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This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Celebrated Physicist Calls IPCC Summary ‘Deeply Unscientific’

Former CERN official says 65 prominent IPCC authors have abandoned “scientific rigour.”


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Among the documents recently submitted to a UK Parliamentary committee, a live grenade nestles in the straw.

It was written by a scientific luminary, Pierre Darriulat. For nearly 50 years, his professional life has been devoted to particle physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, and astrophysics. For seven years, he was Director of Research at CERN – one of the world’s largest, most famous, and respected laboratories.

The biography included with his submission tells us that Darriulat was spokesperson for

one of the two experiments that simultaneously discovered the weak bosons and gave evidence for quarks and gluons being produced in the form of hadronic jets.

He is the recipient of prestigious science honours, and advises us that his “scientific work is recognized by the international community.”

Now let us recollect that Al Gore says the climate debate is about “high school physics.” And let us recall that Martin O’Malley, the Governor of Maryland, has suggested that climate change (by which he means dangerous, human-caused climate change) is scientifically as uncontested as gravity. In his words, “It is physics, pure and simple.”

The implication of this line of argument is clear. If you don’t think climate change is a planetary emergency you’re a dunce – a scientific know-nothing who should keep quiet and accept the judgment of your intellectual superiors.

In light of their public statements, one would expect Messrs Gore and O’Malley to be keenly interested in what a renowned physicist has to say about the recent Summary for Policymakers (SPM) released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That’s the document that was drafted by 65 hand-picked IPCC personnel.

Here’s a direct quote from Darriulat’s submission:

The way the SPM deals with uncertainties (e.g. claiming something is 95% certain) is shocking and deeply unscientific. For a scientist, this simple fact is sufficient to throw discredit on the whole summary. The SPM gives the wrong idea that one can quantify precisely our confidence in the [climate] model predictions, which is far from being the case. [bold added]

Darriulat says “the main point to appreciate” is that, because the Summary was written for policymakers rather than for other scientists, it “can not be a scientific document.” His next remarks deserve to be displayed on every billboard in Times Square:

When writing the SPM, the authors are facing a dilemma: either they speak as scientists and…recognize that there are too many unknowns to make reliable predictions…or they try to convey what they “consensually” thinkat the price of giving up scientific rigour. They deliberately chose the latter…they have distorted the scientific message into an alarmist message… [bold added; click here for the full, unedited version]

This is bracing, no-nonsense talk from someone well equipped to understand what’s going on. In Darriulat’s opinion, when scientists write IPCC summaries not only are they are engaging in “a highly subjective exercise,” they’re blatantly  “ignoring basic scientific practices.” Not mincing words, he declares that “Such behaviour is unacceptable.”

In his opinion, the conclusions presented in the IPCC’s recent Summary are “far from robust.” He thinks the IPCC “should consider it a duty to answer scientifically” a number of concerns that have been raised by its critics, but says the new IPCC report fails to do so. Instead, he says, it sometimes appears to be “eluding rather than facing embarrassing questions.”

Darriulat’s submission is worth reading in full (online here, PDF here). Near the end, he directly addresses questions posed by the committee’s Terms of Reference.

Keeping in mind Gore’s claim that nothing more complicated than high school physics is involved, here’s what an actual physics virtuoso thinks:

Committee: Has [the IPCC’s latest report] sufficiently explained the reasons behind the widely reported hiatus in the global surface temperature record?

Darriulat: Of course not, how could it? One can only suggest hypotheses. The coming decade should help us with understanding much better what is most relevant.

Apparently, climate change isn’t basic physics after all.

And – just in case you missed it – 65 prominent IPCC personnel have been publicly accused of

  • producing a “shocking and deeply unscientific” document
  • abandoning “scientific rigour”
  • distorting science
  • and ignoring “basic scientific practices”


The list of IPCC authors who drafted this Summary is backed up here



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