Monday, October 24, 2011

The Delinquent Teenager - the IPCC and the WWF

I mentioned last week that Donna Laframboise has just written a new book with the lengthy title “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert”, but which, for this post I will shorten to “The DT”. The book is a fascinating dénouement of the reality of the structure of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC issues reports which it describes as:
an update of knowledge on the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change.
Four reports have been issued to date, with work ongoing on the fifth, which is referred to as the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and which will be released in the 2013/2014 timeframe. The book deals with the way in which the current report, AR4, released in 2007, and which might be considered the “Climate Bible” (Donna’s words) was compiled, and the makeup of the writing teams for AR5.

The work is widely reported as being that of the world’s experts in the different aspects of climate, and its impacts, with the assessment reports bringing those ideas together under the supervision of panels of additional experts in the various fields. Thus it is claimed to summarize the opinions of thousands of scientists and to mark the quintessence of thinking on the state-of-knowledge. With that reputation it is quoted as the justifying document for a wide ranging set of governmental actions around the globe, including the move by the EPA to control Greenhouse Gases, and for example, the moves in Europe to restrict the use of coal in power stations and to justify the increase in investment in wind and solar energy technologies.

But that curtain of respectability based on the “authority” of the authors has been shattered through the revelations of the book. And while it should be noted that many of the individual facts have been discussed in the past, they have never been chained together to shake the edifice so thoroughly and justifiably as is done here.

There are, of course, those who will denigrate the work, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has issued a press release in which if “refutes ‘ludicrous’ claims’ that it infiltrated the IPCC. However, the power of the book comes in the detail that allows me to look up the role of the WWF. Chapter 4 of the report of Working Group 2 deals with species extinctions, and it has five of the 10 most senior personnel affiliated with the WWF. The WWF has, as Donna notes (and details) worked to persuade IPCC authors to join one of its panels, and she goes on (in footnote 31-5) to list 78 IPCC personnel who have thus become involved. (Also on her Website). The facts deny the WWF protestations.

But it is in the revealed mediocrity and mendacious nature of the reports themselves that The DT is most disturbing. Rather than relying purely on the skilled knowledge of the world’s experts, and their papers, as the IPCC claims is the practice, considerably less upright behavior is documented throughout the book. Very junior scientists are recruited to draft significant portions of the material, and many documents used turn out to be from non-peer-reviewed sources. It is not that I am necessarily impressed with “peer review”, as an academic I have very mixed feelings about those who consider that nothing is established until it is in a peer-reviewed publication – despite physical evidence or other real world experience - but if you claim that the material is peer-reviewed and as is shown here it is not, then you are at best proven unreliable. The actions of the “Team” in filtering papers that try to get into such journals, and the consequences to those who doubt the “Climate Bible” and the editors who publish them are now well documented in books such as Andrew Montford’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion”, and the Mosher and Fuller book “Climategate: the CRUtape letters” . The "gatekeepers" to the journals are working hard to ensure that only their views are heard, thus the value of these books.

The DT illustrates, for example, the actions of Kevin Trenberth, who with little documented background knowledge in the area of the possible effects of climate change on hurricane intensity, led that chapter of the Climate Bible, and in the process over-rode the expert knowledge of Chris Landsea, who had commented “there are no known scientific studies that show a conclusive physical link between global warming and hurricane frequency and intensity.” (The full e-mail with this objection is a Webcite within the electronic version of the DT).

This really is a highly informative, well documented look at the IPCC which deserves wide distribution, and it should be read by all those who cite the IPCC as justification for a multiplicity of processes. Sadly to say, I rather doubt that it will get the hearing and the proper respect that is its due. What has become evident over time is that the pathways to “getting the word out” lies through a band of “environmental reporters” who would not have work if there were no “environmental crisis.” Rather than review opposing viewpoints or disquieting information, such as that found in this book, their practice has been to ignore the message in the hope that it will go away. After a while they can then say “oh, but it was brought up, and really it was but a storm in a teacup!” They then move on, blissful in their disregard for anything but to maintain a status quo that keeps them gainfully (???) employed.

I would however suggest that it is well worth taking the time to understand what foundation the IPCC is built on, because there is, in all things “ a time when all things come to those who wait.” And as the ball of that discontent grows you will be able to understand both its context, but also what other legs of straw will also fall, in time, as the edifice crumbles. This is a worthy beginning to that eventual result. It is unfortunate that the world could not hold out for a change in IPCC structure, that would allow the true picture to emerge, but as the book shows, the powers that are entrenched have their own agenda, and the controls to maintain it . . . for the present.

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