody any favours that the scientific data is withheld from us and that the debate is therefore allowed to become polarised and politicised. On May 4th, we will finally be allowed to see the full report – but not the actual report as written by the scientists. All that we will see is the edited version released by the politicians after they have finished ensuring that there are "no inconsistencies with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter".

In conclusion, I had to laugh when last night's BBC Ten O'Clock News showed a river in Afghanistan flooding its banks this week as an example of global warming. As someone who has lived in the area and remembers annual reports of houses being washed away as the winter snow melts, this is no more a sign of global warming than the annual melting of the ice caps or the appearance of daffodils – these are but signs of spring.

[Most people understand a summary to be a precis of a larger body of research but not in this case. The procedures clearly document that the scientists gave their report to the politicians, who then released their "summary" at the start of February, which unsurprisingly confirmed their preconceived agenda of anthropogenic global warming. They have since spent the last couple of months making the necessary adjustments to the scientists' technical report "to ensure consistency with" the policy summary. Of course, this is not the first time we have been here.]


Margaret said...

I don't buy into the AGW hysteria either, but still think we need to plan what we can do to help the world's poorest, who will surely be hit hardest by whatever changes are happening to the climate, if only out of basic compassion.

sceptic said...

Who says politicians never give straight answers? See Roger Helmer on climate change over at ConHome:

Is the earth getting warmer? Slightly.

Is there good evidence that the rate of warming is increasing and becoming catastrophic? No.

Is it caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions? Probably not.

Do proposed policy responses like Kyoto make sense? Definitely not.

John said...

It has been suggested that I appear to attribute the phrase "undeniably human-induced" to the IPCC rather than to the media whose headlines I go on to reference. I am happy to correct this impression. The IPCC's use of language was more deliberate and simply asserted that it was "very likely" that global climate change is human induced. Its Summary made clear that this means "more than 90% certain".