Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The IPCC versus Science

(Sorry, I couldn't wait...)

Direct from the IPCC web-site:

“The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.”

No, it's *not* a “scientific body”: it is a political organization. IMHO, it has a clearly established agenda, and makes proclamations and issues reports in line with that agenda. The IPCC has set itself up to be THE authority and research information storehouse for Climate Change. But, while providing a central clearinghouse for collecting research data is good thing, Science does not want or need an “Authority” - it needs open, honest and comprehensive evaluations of the data and research into all issues. This evaluation should lead wherever the FACTS take them. Science does not (and should not) have any interest in the result of the evaluation other than accurately and honestly testing a theory.

The IPCC, as a political organization with an agenda of its choosing, clearly DOES have an interest in 'proving' a certain set of results... and it acts accordingly. But that's not SCIENCE.

Now, the UN and the IPCC and all other similar organizations are more than welcome to exist as political entities. But at least have the honesty to present themselves for what they are. Whether you, I, or anyone agree or disagree with their policies, ideology or agenda are irrelevant to the pursuit Good Science.

Caveat: To be completely honest, I was relatively unaware of the existence of the IPCC until they started making claims and issuing reports that were being taken so seriously. I believe most people share that position. But when a group start setting itself up as the ultimate, world-wide authority on something and proposes it will effectively be dictator for how *I* will be living my life, it gets my immediate attention and intense scrutiny. Proceed with caution.

Back to the IPCC...

“Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.”

Boy, that sure sounds good in print, but the actions of the IPCC (and the UN in general) yields a decidedly different result. The IPCC has an agenda. It is NOT “neutral”. IMHO, there has not been a remotely neutral aspect to any organization within the U.N. for decades. It's all about 'policy': the policies IT wants and desires for its own purposes.

“The IPCC has also a Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The main objective of the Task Force is to develop and refine a methodology for the calculation and reporting of national GHG emissions and removals. In addition to the Working Groups and Task Force, further Task Groups and Steering Groups may be established for a limited or longer duration to consider a specific topic or question. “

This very clearly sets out the agenda of the IPCC. By using its own 'calculations' of national emissions, the IPCC presents itself as the final arbiter of energy production and consumption on a national basis. The IPCC intends to interject itself into the economic activities of 'selected' countries. in short: it wants to be economic dictator of the entire planet. (Am I taking this to an extreme? Really? Think about it...)

If addressing the problem of climate change was a problem for *everyone*, then everyone would have to be part of the solution; and there would be no need for a 'Task Force' to monitor the actions of selected 'nationals' (other than for enforcement of policies they already agreed to - which is a different issue entirely).

“Comprehensiveness, objectivity, openness and transparency: these are the principles governing the IPCC work. All major decisions about the organization and its work are taken by the Panel of its member countries during the Plenary sessions. The Panel has established clear procedures for all main activities of the organization.“

The recently revealed actions of the CRU, individuals, and other groups have clearly demonstrated the sources relied upon by the IPCC and others are NOT 'comprehensive' (if you don't agree with 'the consensus', you cannot be heard), are not 'objective' (ditto), are not open (again), and by no reasonable standard considered 'transparent' (hah!). Also note that decisions are made by “the Panel of its member countries”, i.e., politicians.

“Review is an essential part of the IPCC process to ensure objective and complete assessment of the current information. In the course of the multi-stage review process, both expert reviewers and governments are invited to comment on the accuracy and completeness of the scientific/technical/socio economic content and the overall balance of the drafts. The circulation process among peer and government experts is very wide, with hundreds of scientists looking into the drafts to check the soundness of the scientific information contained in them. The Review Editors of the report (normally two per chapter) make sure that all comments are well taken into account...All IPCC reports must be endorsed by the Panel during a Working Group or a Plenary session. There are three levels of endorsement:

“approval” means that the material has been subjected to line by line discussion and agreement. It is the procedure used for the Summary for Policymakers of the Reports.

“adoption” is a process of endorsement section by section. It is used for the Synthesis Report and overview chapters of Methodology Reports.

“acceptance” signifies that the material has not been subject to line by line nor section by section discussion and agreement, but nevertheless presents a comprehensive, objective and balanced view of the subject matter.”

Read it again... This is simple, agenda-driven nose counting at its finest level. Notice that the IPCC review process, by its own definition, requires acceptance not only by the scientists, but by government reviewers and agencies. Again, this alone is proof that we are not dealing with Pure Science, but with a political organization, hence, it is ideologically-driven. I could make a comment here about the claim that “all comments are taken into account” is a load of ^%$@, but that would be repeating myself.

“This Special Report will consider three types of extreme events: the ones for which climate change has or will amplify occurrence - as floods and droughts; the ones in which trends outside the domain of climate will increase exposure or vulnerability to climate-related extremes - for instance coastal development increasing exposure to storm surges; and new kinds of potentially hazardous events and conditions that may occur as a result of climate change - such as glacial lakes outburst. The report will include 9 chapters. Three of them will focus on managing the risk at different levels in the society: community based responses; national scale and international responses...”

This 'report' is requires that it is possible to ACCURATELY predict such events. Further, it relies on the ASSUMPTION that specific actions by mankind (a) are ultimately responsible for these events, and (b) can manipulate (mitigate) the results. Hogwash. (Unproven.)

The key aspect of the agenda is contained in the last sentence above: “managing the risk at different levels in the society”. THIS is the definition of the ultimate agenda being pursued: political control on the lives and actions of people. It's not about research, it's not about finding problems or looking for solutions: it's about POWER. Power to be wielded in support of a specific political ideology and the pursuit of THOSE goals at any and all costs.

The Climate Change QUESTION is simple:

Do the actions of man significantly add CO2 to the atmosphere, and, if so, how much of an impact (e.g., temperature increase) will occur directly related to those actions?

I've highlighted the key words to prevent confusion. Note that it's not a question of whether or not man 'affects' climate - sure we do. So do all living things like animals, bacteria, plants, and even non-living things like volcanoes and clouds, Instead: Is the effect of mankind's actions (or inaction) materially significant? How big is our impact when compared against other sources on a global scale? And just what is the optimal temperature range for mankind? And can we do anything about it?


#1 - Proof of climate change (warming) IS NOT PROOF that man-made CO2 emissions are the cause.

#2 - Being skeptical is Perfectly Acceptable. If you believe, fine. But be prepared to provide supporting evidence. A 'consensus' of opinion IS NOT evidence. And a computer model, no matter how carefully designed and cleverly written IS NOT evidence. (BTW, if your model cannot accurately predict temperatures over a ten-year period, why should I trust its 100-year forecast?)

#3 - We don't need one single All-Star Team of scientists working on this. As nice as that would be, I would much rather see a LOT of teams, each working on their own particular aspects and specialties. The more widespread the research, the less likely the review process will get bogged down in personal agendas and the pursuit of desired results instead of the pursuit of fact.

I'm gonna be blunt... If man-made CO2 is not proven by the evidence to be a significant cause of planetary warming beyond optimal conditions, then carbon controls, cap-and-trade, emissions trading, Kyoto, Copenhagen, et. al., are a waste of time and resources better spent on Things That Matter (like finding cures for cancer and other diseases, providing clean water, feeding people...)

With all that in mind -

- Don't refer me to an Authority. Argument by authority (or demands to 'yield to the consensus') only proves that a committee with the intention to find a particular result will do so. Go back and look up the “phlogiston theory”; read about the peer-review and discussions among scientists during that time. SCIENCE is not democratic - natural laws and facts are not subject to a vote. Counting noses proves nothing.

- Don't change the subject. “We need more research into renewables”. I Agree 100%... but let's do things for the right reasons. Doing it because 'it feels good' is government by wishful thinking. If an opportunity for profit exists, the forces of capitalism will find it and work to extract that profit as proven time and again (enlightened self-interest is a powerful force). “We need to take precautions.” Perhaps. But consider that every action has a cost. How much should we spend on a problem that may not exist? And how will we know what we do is working?

- Don't resort to name calling. I'm not a climate scientist and neither is Al Gore: what does that have to do with anything? I could be a Nazi, an oil sheik, a fascist, anarchist, or conservative: none of those things change satellite temperature records or ice core data.

- Don't even mention someone 'being on the payroll of Big Oil'. Exxon-Mobil spent about 23 million on climate research between 1989-2007. The US Government alone spent over $30 BILLION during the same period. If you're gonna follow the money, follow ALL of it. You get what you pay for, and government interests are political, not scientific: period.

- Don't mix cause and effect. Rising sea levels, ice melts, disappearing forests are effects, not causes. Their existence, even if proven, does not tell us what caused them.

- Don't confuse Lab Results with Reality. The warming effects of CO2 have been known for a long time. It's also been known that CO2 only absorbs certain wavelengths of light and there is a 'saturation point', where adding more CO2 to the atmosphere does not materially increase temperatures. A theory may be fine, but you must compare the observable Real World results and use THEM, not what the lab or the theory predicts.

- Don't appeal to emotion. Polar bears are wonderful creations and brainwashing children to believe they are endangered so the kids will whine and cry about it to parents doesn't prove your case. Being fearful of hurricanes is reasonable; but don't claim 'more storms are coming' when the evidence shows otherwise (another 'model' that doesn't work.) Address your theory and the supporting facts to my brain, not to my heart.

- Don't insist on 'peer-review' as a requirement. (see Authority discussion, above) Be careful what you wish for... some papers contradict each other, so they cannot ALL be right. Many peer-reviewed papers still turn out to be false upon further review. Besides, such a system is only as good as the impartiality of the reviewer (need I bring up the CRU scandal again?). Peer-review *is* useful, but does not constitute Proof. A theory stands or fails on the evidence. In fact, peer-review *must* proceed from the starting point that the theory in question is FALSE or the review is worthless. Ask Fleischmann-Pons about their “Cold Fusion” experiments and peer-review. If you cannot duplicate the results, they aren't real, and it doesn't matter if you (personally) agree with the proposed conclusion or not. Keep working and refining your theory until you can duplicate it. Until then, basing government policy on an unproven theory is potentially destructive in the extreme. And you're just guessing anyway.

- Don't demand presentation of an alternative theory first. The burden of proof is on the claimant, not the skeptic. It only takes ONE FACT to disprove a theory, no matter how nicely the theory is wrapped. We don't have a better explanation” is an argument by ignorance; it's not proof.

In conclusion (yay!): Good Political Policies require Good Science.
Especially if the risk for being wrong - on either side - is as great as it is claimed.

- Steve

1 comment:

  1. An interesting article: