The IPCC – over salting the dish, in parts

The Inter Academy Council (IAC) has published its review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s work. The review has found that most of the IPCC’s work is of a very high standard (although this has somehow translated into “Climate Fraud” headlines by a news hungry August press) but that more rigorous review is required in publishing some data and some projections. The IPCC is not a curate’s egg, bad in parts, but more of a wholesome meal with too much salt added to some parts of the dish, which while it does not spoil the un-over-salted parts, it does leave a lingering taste in the mouth.

When an important body is shown to have failings – in this case a little exaggeration and a little arrogance – it usually means a failure due to two things:-

  1. The body has lost sight of what it is supposed to do because it has expanded its remit, its mandate, beyond the limits of what it should do and
  2. It has become stale and needs a shake up, with perhaps new more focused direction.

I think that these two things apply to almost every kind of body, from a company that diversifies beyond the limits of its ability to a bank that expands into gambling.

I haven’t yet read the report of the IAC in detail. I cannot therefore form a view on its report beyond the view I have already expressed, which I hasten to add is only a provisional view.

It does strike me, however, that the IPCC has rather undesirable expanded into two areas which are best left to others.

The first area is prediction of future climate change, and causal effects for example on future sea levels. The IPCC can express a view on these matters, but it should only be in the most general terms. Predicting the future is a gamble and it is not the business of a climate change research and reporting body to tell us when a glacier will melt or how many more hurricanes we shall experience.

The IPCC should concentrate on collecting directing and collating climate change data and reporting on it.

The second area with which the IPCC concerns itself is climate change policy. Here there is a clear conflict of interest and an abuse of the democratic process. Policy should be decided by governments, not scientists. Scientists should provide the facts and governments, ideally with international co-operation, should decide what measures, if any, our necessary.

The climate change deniers have missed a trick in not making this point. There are, they tell us, a large number of scientists who draw funds for climate change research. That they feel makes their research a kind of self fulfilling, self interested prophesies.

I do not think that is quite the position, but if you go to a surgeon for advice on a medical you can expect the surgeon to recommend an operation, just as you would expect a physician to recommend medicine and a therapist to recommend therapy.

With climate change we need to make rational decisions, not on the basis of which companies can afford to lobby the most or on the basis of our own peculiar prejudices, or who knows whom, or who has provided advice to a political party or any of the other numerous ways that people ingratiate themselves in the hope of reward.

The policy decisions we make about mitigating climate change must be robust and sensible, but most of all they must be logical, in the light of the best view of the science we have.

3 Responses

  1. The IPCC ? over salting the dish, in parts « Robert Kyriakides's ……

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. How can IPCC get away with printing rubbish predictions of Himalayan mountain glaciers melting in our lifetime and still convince us that it has any scientific credibility?

    LIke so many other climate changers Mr Pachauri has become a zealot.

    Like many religionists he is convinced he is right because no one can prove him wrong. He has simply become an evangelist and his scientific opinion is worthless.

    Evidence should be the only proper justification for scientific belief.

    In my view if Mr Pachauri remains head of IPCC it will simply convince climate change sceptics that they are right.

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