Playing politics with global warming

Mark W. Hendrickson's picture

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is widely regarded in the media as the ultimate authority on climate change. Created by two divisions of the United Nations, and recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, its pronouncements are received as if they come down from Mount Olympus or Mount Sinai. The common presumption is that the IPCC has assembled the best scientific knowledge.

Let’s take a closer look at this organization to see whether it merits such uncritical deference.

The IPCC’s Feb. 2007 report stated: It is “very likely” that human activity is causing global warming. Why then, just two months later, did the vice chair of the IPCC, Yuri Izrael, write, “the panic over global warming is totally unjustified;” “there is no serious threat to the climate;” and humanity is “hypothetically ... more threatened by cold than by global warming?”

IPCC press releases have warned about increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, yet Dr. Vincent Gray, a member of the IPCC’s expert reviewers’ panel asserts, “There is no relationship between warming and [the] level of gases in the atmosphere.”

A 2001 IPCC report presented 245 potential scenarios. The media publicity that followed focused on the most extreme scenario, prompting the report’s lead author, atmospheric scientist Dr. John Christy, to rebuke media sensationalism and affirm, “The world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints ... the worst-case scenario [is] not going to happen.”

Clearly, the IPCC does not speak as one voice when leading scientists on its panel contradict its official position. The solution to this apparent riddle lies in the structure of the IPCC itself.

What the media report are the policymakers’ summaries, not the far lengthier reports prepared by scientists. The policymakers’ summaries are produced by a committee of 51 government appointees, many of whom are not scientists.

The policymakers’ summaries are presented as the “consensus” of 2,500 scientists who have contributed input to the IPCC’s scientific reports. “Consensus” does NOT mean that all of the scientists endorse the policymakers’ summaries.

In fact, some of the 2,500 scientists have resigned in protest against those summaries. Other contributing scientists, such as the individuals quoted above, publicly contradict the assertions of the policymakers’ summaries.

To better understand the “consensus” presented in the policymakers’ summaries, it is helpful to be aware of the structure of the IPCC. Those who compose the summaries are given considerable latitude to modify the scientific reports.

Page four of Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work states: “Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group of the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.”

In other words, when there is a discrepancy between what the scientists say and what the authors of the policymakers’ summaries want to say, the latter prevails.

Here is a specific example: One policymakers’ summary omitted several important unequivocal conclusions contained in the scientists’ report, including, “No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of observed climate change] to anthropogenic [i.e., man-made] causes,” and “None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.”

These significant revisions were made, according to IPCC officials quoted in Nature magazine, “to ensure that it [the report] conformed to a policymakers’ summary.”

Elsewhere, Rule 3 of IPCC procedures states: “Documents should involve both peer review by experts and review by governments.”

In practice, IPCC sometimes bypasses scientific peer review, and the policymakers’ summaries reflect only governmental (political) review.

This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the IPCC is a political, not a scientific, entity. It is the “Inter-GOVERNMENTAL Panel on Climate Change,” not a “global SCIENTISTS’ panel.”

Also, “consensus” is a political phenomenon, a compromise, whereas scientific truth is not subject to obtaining a political majority.

(Actually, 31,000 scientists have signed a petition protesting the “consensus” that human activity is dangerously altering the Earth’s climate. Consider that against the 2,500 scientists cited by IPCC — many of whom publicly refute IPCC’s press releases.)

To its credit, the IPCC debunks many of the alarmist exaggerations of radical greens. However, its scientific authority remains irreparably compromised by political tampering.

When a U.S. State Department official writes to the co-chair of the IPCC that “it is essential that ... chapter authors be prevailed upon to modify their text in an appropriate manner,” the political character of IPCC is plain.

The sponsors of the IPCC, the United Nations, and liberal American politicians all share the goal of reducing Americans’ wealth by capping our consumption of energy with a binding international climate change treaty. They are willing to resort to scientific fraud to further their goal.

In the words of Al Gore’s ally, former Under-Secretary of State Tim Wirth, “Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing” by reducing Americans’ consumption of fossil fuels. Keep that in mind whenever the IPCC is cited in support of a climate treaty.

[Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and contributing scholar with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City (Penn.) College.]

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dobermanmacleod's picture
Submitted by dobermanmacleod on Fri, 06/12/2009 - 5:34am.

Mr Hendrickson neatly describes dissent in the IPCC, and concludes that since there wasn't universal consent over the IPCC's conclusions, that the IPCC's conclusions are simply political.

The Earth is warming. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that global warming is happening. Their three key conclusions are:
1. It is "unequivocal" that global warming is occurring.
2. The probability this is caused by natural climatic processes is less than 5%.
3. The probability this is caused by human emissions is over 90%.

It is simply a fallacy that science is set in stone, and that there is 100% agreement on any established theory. The fact that the IPCC (made up of experts from different fields and ideologies) didn't produce conclusions endorsed by all of it's members is to be expected, and to identify this as a reason to doubt their three key conclusions is simply playing politics (demagoguery).

If a conclusion is 90% likely, then it is about as likely as can reasonably be expected. That means that about 90% of the IPCC panel agrees with that conclusion. Because Mr Hendrickson is able to cherry-pick that one in ten experts on the IPCC who dissent says more about Mr Hendrickson's bias than it does about the validity of the IPCC's key conclusions.

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Fri, 06/12/2009 - 8:13am.

Make no mistake about it, the IPCC is a political organization. It is an advocacy organization. It has evolved that way. There are far too few actual climate scientists and space weather scientists on the panel. It has many others from a number of disciplines including governmental and humanities disciplines.
I am a mechanical engineer and I feel like I can speak intelligently on how and why mechanical systems work. I am not qualified to make pronouncements and predictions on electrical and controls systems. These are not my areas of expertise. But the IPCC does that as a normal course of daily operations.
There is a tried and true method of discovery called the scientific process. It basically goes like this:
Ask a Question
Do Background Research
Construct a Hypothesis
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Communicate Your Results

This communication is to be peer reviewed before released to an alarmed public. This hasn't been happening for some time.
We have the rise of Advocacy science. Traditional science has been about theory and experiment. Most experiments would go into destructive testing. If the experimental results are counter to the theory, then the theory was discarded. That is not the case for advocacy science.Where Advocacy differs from the traditional practice of science is in the refusal to use destructive testing by experiment. Advocates defend their positions by highlighting supporting evidence and ignoring, and attacking contrary evidence. No advocate is motivated by the prospect that their theory might be wrong, and that there might be something new to learn. Advocates substitute other theoretical constructs (i.e. Computer Models) for destructive testing. Theory ends up referencing theory in a closed loop. Advocacy becomes bias.

Science is also funded by the advocates. It is very hard for a scientist to test and prove themselves out of funding. It is contrary to human nature.

Perhaps this make evolve into a blog of mine.

The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Mon, 06/15/2009 - 3:44pm.

The magnetic measurements (in gauss) of the sunspot umbrae continue to track down ina regressed and smoothed linear fashion. We are in a deep solar minumum at the early part of Solar Cycle 24. Sunspots have been appearing of late more as pores than spots, with very little surround dark umbrae. The thought process is that in 2015, the sunspots will be of a low enough magnetic strength to not be visible. This would be traveling in little trod pathways as we know of only two deep minimums, the Mauder and Dalton minimums. What does this portend? The maunder corresponded with the "little ice age". Contrary to the scientists of the political bent, the verdict is still out on what this means for us going forward. Rest assured, a cooler earth (even 2 degrees cooler) is much more dire for us than a corrspondingly warmer earth. Shorter growing seasons etc...

S. Lindsey's picture
Submitted by S. Lindsey on Thu, 06/11/2009 - 2:32pm.

Time to stop the rhetoric and look at the real inconvenient truths.. MMGW does not exist.. not now.. not ever.. at least in any appreciable amount.. The continued "debate"(sic) is pointless at best.. at worse it is criminal.. MMGW is about lining the pockets of Gore and Associates.. who stand to make BILLIONS on this.. Read up just a little will ya!!!

Solar Cycle 24: Implications for the United States

Just another Climate Scientist that doesn’t BELIEVE

""If you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world," Barrack Obama

I will not lower my standards.. So UP YOURS..Evil

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