31 August 2010

Financial Times on IPCC

The Financial Times strikes exactly the right note on the IPCC (and its chairman).  Here is an excerpt:
Restoring public confidence in the IPCC is essential, because it is the main intermediary between scientists and politicians who have to decide on climate policies that could cost the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars. Given that most scientists believe in the need to tackle global warming, the IPCC cannot hope to satisfy the most extreme “climate sceptics”. But it must never again undermine its own credibility by sloppily repeating unsubstantiated statements that exaggerate the risk of climate change, such as the notorious claim that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

At its plenary meeting in South Korea next month, the 194 national governments that control the IPCC must push through a thorough overhaul of management and procedures. The IPCC needs stronger leadership to maintain credibility, including a new executive committee (with at least one member who is not a climate scientist) and a chief executive rather than a relatively powerless secretary. Although Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman since 2002, has been unfairly vilified in some quarters, his recent performance under pressure has not helped the cause of climate science; the time has come for him to move on.

A rejuvenated IPCC leadership could tackle the deficiencies in its review process. This should become more inclusive, welcoming alternative views where these are scientifically valid, and at the same time more exclusive, rejecting unsubstantiated claims of dramatic change. The many uncertainties need recognition, with IPCC assessments talking more about risks and probabilities than they have in the past. Then the debate can get back to the real issues posed by climate change.


  1. Roger, I left this comment at Jeff Id's, but I'd love to hear your response:

    What I don’t understand is why an assessment isn’t a rather straightforward, easily compiled process. If the purpose is simply to summarize all the available science on a particular topic, aren’t scientists as up-to-date on their areas of interest as the average law professor? Every year, law profs update/annotate the texts they author with any changes in statutes or case law which affect whatever specialized area of the law they cover. If you wanted a current ‘assessment’ of the law in that area, you could easily find a quality hornbook which would give you the majority and minority view on the key developments.

    Isn’t the same true for science? If you ask Pielke, Jr. about disaster losses, he’s all over the studies that have been done and the ways the IPCC or whoever has screwed up their summary. I would assume that is also true for his dad who is always taking issue with some study or another and producing a blog post where he cites all the studies he and others have done which take a contrary position. I would expect the same is true of Lindzen, Spencer, Christy, Michaels, et al.

    I mean how hard is it to pull together all the relevant studies on some particular point and outline where they stand? I would think a climate science prof in grad school could go thru the most recent IPCC assessment divide up the major areas among the students and have each prepare a summary of all the studies which pertain to that area (requiring them to include everything whether they personally agreed with it or not). Law students and law clerks do this type stuff all the time. It ain’t hard.

    When the IPCC has failed to adequately address both sides of an issue, it should be easy to point out where they’ve missed the boat. In fact, I would bet that an enterprising blogger could put together an online version of an assessment with a wiki for comments by reviewers and knowledgeable others who are shut out by the lead authors. How damn embarassing would it be for the IPCC dinosaur if some bloggers, with no budget, put together a work product which did what the IPCC is supposed to do and did it better and with more balance?

  2. The Daily Express went with the headline, in huge capital letters, "CLIMATE CHANGE LIES ARE EXPOSED".

  3. -1-Stan

    A literature review should, in principle, be straightforward. See Bouwers recent review of the literature on disasters and climate change. But to do a review well requires knowing the literature well, which is not so easy, especially in the area of climate change where there are many literatures across disciplines.

    On some topics the IPCC did well, on others (several that I publish on) the IPCC did not do so well.

  4. "The IPCC needs stronger leadership to maintain credibility..."

    Maintains?! "Merit, earn, or achieve" would have been better choices of words.

  5. The only cure for the IPCC is to shut it down.
    It was designed to sell CO2 as the primary issue of climate. That has failed due to the bad science, corrupt politics and unethical science, not to mention the feeding frenzy trying to profit off the 'solutions' the IPCC is promoting. Until a new group that is willing to look at all of the climate influences that exist, and is started from the beginning to be transparent, credible and accountable nothing effective will be done. There is no point in wasting more time on this CO2 obsession or the organizations that have prospered from this obsession.

  6. "... unfairly vilified..." ?

    I'm afraid I can't agree that this article strikes exactly the right note.