5 Ways to Fix the IPCC, the Gatekeeper of Climate Science

By Andrew Moseman | February 11, 2010 5:40 pm

snowstormWhat are we going to do with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

The panel got itself in major trouble a few weeks ago when it admitted a major goof, that it included a detail in its 2007 report saying the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, which is a huge exaggeration. Chief Rajendra Pachauri stood by the report as a whole as a sound piece of research, and indeed the first section of the four-part series, which is about physics of anthropogenic climate change, has seen no errors surface. That section laid out the evidence that human activities are boosting carbon dioxide levels in the air and are therefore warming the planet. But four mistakes have been discovered in the second report, which attempts to explain how global warming might affect daily life around the world [Christian Science Monitor].

The IPCC’s errors have given ammunition to deniers of global warming, especially U.S. politicians who have spent the recent batch of snowstorms beating their chests over how wrong climate scientists must be for there to be a blizzard in February. (Though to be fair, and in recognition of the fact that all politicians are opportunists, people on the other side have blamed single storms like Hurricane Katrina on climate change, which is just as silly.) So, to save some face for climate science, several scientists have proposed ways to fix the IPCC in this week’s issue of the journal Nature:

1. Split Into Three Panels

The University of East Anglia’s Mike Hulme proposed breaking up the IPCC into three: one group for science, one to evaluate how climate change could alter various regions of the globe, and one to debate policy options. Says Hulme: “This restructuring would allow clearer distinctions to be made in areas that have been troublesome for the IPCC: assessments of published knowledge versus policy analysis and evaluation; the globalized physical sciences versus more geographically and culturally nuanced knowledge; a one-size, top-down model of ownership and governance versus more inclusive, representative and regionally varying forms of governance.”

2. Make it Independent

For German researcher Eduardo Zorita, it’s not just the IPCC’s mistakes that make it lose public trust, it’s the fact that it’s full of government nominees that occupy “a blurred space between science and politics,” and work under unmanageable stress and deadlines. Zorita says the a climate body ought to be more like the US Congressional Budget Office—accountable, but independent.

3. Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater

Thomas F. Stocker has worked with the IPCC, and defends it as an “honest broker,” but not a perfect one. Rather than throwing away something that he argues has served the world well for two decades, he recommends against swift overhaul because of a spat of bad news. That includes resisting calls to speed up the process: “The panel concluded that the production of comprehensive reports roughly every six years is preferable because it ensures the robustness required for a thorough and rigorous assessment. Faster turnover would jeopardize the multi-stage review and thus compromise authority and comprehensiveness.”

4. Hurry Up Already

Jeff Price of the World Wildlife Federation takes the opposite stance: “The current period between assessments is too long. One option would be for the IPCC, or another body, to produce an annual review, assessment and synthesis of the literature for policy-makers (for example, three annual review volumes with a synthesis chapter in each volume) prepared by experts in the field.” He also recommends shorter, quickly produced papers in the interim between the longer tomes.

5. Open It Up

Citing the black eye that climate scientists got from the University of East Anglia emails controversy, IPCC contributor John R. Christy says that the IPCC needs to be as open as it can be, even at the risk of a little craziness: “An idea we pitched a few years ago that is now worth reviving was to establish a living, ‘Wikipedia-IPCC’. Groups of four to eight lead authors, chosen by learned societies, would serve in rotating, overlapping three-year terms to manage sections organized by science and policy questions (similar to the Fourth Assessment Report).… Controversies would be refereed by the lead authors, but with input from all sides in the text, with links to original documents and data. The result would be more useful than occasional big books and would be a more honest representation of what our fledgling science can offer. Defining and following rules for this idea would be agonizing, but would provide greater openness.”

If you want to read the full text of the recommendations, they’re currently available for free at Nature.

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Image: flickr / bsabarnowl

  • Mike Haseler

    The IPCC is a totally discredited body, it has one aim: to find evidence of Weather of Mass Destruction and like the WMD in Iraq, the IPCC just cannot envisage the possibility that WMD do not exist. No matter what form they take they will continue to jump on each and every weather event as yet further proof of their theory no matter how much damage their bogus use of science does to the reputation of real science. No matter what form they take, they will continue to interpret perfectly natural long term variation as “forcing”, and no matter what form they take they will continue to use fictitious unexplained multipliers to make their bad science fit the real evidence.

    We’ve always had auguries using fear of the weather gods to force the population to do their will and make sacrifice to them. The present high priests in the IPCC are no different and we will continue to see fear of WMD being used by the unscrupulous seeking grant funding as long as the climate keeps varying, and the only think which will put a stop to it is the gradual experience of the public that tnone of their predictions come true and they are just crying wolf.

  • John Levick

    First off disband the IPCC and make it international body separate from the UN, second remove the politicians, create two bodies one for research and another to check the veracity of all the first bodies claims and lastly prosecute those who have purposefully and willfully perpetrated fraud on both sides of the issue.

  • JJ

    I’m not sure anything the IPCC does will restore the public’s confidence and trust at this point.

  • Andrew30

    Just scrap the IPCC, get a subscription to Climbing magazine and go to the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace web sites from time to time. You will get the same quality information and a fraction of the cost.

  • Ian

    How about following the scientific method and following the peer review process?

  • http://pos-darwinista.blogspot.com Enezio E. de Almeida Filho

    First get a hypothesis, and then test it!

  • Robin Datta

    What are we going to do with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?
    Let it compost. The more one stirs a bucket of humanure, the more it stinks. So, don’t disturb it. Let it be!

  • Michael

    I was predicting on this very site back in July that this winter was going to be brutal. And indeed, it is. One severe winter a global cooling does not make, to be sure, but it’s likely a harbinger of things to come–very serious and dangerous things. While, historically, humans have prospered during times of warming, they have suffered mightily during times of cooling. Cooling is far more threatening to humans than warming. We are in an extended cooling trend, and we should look at this situation with great concern.

    The IPCC was composed of ‘scientists’ who were hand picked by their sponsoring countries because they bought into the global warming propaganda. The organization has now been revealed as a political front for the advancement of globalized government control. This is not a conspiracy, but rather a loose cabal of misguided intellectuals who believe that only they are qualified to make choices for the billions of folks inhabiting the Earth. Yes, many of those billions are ignorant and uncaring, but that fact does not give any group, however smart and educated, the right to determine the way of life and future for those billions.

    Now we also have this:

    “But probably the most damaging report has come from Joseph D’Aleo, the first Director of Meteorology and co-founder of the Weather Channel, and Anthony Watts, a meteorologist and founder of SurfaceStations.org.

    In a January 29 report, they find that starting in 1990, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began systematically eliminating climate measuring stations in cooler locations around the world. Yes, that’s right. They began eliminating stations that tended to record cooler temperatures and drove up the average measured temperature. The eliminated stations had been in higher latitudes and altitudes, inland areas away from the sea, as well as more rural locations. The drop in the number of weather stations was dramatic, declining from more than 6,000 stations to fewer than 1,500.

    D’Aleo and Watts show that the jumps in measured global temperature occur just when the number of weather stations is cut. But there is another bias that this change to more urban stations also exacerbates. Recorded temperatures in more urban areas rise over time simply because more densely populated areas produce more heat. Combining the greater share of weather stations in more urban areas over time with this urban heat effect also tends to increase the rate that recorded temperatures tend to rise over time.”

    The man-made global warming movement is going to be considered the greatest scientific fiasco of the 2oth century, and will go on record as demeaning and undermining people’s faith in scientists and the scientific method. This is going to have have very tragic consequences for humanity. It’s all a great shame.

  • JJ

    I believe it’s clear that the whole “climate change” notion is purely political. Not only have politicians ruined the credibility of science, but the scientists themselves have given science a bad name with all the false reports that point to an obvious agenda. A professionally skeptic scientist would never go around spewing fallacies that couldn’t be backed up with hard facts. There’s too much evidence that alludes to climatologists using skewed data, as well as political biases of the IPCC as part of the United Nations.

    Yet, the alarmists will continue with gloom and doom fear tactics and the deniers will remain skeptical. Theoretically, there’s no end to the debate because the alarmists fail to acknowledge the points brought about by skeptics. The most common responses to AGW critics tend to be redundant talking points. However, finding alternative fuel sources are a fundamental good idea to limit pollution from burning fossil fuels and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. I say trash the IPCC and simply use common sense.

  • YouRang

    I believe it’s clear that the whole “non-change in climate” is purely political.
    I have been worried about man made global warming since the 1950’s. And CO2 global warming was predicted by the first Nobel Laureate in chemistry 110 years ago. (So by the UNIVERSAL SCIENTIFIC RULE that phenomena, which are predicted BEFORE there is any evidence for them, are facts, THIS IS A FACT.) CO2 GLOBAL WARMING IS A FACT–THE ONLY DEBATE IS: Will there b e enough NEGATIVE feedback global cooling to prevent the well known POSITIVE FEEDBACK mechanisms from causing global catstrophe.

  • Richard Smoker

    To hell with the Winter Olympics…watching these Socialist BS artists at the IPCC squirm is the most entertaining show on the planet!!

    I say Al Gore should enter the Olympic downhill ski event this winter because he’s already doing a great job of rapidly skidding downhill on a mound of snow!!

    Ha Ha!!!

  • kelly

    CO2 retains heat and there is more CO2 – it is physics, which no bickering will change.

  • Zachary
  • Dave in Alaska

    Anthropogenic global warming is real, with increasing biomass the result. The greater threat is the recurring ice ages. If we have lengthened the current interglacial and forestalled the next ice age by a few thousand years, then it is a fantastic boon for life on Earth. Enslaving ourselves to ever-increasing government coercion based on faulty premises is a tragedy. There *will* be a next ice age — orbital forcing guarantees it — but making that ice age less severe is the most benign act we could perform as a species.

  • Steve Bartlett

    Don’t fix it, get rid of it. And charge everyone in it with fraud. It’s resulted in the exposure of the whole “global warming” scam as a massive Ponzi scheme, designed solely to enrich the politically connected few at the expense of those of us who actually work for a living.

  • http://discovermagazine Iain Park

    Anthropormorhic global warming is a hoaxe. During the carboniferous era the CO2 was approx 4400ppm yet there was an ice age. How could that be? Other than there is more to the story than CO2 of course.

  • Steve

    Michael has it right-the data was rigged in part by cutting off data from weather stations in colder climate zones. Also, I understand that Mann et al used tree ring data from about 13 trees in Siberia, cherry-picked from a larger number actually sampled, to come to their erroneous conclusions. How in the world can you jump to conclusions based on date from such a small handful of trees? You should be looking at tree ring data from thousands of trees from around the globe, from all climate zones, before jumping to conclusions. AGW is the hoax of the millenium. Time to cut funding from IPCC, from all the involved so-called “scientists”, and start serving indictments. I want my tax money back!

    Another tragedy is the loss of objectivity of journals such as Discover and National Geographic. I have read these for decades, but over the last few years I have noticed that the articles on climate and environment have become very heavily slanted toward the AGW side without giving credence or equal time to skeptics. And there are a lot of legitimate sceptics, scientists such as Christy and Easterbrook, with valid legitimate alternate explanations for what is happening.

    Also, I am old enough (55) to remember all the “Ice Age is Coming” hysteria from the 70’s and early 80’s. Funny, is it not, what happened to that? And isn’t it funny that Professor Steven Schneider of Stanford, one of the most vocal ice age predictors, shifted gears to global warming alarmism in the 1980’s. Maybe that would make a good article for Discover, if you truly remain any sort of a valid scientific journal.

  • http://discovermagazine Iain Park

    The Carboniferous Period and the Ordovician Period were the only geological periods during the Paleozoic Era when global temperatures were as low as they are today. To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot. Instead, global temperatures were no warmer than today. Clearly, other factors besides atmospheric carbon influence earth temperatures and global warming.

  • Wil

    As others have stated above, the IPCC has been utterly discredited. It is obvious to any adult that their constant stream of “errors”, “mistakes”, “goofs” and “booboo’s” are actually intentional, arrogant and shameless lies. The IPCC can never be fixed or trusted, because it is corrupt to the level of each individual member.

    If one rearranges a room full of incompetent, arrogant, pathological liars, what does one have then? Answer: a room full of incompetent, arrogant, pathological liars. This group is utterly finished. The only ones that can’t seem to see that is themselves.

    The answer is immediate and aggressive criminal prosecution for most of them, including scientists and some journalists, who eagerly damaged the careers of many honest and decent scientists, and who repeatedly lied and amplified the lies of others. We deserve so much better than the likes of these self-righteous, destructive clowns.

  • Dylan

    “The UNIVERSAL SCIENTIFIC RULE that phenomena, which are predicted BEFORE there is any evidence for them, are facts, THIS IS A FACT”

    If I were to say it will rain this Thursday somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 AM due to the planets aligning, that does not make it true, even if it does end up raining Thursday morning between 9:30 and 10:30.

  • Dave

    So Atmospheric Climate Change is still on the bubble, however there is no denying the hard facts associated with Oceanic Acidification. As the more CO2 Goes in the air the more it goes into our oceans and forcing the pH down. This pH change can have disastrous effects on the quadrillions of plankton that feed our oceans and sequester the CO2 that is in the air already. Besides having affects on their normal metabolism, it can also dissolve calcium bicarbonate, coral reefs. That is hard science and that should be a concern with every ton of CO2 let into the air.

  • Phil

    So a panel of politicians and governmental appointees picked the wrong study and included it in their report… So what. This panel still serves as a way to look at lots of research and identify what is palatable to a large group of nations. What everyone needs to remember is that the panel does no research of its own, but essentially does a literature search of relevant research and identifies the acceptable conclusions that can be drawn by consensus of the members. Not perfect but it serves its purpose… Let it live wier and more aware for the mistake!

  • marty

    To Mike H.

    And I mean this from the heart, bub.

    *standing ovation!!*

    And Kelly who thinks CO2 retains more heat… put a block of “dry ice” in a plastic Coke bottle. now…put the same mass of regular ice in a 2nd plastic coke bottle.

    put them under the same heat source the same distance apart, each with a thermometer. notice anything? *chuckle chuckle*

    as someone who already pointed it out – first hypothesize THEN test it.


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