IPCC distorts environmental policies

Posted in : - Blog -, Global Warming? on by : petersen Comments: 0

Seven years ago I suggested that the operations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were unreliable and biased. Most of my Review of a House of Lords Report where I made that suggestion is reproduced below.

There is  no reasonable doubt that problems of environmental damage and associated problems of biodiversity reduction are very serious. But I contend that unproven and unprovable assertions of the dangers of global warming which purport to be based on science are unhelpful and distort humankind’s admittedly inadequate efforts to tackle such problems.  For example,  the House of Lords Report stated “it seems to us that the (IPCC’s) emissions scenarios are influenced by political considerations”.

In the last several years, there have been continuing and expanding efforts to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. In my opinion, these are misguided and result in  severe distortion of efforts to reduce the environmental damage caused by human activity. There is mounting evidence that it would be far more effective to try to use science to find the causes of  specific environmental problems, and to develop and apply solutions to those specific real problems.  Indications of the nature of some such problems can be found in the Food section of this website.


  Energy & Environment · Vol. 16, No. 6, 2005. Pages 1098 -1101

 This is a thorough report, and, perhaps surprisingly, in the light of the prevailing mood of panic about the importance of climate change and its forecast disastrous effects, generally well-balanced and objective.

Throughout the report there is pervasive concern and disquiet about unreliability and bias in the operations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In the first page of the Introduction, the Report emphasises its concern that “the links between projected economic change in the world economy and climate change have not been as rigorously explored as they should have been by the IPCC.” The report is particularlysceptical about the IPCC’s greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. The IPCC argues that their scenarios are not forecasts as such, but “pictures” of “what would happen if” certain driving forces were in place.

 But the report was not impressed by the distinction IPCC makes between “scenario outcomes”, “projections” and “forecasts”. It hints strongly that denying that the scenarios embody forecasts is simply a device to evade criticism of their realism. The following are just some examples of criticisms of the IPCC’s scenarios which the Report emphasises in bold type: “serious questions have been raised about the IPCC emissions scenarios, and …a reappraisal of the scenarios exercise is urgently needed ….We consider the convergence assumptions in the IPCC  scenarios to be open to some question…. The IPCC scenarios are not capturing recent experience in their short term projections…We received a significant amount of  evidence on the realism of the IPCC emissions scenarios, and doubts were raised, particularly about the high emissions scenarios. The balance of this evidence suggests to us that the high emissions scenarios contained some questionable assumptions and outcomes. …At the moment, it seems to us that the emissions scenarios are influenced by political considerations.”

Moreover, the report suggests that IPCC procedures generally open the way for climate science and economics to be determined by political requirements rather than evidence, and there may be political interference in the nomination of scientists to the IPCC. “Sound science cannot emerge form an unsound process”. In summary, the Report casts very serious doubts on the soundness of the IPCC’s processes in relation to a wide range of issues: it might not be going too far to say that it impugns the IPCC’s integrity.

It is curious, therefore, that, despite some doubts and hesitations, the report accepts the IPCC’s general judgement that global warming is a real and serious threat. The report offers a fairly thorough review of the scientific basis for the global warming hypothesis – based on GCM (General Circulation Models) which attempt to mimic the forces at work that change the Earth’s climate. If these models can “explain the past”, then they can be used to predict the future, assuming that we have a reasonable idea of how the various determining factors (e.g. the greenhouse gases themselves) will behave in the future. GCMs are very complex and have to run on powerful computers. But testing the validity of these climate models is difficult. Insofar as the models predict climate change, the predictions can easily be in error and onlythe passage of time can validate the predictions. The report notes problems of explaining divergences between actual and expected recent past warming and numerous doubts about features of the accepted science. But the report’s authors did not feel qualified to evaluate those doubts, and suggest that the science of climate change remains debatable, despite the views of several witnesses who seemed in no doubt at all about the science. Despite such reservations, the report accepts that there is a general scientific consensus in favour of global warming, and high probability that the recent acceleration in the warmth of the planet is man-made; and that, if the science of climate change as embodied in IPCC reports is correct, the option of “waiting and seeing” may be risky because of the manner in which current emissions of greenhouse gases add to the stock of gases in the atmosphere.

(Passage omitted about the Kyoto  protocol because it is  out-of-date).

 The Report does examine the scientific evidence in some detail, but does not draw one simple conclusion which would seem obvious from so many of its other conclusions and recommendations: that the evidence in general indicates that IPCC simply cannot be trusted to be objective. The scientific evidence that there is likely to be global warming depends  largely on evidence from GCMs, and that evidence is compiled almost exclusively by scientists associated with the IPCC. Some of those who submitted evidence for the report drew attention to previous environmental and resource exhaustion scares, with the implication that since these scares did not materialise, neither might accelerated global warming. While the report mentions the 1970s Limits to Growth alarm in this context, it fails to mention that this was also based on an untestable computer model. This alarm was shown to be false largely by analysts  independent of the protagonists of Limits to Growth running their model,  and showing that it could be made to yield results very different from those propounded by the alarmist protagonists.

Unfortunately the GCM computer models which form the basis for the current global warming alarm are far more complex than the relatively primitive models which formed the basis for Limits to Growth. The problems and expenses which would be involved in  scientists not associated with the IPCC  gaining access to GCM models are far greater. Nevertheless, in the absence of scientific evaluation of models by scientists independent of the IPCC, there is a danger that billions of dollars worth of resources worldwide wll be diverted in futile and largely fruitless directions. Determined efforts are necessary to secure independent scientific evaluation of the claims which IPCC affiliated scientists make for the likelihood of global warming. Doing this properly would involve independent scientists learning to use and run highly complex GCM models. This would undoubtedlybe expensive and time consuming. Recruiting scientists with the necessary knowledge and experience would also be very difficult, and any attempt to carry out such an exercise might well be strongly resisted by the IPCC. Nevertheless, failure to undertake such an evaluation – perhaps supervised by a reputable international organisation – is likely to be far more expensive.

(Enormous and futile expenses are being  incurred through the introduction of schemes to control CO2 emissions using  expensive technology, and via the introduction of carbon trading.  More balanced and cost-effective policies should be devised to deal with existing environmental problems, in preference to attempting to solve fictitious problems identified by unreliable scenarios.PS comment, April 2011).)

The Report claims that scientists who advocate the case for global warming base their case on better research evidence than that available in earlier cases of global alarm. This claim is supported by far less convincing evidence than most of the other conclusions in this generally well balanced and well researched report, and more evidence is urgently needed.

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