This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
20-year IPCC veteran Richard Tol says that entity is politicized and biased. Ecologist Daniel Botkin says there’s ‘overwhelming evidence’ it’s also wrong about species extinction risks.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is at an important inflection point. Next year Rajendra Pachauri, its appalling chairman, will finally exit the stage and a replacement will be selected.
In a sane world, it would be obvious to everyone that this organization is rotten to the core. Many of its worst habits predate the current chairman, whose tenure began in 2002. The IPCC claims to be scientific, but is actually riddled with activism and politics (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
In other words, the appearance of scientific certainty is being used by the IPCC to sell philosophical and political ideas. That. Is. Wrong.
Today an important hearing is taking place in Washington, D.C. The US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is examining the IPCC process. It is receiving written and oral testimony from four prominent IPCC experts, each of whom has had played some role in the IPCC process:
There are plenty of disturbing and thought-provoking comments to be found in this material. Tol – who says he favours “reform of the IPCC rather than its abolition” – nevertheless observes that the IPCC often attracts scientists with political motivations rather than open-minded curiosity.
He points out that people are rarely nominated to work on IPCC reports by “purely scientific” bodies. Instead, environment agencies run by bureaucrats with a vested interest in expanding their own budgets and prestige have a great deal of influence over who writes IPCC reports. The result, in Tol’s view, is an “alarmist bias” amongst IPCC personnel.
He says this bias extends to what material IPCC authors choose to emphasize. In his words:
The first papers on sea level rise, agriculture, health, ocean currents, and ice caps were sharply at odds with later, much better informed research. But the IPCC chose not to wait for those follow-up papers.
Tol thinks that the fact that the IPCC releases a large, splashy report every six years encourages its authors “to compete with one another on whose chapter foresees the most terrible things.” And then there are these remarks, which he himself places in bold type:
Not all IPCC authors are created equal. Some hold positions of power in key chapters, others subordinate positions in irrelevant chapters. The IPCC leadership has in the past been adept at putting troublesome authors in positions where they cannot harm the cause.
That practice must end.
Tol has been involved with the IPCC since 1994 – twenty years. He thinks it plays an important role and is worth saving. Yet no one who takes the time to read his entire submission should ever again imagine that IPCC conclusions are grounded solely in science.
The testimony of Daniel Botkin is equally damning. Previously, I’ve discussed his scathing opinion of a species extinction paper relied on heavily by the IPCC’s 2007 report.
Botkin begins his remarks by pointing out that he has spent his long career “trying to help conserve our environment and its great diversity of species.” In his view, the latest IPCC report does not promote “rational discussion” because its authors have dressed up “speculative, sometimes incomplete, conclusions” in misleading, “scientific-sounding” language.
Botkin excoriates the IPCC findings on polar bears, arguing that a cited paper says the exact opposite of what the IPCC claims it says. He insists that, based on direct research experience regarding “carbon uptake by vegetation,” the IPCC’s numbers are in error “by as much as 300 percent.”
The following encapsulates what may turn out to be his most memorable commentary (full caps and bolding in the original):
THERE IS AN IMPLICIT ASSUMPTION IN [the latest IPCC report] THAT NATURE IS IN [a] STEADY STATE, THAT ALL CHANGE IS NEGATIVE AND UNDESIRABLE for all life, including people. This is the opposite of reality: environment has always changed. Living things have had to adapt to these changes and many require change. The IPCC report makes repeated use of the term “irreversible” changes. A species going extinct is irreversible. But little else about the environment is irreversible.
[The report] GIVES THE IMPRESSION THAT LIVING THINGS ARE FRAGILE AND RIGID, unable to deal with change. The opposite is the case. Life is persistent, adaptable, adjustable. In particular, the IPCC report for policy makers repeats the assertion of previous IPCC reports that [a] “large fraction of species face increased extinction risks.” Overwhelming evidence contradicts this assertion.
Read Botkin’s entire bracing document for yourself here.
I returned from 3.5 weeks in Europe at the beginning of this month a tad burned out. So many smart, concerned, fascinating people. Lots of fruitful dialogue. I’m afraid it left me somewhat exhausted.
Since then, life has been busy on a personal level. Several family events (including my own 25th wedding anniversary), some home improvements, a garden in need of tending. I managed to a file a chapter for a forthcoming Australian book and to make some important connections over the past few weeks, but blogging has been almost non-existent. Please accept my apologies. I am endeavouring to get myself back in the saddle :-)