Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Where’s the Science at the IPCC?

The UN’s climate panel claims to be a ‘scientific body.’ But it’s actually in the business of writing reports that rely on thousands of judgment calls. It’s time to stop pretending that fallible human judgment is ‘science.’


We’ll be hearing a great deal about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) soon. In three weeks time, its brand new Working Group 2 report will be released at a press conference in Yokohama, Japan. Two weeks afterward, Working Group 3’s contribution will be released in Berlin.

If history is anything to judge by, mainstream media reports will overflow with misinformation written by two kinds of people: reporters relatively new to the topic who don’t have the first clue how the IPCC actually functions – or ‘environmental journalists’ who are fundamentally confused about what their job is.

A journalist’s first loyalty is supposed to be the public interest. Ensuring that the public is informed about the shortcomings and limitations of powerful organizations is what journalists are supposed to do. Instead, we’re now plagued by “environment correspondents” who think their primary purpose is saving the planet.

Those people have long parroted the IPCC’s rose-coloured view of itself. They haven’t conducted the most basic fact-checking. They haven’t asked the most rudimentary questions. As Australian writer Joanne Nova is fond of saying, the opposite of skeptical is gullible and the world now has no shortage of that kind of journalist.

I may be a voice in the wilderness, but that voice has written two books about the IPCC. Now I’m turning my hand to video – short, digestible videos that ask important questions. Today’s is called The IPCC: Where’s the Science?

Over the next few weeks, when this latest wave of nonsense-about-the-IPCC begins to inundate us, please feel free to share this video on Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. The direct link is here:

For those who prefer written text to video, I’m happy to oblige:

Our governments trust the IPCC – the United Nations body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

We’re told we should trust it too. Why? Because of one very powerful word: Science.

My name is Donna Laframboise. I’m a Canadian journalist and the author of two books about the IPCC.

On its website, the IPCC says that it is a ‘scientific body.’ The word ‘scientific’ appears six times in a few paragraphs – with ‘scientists’ tossed in for good measure.

There’s no doubt about it. We are supposed to come away from the IPCC’s website utterly convinced that what’s going on there is ‘science.’

But here’s the million dollar question: Is an organization a scientific body simply because scientists are involved?

Would a baseball team of scientists be a scientific body? Is a chess club a scientific body if most of its members happen to be scientists? Of course not.

The IPCC admits that it does not conduct any research. It’s in the business of writing reports. Reports that are thousands of pages long. Five of those reports have been written over the past 25 years.

IPCC personnel are expected to survey the scientific literature and write a report about what that literature says about climate change.

In the process, these people make thousands of judgment calls. They decide that some studies are worth paying attention to – and that others belong in the dustbin.

Some – still unproven – assumptions are taken seriously at the IPCC. Others are dismissed.

Judgment calls are not science. They’re relying on their knowledge of scientific matters, but IPCC personnel are actually playing a role similar to jurors at a trial.

When a jury evaluates evidence and draws conclusions no one calls that ‘science.’

So where, exactly does ‘science’ happen at the IPCC? Is this really a ‘scientific body?’



Print Friendly, PDF & Email


This entry was posted on March 11, 2014 by in IPCC, media, videos and tagged , , , , .