The IPCC: Politicizing Science Since 1988

June 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

If the IPCC was a scientific body, the science section of its upcoming report would be summarized by scientists and that would be the end of the matter. Instead, the science summary will be the battleground at a 4-day political gathering.

From September 23 to 26, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will host a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.

The purpose of that meeting should raise eyebrows. There, in the historic Brewery Conference Centre, with its “breathtaking views” and “large terraces and balconies” all pretense that the IPCC is a scientific organization will vanish.

Representatives of national governments – diplomats, politicians, and environmental bureaucrats – will gather to do something extraordinary. They will take a document authored by scientists and spend four days rewriting it.

That document is supposed to be a summary of the contents of Part 1 of the forthcoming IPCC assessment (the previous assessment was released in 2007). Authored by the IPCC’s Working Group 1, this is the portion of the report that concentrates on hard science. This is the place in which the IPCC is supposed to answer the question: What does the most reliable climate research tell us is happening?

Writing such a summary is a difficult task. It involves boiling down 14 chapters of dense textual information, graphs, and charts into a few dozen pages.

My book-length exposé of the IPCC, The Delinquent Teenager, reveals that there are sound reasons to question the judgment of some of the scientists who helped write that underlying text. Rather than being rigorously neutral, dispassionate professionals, certain IPCC personnel have close links to activist organizations. Others have been described by their own colleagues as “not competent” and “clearly not qualified.”

But even if every last individual who worked on the science section was of the highest integrity, and even if every last one of them was among the world’s best and brightest, it might not matter. Because the purpose of the Stockholm meeting is to both sanitize and politicize.

According to those who’ve attended similar meetings, “every sentence” will be projected onto a screen “in front of representatives of more than 100 governments” who will then argue about it. Eventually, these political animals will collectively negotiate wording that everyone can live with. Then they will move on to the next sentence.

Yes, you read that right. The exact phrasing of what is supposed to be a summary of scientific evidence will be determined not by scientists but via political negotiations.

The IPCC has long claimed to be a transparent organization, but the Stockholm negotiations will be held behind closed doors. I observed some time ago that, if those proceedings were televised, the reality of the situation would become screamingly obvious.

The IPCC is not, in fact, about science. If it were a scientific body, scientists would summarize those 14 chapters and that would be the end of the matter.

Instead, governments from around the world will send people to Stockholm to ensure that “the science” is expressed in a manner that’s acceptable to them. Scientists don’t have the last word at the IPCC – their political masters do.

First, the scientists who participate in the IPCC are selected by national governments. Afterward, those national governments have the last word regarding what the report they write actually says.

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