February 8, 2007
The IPCC Should Leave Science to Scientists
Of the countless flaws inherent to Pop Science, by far the most pernicious is that, contrary to accepted scientific method, the conclusion precedes any supporting research. Special interests whose agendas may be furthered by the junk premise then incite the media to amplify their positions and ignore both the science and protesting contrarian scientists. Nowhere is this abuse more prevalent and dangerous than in fields of environmental science.
But a more ominous practice has arisen which empowers these special interests to adapt and summarize already compromised research to further fit the desired "consensus" before presenting it as fact to an eager media. This travesty of methodology is brought to you by the folks at the United Nations.
Back in 2001, the U.N's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) submitted its Summary for Policy Makers as a precursor to its Third Assessment Report. Based solely on that summary, left wing environmentalists and their media confederates immediately exhumed their mankind stinks mantras and declared a victory in the anthropogenic global warming debate. Some scientists associated with the report, however, challenged both its bias and the summary's oblique politically correct representation of its conclusions. It appeared that rumors of the debate's demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
Now, nearly 6 years later, it's IPCC report time again and both the methodology and reaction are following the same predictable course of the forerunner. As before, the hot Paris debut of the Fourth Assessment Report policy summary sparked an immediate "case closed" media frenzy. Also as before, the bearers were less than dispassionate. In presenting the February 2nd abstract, Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Program which commissioned the panel, minced no misrepresentative words:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the 2nd of February 2007, here in Paris will perhaps one day be remembered as the day where the question mark was removed behind the debate about whether climate change had anything to do with human activity on this planet."
And, given that the actual report's release was still months away, the reaction was as preposterous as the proclamation.
French clown-President Jacques Chirac called for an economic and political "revolution" to save the planet and warned that:
"We are on the historic threshold of the irreversible."
South Africa's Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk called the report "a wake-up call to the world's largest emitter, the United States."
And the Bush Administration must have heard the South African's call. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman actually told reporters at a press conference in Washington that,
"Human activity is contributing to changes in the Earth's climate. That issue is no longer up for debate.''
Et tu, Bodman? And, of course, U.S newspapers churned out their predictably joyous headlines:
- Report: Humans to blame for climate
- Case closed: We're causing global warming. Now, what will we do about it?
- Global warming a human creation, scientists confirm
- Climate report faults humans for warming
Meanwhile, faster than you can say "Milankovitch cycles," TV sets of various definitions across the warming globe screamed that the world's leading scientists had reached a "consensus" that human behavior was directly responsible for global warming. Of course, anytime the MSM claims unanimous accord by anyone on anything, a well maintained Bravo Sierra alarm should sound immediately and quite loudly. Truth be told, once stripped of the hyperbole, version number 4 didn't end the anthropogenia debate any more than its older brother did. Furthermore, all of this impassioned reaction was to a summary created by men not of science, but of strategy.
A Sane Voice in a Crazy Chorus
In an article last summer which focused largely on the tactics of eco-maniac Al Gore, I explored the depths to which the GW attack machine will delve to silence its detractors. Gore target and former IPCC member, Dr. Richard Lindzen said that alarmism dissenters have,
"seen grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse."
Lindzen has been quite vocal about "global-warming alarmists intimidat[ing] dissenting scientists into silence" and, unlike many of his brethren, has steadfastly refused to succumb. Not surprisingly, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT is now an outspoken critic of the IPCC.
In fact, it was Lindzen who blew the whistle on irregularities in both the 2001 summary and report when he testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in May of that year. After stating that the IPCC was created to support negotiations concerning CO2 emission reductions, he gave an astonishing account of the pressure placed upon the scientists who drafted the report.
"...throughout the drafting sessions, IPCC ‘coordinators' would go around insisting that criticism of models be toned down, and that "motherhood" statements be inserted to the effect that models might still be correct despite the cited faults. Refusals were occasionally met with ad hominem attacks. I personally witnessed coauthors forced to assert their "green" credentials in defense of their statements."
He then avowed that the vast majority of scientists contributing to the full report played virtually no role in preparing the summary, nor were they given the opportunity to review and approve its contents. Furthermore, it is this unscientific version only, often written to further political agendas, which becomes the basis of media hype and public understanding:
"Note that almost all reading and coverage of the IPCC is restricted to the highly publicized Summaries for Policymakers which are written by representatives from governments, NGO's and business; the full reports, written by participating scientists, are largely ignored."
Lindzen also questioned the postponement of the full report and cited numerous factual misrepresentations in the Summary, including one from a chapter he knew a little about:
‘The summary does not reflect the full document (which still has not been released although it was basically completed last August). For example, I worked on Chapter 7, Physical Processes. This chapter dealt with the nature of the basic processes which determine the response of climate, and found numerous problems with model treatments especially with clouds and water vapor. The chapter was summarized with the following sentence: "Understanding of climate processes and their incorporation in climate models have improved, including water vapour, sea-ice dynamics, and ocean heat transport."'
Indeed, there was much speculation regarding the delay in issuing the final report in 2001. It came neither from the media nor for the last time.
Pseudo-Science from the Pseudo-Media
Lindzen then addressed the media's frequent misleading references to the participants as the "world's leading climate scientists." He explained that the best science students generally moved into physics, math, and computer science -- not climate science. Furthermore, as with all UN projects, the participation of hundreds of countries (many with no climate research experience) supersedes any requirements for best-of-breed contributor selection. This often gains participants previously unavailable prestige; perhaps leaving them somewhat biased toward the not-so-tacit goals of the IPCC.
"Thus, speaking of 'thousands' of the world's leading climate scientists is not especially meaningful. Even within climate science, most of the top researchers (at least in the US) avoid the IPCC because it is extremely time consuming and non-productive."
That same year, Lindzen also participated in a White House commissioned National Academy of Sciences panel to review the IPCC summaries. The media's claim that the NAS report depicted a "consensus" which supported the Kyoto treaty so misrepresented the findings of the panel that Lindzen felt compelled to write an article to set the record straight. According to the Doctor:
"Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and agreement, the science is by no means settled."
Indeed, these exact words were used in the findings reported to Congress in June of 2001:
"Because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments (either upward or downward)."
Yet, Michelle Mitchell of CNN best exemplified the media miscoverage when she declared that the report represented,
"a unanimous decision that global warming is real, is getting worse, and is due to man. There is no wiggle room."
And in a recent appearance on Larry King Live, Lindzen discredited media claims that the current IPCC summary was any less compromised than its predecessor of 6 years, reiterating that its non-scientist authors write exclusively for their own benefit.
Appearing with Lindzen on the show was Bill Nye (aka TV's "The Science Guy"), who had suggested that thaw-induced fresh water might shut down the Gulf Stream. When Lindzen informed the UCS shill that such an action would require either stopping the Earth's rotation or shutting down the wind, it was Nye's ridiculous postulate that was shut down.
And so, we have a supposedly unbiased media injecting gross exaggeration, childishly irresponsible horror stories, and outright lies. Is it any wonder that we now live in a society where so many have chosen to accept and preach this speculative pablum?
Singer's Solar Machine
Among the countless other contrarian scientists, Dr. S. Fred Singer's unique wit and position alongside Dr. Lindzen on Al Gore's hit list have earned him a similar place here. In a recent article, the professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia explained that the May release of the complete IPCC document is deliberately timed. The delay, writes the scientist, allows them to "adjust" the scientific report in order to be more consistent with the politically correct summary.
This is an amazing assertion, as it suggests a U.N no longer feeling the need to hide the fact that science is being modified to support conclusions, rather than the accepted and expected opposite sequence. And, as with Dr. Lindzen's questions regarding the similar delay in 2001, the interest this dynamite sparked would hardly light a firecracker.
Singer then took on the report's typical mistake of confusing cause and effect. And he did so in his characteristic good humored fashion:
"Some cite the fact that the climate is currently warming and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing. This is true, but correlation is never proof of causation. In Europe, the birth rate is decreasing and so is the number of storks. Does this correlation prove that storks bring babies? Besides, the climate cooled for much of the 20th century, between 1940 and 1975, even while carbon dioxide was increasing rapidly."
Singer also dismissed the true value of "consensus," were one to actually exist on the subject:
"But even if a majority of scientists had voted for human-caused global warming, that's not how science works. Unlike in politics, the majority does not rule. Rather, every advance in science has come from a minority that found that observed facts contradicted the prevailing hypothesis. Sometimes it took only one scientist; think of Galileo or Einstein."
The Galileo example is spot on the mark. Although he might have added that in Galileo's day, the debate had supposedly ended over the Earth's placement in the heavens. Yet, in 1616, Galileo was forced to recant his Copernican beliefs that the Earth was not the center of the universe, but rather revolved around the Sun. Obviously, that debate was not quite over either.
So, what are Dr. Singer's own GW theories? In his latest book, Unstoppable Global Warming-Every 1500 Years, coauthored by Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Dennis T Avery, physical evidence is outlined which supports fluctuations in solar energy causing the title. The book describes how the frequency of the cycle originally emerged from a 1983 study of ice cores in Greenland. That figure was then verified by analysis of an ice core from Antarctica's Vostok Glacier - at the other end of the world, which showed the same 1,500-year cycle through its 400,000-year length. These 1,500 year cycles analyzed include the Little Ice Age of 1300-1850 and the modern warming period which started around 1850 and we experience to this day.
The book, widely dismissed by the eco-maniacs, is must reading for anyone looking to base opinion on science rather than science on opinion. Not surprisingly, Sol, the primary source of our Atmospheric heat, plays a major role in non-alarmist theories only. And, of course, their sheer numbers refute any reasonable claim of "consensus."
The Lore of Unintended Consequences
So, we're faced with an organization which not only intimidates its experts into skewing data, but then forsakes them entirely when summarizing their results. Then, after feeding those tainted tidbits to a hungrily awaiting media, they can patiently measure the reaction of the globe they claim to care so much for. This gives them a few months to "cleanse" the report to meet the accepted precepts of the summary. Furthermore, having withheld the contents of the full report, they can always change both if any part of the summary proves too hot-to-handle, citing an error or omission in the digestive process.
Their goal is likely to create a storm of outcry against those nations not bowing to their beloved Kyoto Accords, with one in mind particularly. Perhaps they even believe that the anticipated acquiescence of these enviro-rogue states might just pass stewardship of all things environmental to their dwindling international organization.
To meet that objective, they easily fool the media into promoting laughably nonsensical theories while dismissing or demonizing those of detached science. And, of course, they depend upon that same foolish media to dutifully echo their battle-cries of "consensus" and human guilt where there exists neither.
Unfortunately, they and their ilk have managed to convince their indoctrinated legions that as was once said of war and generals, environmental science is too important to be left to scientists. This is a perilous road, indeed. In 1972, environmentalist thugs demagogued the insecticide DDT right out of use on unproven charges of egregious harm to humans and animals. The result may well have been millions of third-world malaria deaths caused by the failure of the banned chemical's "enviro-friendlier" replacement to control the mosquitoes which spread the disease.
The great Mark Twain once quipped,
"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."
Such, indeed, is as it should be.
Marc Sheppard is a technology consultant, software engineer, writer, and political and systems analyst. He is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He welcomes your feedback.