IPCC report: done well, could do better

The InterAcademy Council report on the IPCC — Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCCreleased yesterday, calls for “fundamental reforms” to the IPCC’s management structure and review processes. Climate Central provides a useful summary of the key findings:

  • The IPCC should create an Executive Committee to run the organization in between major conferences.
  • Rather than have the IPCC director serve for two six-year terms, a new director should be appointed for each major assessment report (there have been four so far). Since the IPCC is well into the fifth assessment, it isn’t clear whether Dr. Pachauri will step down (he’s evidently said that any decision will have to wait for the next IPCC meeting, in Korea in October).
  • The reviewers who decide what makes it into the final report and what doesn’t should work harder to address comments from authors, and to let dissenting views be reflected more fully in the finished product.
  • Statements about certainties and uncertainties about climate science need to be more explicit, need to be based on a more uniform set of criteria, and need to be clearer about how they were calculated.
  • The IPCC in general needs to be more open and transparent about how it goes about its business.
  • The IPCC needs to improve the way it deals with so-called “grey literature”– that is, non-peer-reviewed reports that contain valuable information, but which haven’t already been subjected to strict scientific scrutiny.

Professor Martin Manning, Director of the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington told the Science Media Centre that he welcomed the report:

The IAC has run a detailed review of the process used by the IPCC for assessing scientific understanding and this has produced a number of useful comments that I think most climate scientists will agree with. Their report accepts that scientific understanding of climate change is developing rapidly and this means that the process for assessing it for policymakers needs to become more dynamic.

More reaction: Roger Harrabin at the BBC, Guardian, New Scientist, plus the UN webcast of the press conference is here.

My take? It would be a miracle if a 22 year old organisation with minimal full-time staff that has seen its raison d’être move up to the top of the list of global priorities couldn’t be improved. The suggestions look sensible, and if they help to defuse the continuing attacks from the usual suspects, so much the better.

33 thoughts on “IPCC report: done well, could do better”

  1. It’s time to disband the IPCC and run these clowns out of town!

    Matt Ridley: This Discredited IPCC Process Must Be Purged
    Tuesday, 31 August 2010 06:04 Matt Ridley, The Times

    “We cannot make sane decisions on global warming if the ‘experts’ present us with evidence that is biased

    This month, after a three-year investigation, Harvard University suspended a prominent professor of psychology for scandalously overinterpreting videos of monkey behaviour. The incident has sent shock waves through science because it suggests that a body of data is unreliable. The professor, Marc Hauser, is now a pariah in his own field and his papers have been withdrawn. But the implications for society are not great – no policy had been based on his research.

    Yesterday, after a four-month review, a committee of scientists concluded that the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has “assigned high confidence to statements for which there is very little evidence”, has failed to enforce its own guidelines, has been guilty of too little transparency, has ignored critical review comments and has had no policies on conflict of interest.

    Enormous and expensive policy changes have been based on the flawed work of these scientists. Yet there is apparently to be no investigation, blame, suspension or withdrawal of papers, just a gentle bureaucratic fattening of the organisation with new full-time posts.

    IPCC reports are supposed to be the gold standard account of what is – and is not – known about global warming. The panel boasts that it uses only peer-reviewed scientific literature. But its claims about mountain ice turned out to be anecdotes from a climbing magazine, its claims on the Amazon’s vulnerability to drought from a Brazilian pressure group’s website and 42 per cent of the references in one chapter proved to be to reports by Greenpeace, WWF and other “grey” literature. Yesterday’s review finds that guidelines on the use of this grey literature “are vague and have not always been followed”.

    For instance, the notorious claim that glaciers in the Himalayas would disappear by 2035 seems to have been based on a misprint (for 2350) in a document issued by a pressure group. When several reviewers challenged the assertion in draft, they were ignored. When Indian scientists challenged it after publication, they were not just dismissed but vilified and accused of “voodoo science” by the IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri…”


    1. Amusingly, Roger Dewhurst attempted to post the same thing here, at about the same time. I suspect the “climate realists” email arrived, and being dutiful little sceptics they rushed to post it here. Useful idiots, or what? 😉

      FWIW, Ridley might once have been a sensible journalist, but like Poneke he seems to have swallowed the Koch propaganda and relinquished reality. Sad.

      1. Yes, I can see it now, a coded message going out to all the flying monkeys throughout the world. Repeating over and over again inside Joe’s little tin foil hat, until he was compelled to deposit it here. Ditto for Roger Dewhurst.

    1. Macro

      The point I like to make about the IPCC is that the UN only provides a secretriat service. The WGs comprise a wide variety of people working in Universities, research institutes, private firms, and consultancies.

      They ar ethe ones that hold the knowledge.

      1. Yes I understand that point entirely – the point I’m trying to make however that it is collective world wide wisdom that is being repudiated by Ridley and echoed by Joe. I consider that to be more closer to the truth than anything they may utter.

  2. Gareth: “Useful idiots”

    But whose Gareth? Whose? I don’t think you quite understand the term because it’s you alarmist nutters who are following a new religion. The one invented by Maurice Strong and his sidekicks like Gore. We are just the sceptics saying that what these guys are promulgating is crap.

    We are not following anyone’s particular agenda, creed, dogma or theory. You are! So you guys are the useful idiots. Strong and Gore are laughing at you right now.

    1. Your every word and deed is straight out of the playbook written for you by those campaigning against action to reduce carbon emissions. You’ll find the full background explained in detail in James Hoggan’s book Climate Cover Up, reviewed here.

      NB: I’m not suggesting you’re being paid for your efforts, but your ideology makes you useful to the denial campaign.

      Confident prediction: you will refuse to acknowledge the evidence of a concerted campaign, while continuing to use all the material provided for you by the likes of Heartland, SPPI, CFACT (Morano) and the rest.

  3. You’re a laugh a minute Gareth. Do you get any sleep at night worrying about this ridiculous nonsense? You’re an apocalyptic man aren’t you.

    But your last sentence carries a hint of what this is really all about: a “concerted campaign”. You got it in one mate. It’s not about science. Never has been. It’s a “concerted campaign” with the filthy stench of politics and environmental extremism. And you alarmist guys have been sucked in by it. But it’s not your fault Gareth because you probably have a psychological need for an apocalypse. That’s why I said to you recently, that once AGW has done its dash and everyone is bored with it, you will need to fill the void with another hobgoblin to be fearful of.

    As for me, I’m proud of my carbon footprint. I’m doing everything I can to increase it. The more CO2 in the air, the better! Plants love the stuff.

    1. Score one to me. Prediction confirmed.

      Joe: I suppose you’ll deny this, too:

      The year before the 1992 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Rio, a coalition of coal and utility companies launched a disinformation campaign designed by a public relations firm to create the Information Council on the Environment (ICE).

      The plan specified the use of three so-called “greenhouse skeptics” — Drs. Robert Balling, Pat Michaels and Sherwood Idso — in broadcast appearances, op-ed articles and newspaper interviews in selected markets.

      The goal of the campaign was to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” according to strategy papers developed by a polling firm used by the public relations company that managed the ICE campaign.


  4. Like I said, you’re a laugh a minute Gareth. Do you actually read anything anyone says? Or, on the basis of your childish “prediction”, did you expect me to immediately change my mind without even thinking about it and join the alarmists in believing the sky is falling? Like change my mind in the blink of an eye because you made some random childish “prediction”? Sceptic one minute, alarmist the next.

    It wouldn’t have mattered what I said next because you would have gone “score one to me!” You’re like some pre-programmed robot who spouts any old rubbish the moment someone speaks to it, like one of those toy parrots who squawks inanities when someone comes near.

    You need to get off your perch and READ Gareth. Not just squawk nonsense.

    1. So Joe, what about the Information Council on the Environment? Do you agree it existed, and started a campaign to position global warming as “theory not fact”? Or did it never happen?

      1. There’s way too much of his drivel out there as it is. Google his name and it seems he’s part of the New Zealand Climate ”Science” Coaltion. No! Surely not?!!

  5. Gareth,

    As usual you are missing the point.

    I have never denied that “global warming”, such as it is, is a fact when the planet is in a natural warming period, say as it emerged from the LIA. At the moment though, it seems to have reverted to a ‘global cooling’ phase as the sun enters a quiet period of unknown duration.

    However the issue is over the notion of MANMADE global warming/climate change (as a consequence of artificial CO2 emissions), which is indeed a THEORY! That particular aspect of “global warming” has yet to be proved. There is no evidence for that particular THEORY.

    And until there IS evidence for it – and someone can tell me why it would even be a problem! – I’ll continue to go out of my way to increase my so-called “carbon footprint” while laughing at all the morons who insist AGW is a fact!

    1. You have no idea do you Joe! A complete and utter ignoramus. There is plenty of evidence to support man made AGW. (I’m not going to waste anyone’s time listing it here – but it’s there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear) unfortunately Joe you appear to have neither it’s just too scary for you to admit it and so you practice every form of denialism under the sun from rationalism – “its the cyclic warming phase”, to acting like a spoilt child – I’ll do as I want.

    2. Joe: you seem rather keen to avoid answering my simple question. So Joe, what about the Information Council on the Environment? Do you agree it existed, and started a campaign to position global warming as “theory not fact”? Or did it never happen?

      PS: The ICE was established in 1991, and here we are nearly 20 years on, with Joe insisting it’s only a theory…

  6. Joe, you seem to have gotten your mouth confused with your arse, but I see you have been able to figure out the CAPS LOCK button on your keyboard, so there is hope for you yet.

    Here is another theory – GRAVITY! Can anyone say how it REALLY works? And what about those MORONS who say its all tied up with the SHAPE of space and time (or, as Al Gore calls it “spacetime”). How crazy is THAT?

    I mean, reallly, who do these dickwads think they’re fooling, huh? I just laugh at them as I tool around in my SUV with my GPS telling me which way to turn, ‘cos I know it works by MAGIC! Yeah, MAGIC! Who needs all that math and “relativity” and stuff, ‘cos anyone with half a brain knows the Earth is flat, else we’d hafta FALL OFF or something, like it sez in God’s HOLY FUCKIN’ BIBLE, man!

    Joe, yo de MAN, broski! Let’s go get pissed together and dry-hump that big ol’ IPCC report thingy yo be so afraid of fo’ so long, dude.


    [Rob: tone it down a bit, please… GR]

  7. I’m hearing from solveclimate how the ICA chair Shapiro has drawn a conclusion about the IPCC not heeding the “complexity” of contemporaryclimate change science..

    on the face this appears an extraordinary thing to say, but I was wondering whether in fact it was used as some kind of warning about dumbing down the science in order to more effectively communicate with administrators and politicians around the planet.. what do you reckon..?

    did dumb-down occur..? were science teams too softening on the hard facts in order to accomodate greater understanding..? might sticking to the science uphold authority etc..

    I’m sensing that without that authority several untoward possibilities could arise in our world whose consequences would be undeserved to put it mildly.

  8. Tom, given the whole point of the exercise is to summarize the state of the science & to provide advice to policy makers i.e. those dumbass politicians, perhaps a bit more accessibility might be advisable?.

    I don’t expect whatever they do will make much difference though, facing up to the truth is too hard for most, a series of climate shocks to the fat cat nations is what is needed. It won’t immediately initiate action to curb greenhouse emissions, but it’ll sure change public “opinion”.

  9. Well after Rob Taylor’s incredibly childish rant, there’s not much point going any further debating the actual issue. What a ridiculous moron!

    And the very fact that his mad hysterical outburst earned four thumbs-up votes suggests to me his fellow alarmists on this blog are just as childish and stupid.

    So I’ll leave you children to play in your sandpit.

    Have fun waiting for the sky to fall! I can’t be bothered with you idots.

    1. Joe: you still avoid answering my simple question. So Joe, what about the Information Council on the Environment? Do you agree it existed, and started a campaign to position global warming as “theory not fact”? Or did it never happen?

  10. Joe Fone tpyed earlier
    “And until there IS evidence for it – and someone can tell me why it would even be a problem! – I’ll continue to go out of my way to increase my so-called “carbon footprint” while laughing at all the morons who insist AGW is a fact!”

    So Joe, if this statement isn’t childish and stupid – I don’t know what is.

    However, Rob T’s post was over the top and too full of stereotypes for my liking so no tick from me. Swearing didn’t help either.

  11. To answer Gareth’s question on the so called ‘Information Council on the Environment’, as far as I’m aware the intention was to bring evidence-based science to the debate because it had been hitherto dominated by politically-motivated conjecture and media hysteria. But in any case Gareth, your question is beside the point and is really a smoke screen to the actual debate which is about demonstrating with clear empirical evidence that man’s CO2 emissions are responsible for driving climate change and causing ‘dangerous global warming’. So it at best, AGW is a theory, a hypothesis of little merit. It certainly isn’t a “fact”.

    But if you want to get into a pissing contest by debating who funded what and then on that basis decide the merits of the case, you’d lose because for every dollar you claim is spent by so-called ‘Big Oil’ or the greenies’ bogeyman EXXON Mobil, or the coal industry on financing sceptical scientists “to position global warming as theory not fact”, a thousand dollars is spent by government funded research institutes to “prove” the opposite (http://tinyurl.com/yj35m8a).

    So I don’t care if the “Information Council on the Environment” exits or not because it doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. Who cares? So what if it exists?

    1. Joe says: …as far as I’m aware the intention was to bring evidence-based science to the debate because it had been hitherto dominated by politically-motivated conjecture and media hysteria.

      Rolls on the floor laughing… Now try the Global Climate Coalition, Joe. What about them?

  12. Skepticism of man made global warming by the Climate Science community in Private

    When the climate science community is skeptical about catastrophic global warming in PRIVATE, why not everyone?

    Here is what they say in private:

    1) “Be awkward if we went through a early 1940s type swing!”

    2) “I think we have been too readily explaining the slow changes over past decade as a result of variability–that explanation is wearing thin.”

    3) “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.” [This statement was made 5-years ago and the global warming rate still is zero]

    4) “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple.”

    5) “IPCC is not any more an assessment of published science (which is its proclaimed goal) but production of results”

    If the climate science community itself is allowed to be skeptical about man made global warming in private, why can not everyone in PUBLIC?

    With all this skepticism about the theory of man made global warming by skeptics and by the climate science community, in private, a trillion dollar policy is not justified until this theory is validated.

    Here is how we validate:

    Year=> IPCC Global Mean Temperature Anomaly (deg C)

    Year=>Global Mean Temperature Anomaly based on natural patterns (deg C)

    If the observation matches the IPCC projections then we may have man made global warming and we may need to do something. However, if the observed temperatures match the natural pattern, then we must reject the theory of man made global warming.

    We only need ten more years for the validation.

    Validation of theory is the kernel of science!

  13. Dappledwater,

    but then I had learned how the IAC chair was a Princeton man and might more ably(or not) represent acceptability to what many here would term the ‘anti-science’ mob..

    certainly their – ‘antiscience’ – howlings to effect Pachauri’s removal of late might suggest a certain expectation of the fellow’s appointment and role..

    we should, OTOH, at least try for a more succinct and constructive outcome.. at least that will assist my ongoing intent to clarify this thing termed ‘complexity’… so I ask again, what was the hard part? – what didn’t people get..? would the getting do anything whatsoever of merit in progressing planetary needs..?

    Oh yes, as as a former triad of physicists would have confidently asserted— we are getting there— and I, for myself, will add—tho not on the back of an envelope 🙂

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