August 30, 2010, 9:51 am News

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and his papers have been withdrawn.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.


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