John Christy: IPCC authors are gatekeepers

De presentatie van John Christy in Montreal (praatje begint op 2:29 uur) en ook zijn antwoorden op vragen na afloop waren zeer interessant. In tegenstelling tot de presentaties van Christopher Field en Hans von Storch is de pdf van zijn verhaal nog niet beschikbaar op de website van het IAC Panel. Ik vroeg Christy per e-mail of hij zijn verhaal helemaal had uitgeschreven (de geluidskwaliteit van de opnamen is namelijk niet best) en zo ja of we het op de blog mochten zetten. Zojuist stuurde hij zijn integrale verhaal.

Zijn visie is mij al enige tijd bekend, maar toch is het weer een genot om de man te horen praten. Een wetenschapper die betrokken is geweest bij vrijwel alle IPCC-rapporten, die zich inmiddels moederziel alleen moet voelen bij IPCC-bijeenkomsten, maar die desondanks bij het IPCC betrokken blijft. Dat laatste is belangrijk want zoals eerder vandaag uit de reactie van Pielke sr bleek zijn teveel wetenschappers met kritiek op het IPCC in de loop der tijd afgehaakt. Christy blijft naar IPCC-bijeenkomsten gaan, zoals vorig jaar in Hawaii, en neemt geen blad voor de mond, ook al weet hij dat zijn mede IPCC-auteurs hem niet juichend zullen ontvangen. Hij is zo ongeveer de laatste brug tussen de sceptici en het IPCC en als zodanig inderdaad de juiste man voor het IAC Panel.

Christy was waarschijnlijk via Climate Audit op de hoogte van onder andere onze pogingen om het Panel ervan te overtuigen dat ze McIntyre en McKitrick moeten horen. Hij deed nadrukkelijk een beroep op het Panel om met McIntyre te gaan praten. We zullen zien of ze daar nog (want hun tijd dringt ook) gehoor aan zullen geven. Mijn inschatting is van niet.

Het onderscheid tussen honest brokers en gatekeepers wat Christy maakt werd niet door alle panelleden begrepen. Een panellid vroeg Christy dan ook na afloop of het IPCC zijn werk niet gewoon netjes had beoordeeld maar te licht bevonden. Christy antwoordde dat dit dus precies is wat gatekeepers doen, ze selecteren artikelen die in hun straatje passen en negeren of bagatelliseren artikelen die niet in hun visie passen. Hij benadrukte dat de artikelen die hij ingestuurd had naar de Lead Authors van AR4 niet eens in de referentielijst zijn opgenomen. Een broker zou netjes alle visies op een rijtje zetten en het oordeel aan de lezer overlaten. Dit is waar Christy voor pleit.

Het komt niet vaak voor dat je het met alles wat iemand zegt eens bent, maar dit is zo’n geval. Elke zin van Christy komt overeen met mijn eigen ervaringen na vijf jaar journalistieke research, wat bestond uit eindeloos veel artikelen en blogs lezen en zeer veel praten met zowel sceptici als AGW’ers. Ik ben zeer benieuwd hoe het Panel over de bevindingen van Christy zal rapporteren. Deze bevindingen staan volledig haaks op de juichverhalen van andere gehoorde IPCC’ers.

IAC 15 June 2010
John R. Christy
Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science
Director, Earth System Science Center
Alabama State Climatologist
University of Alabama in Huntsville

IPCC Lead Author: 2001 TAR
Contributor: 1992 Supplement
Contributor: 1994 Radiative Forcing of Climate Change
Key Contributor: 1995 SAR
Contributing Author: 2007 AR4, WG I and II

NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement
American Meteorological Society Special Award for satellite observations
Fellow, American Meteorological Society

Mr. Chairman and members of the IAC panel, thank you for inviting me to offer my views on the IPCC process. Five years ago the New York Times quoted me saying that an IPCC-like process, “… is the worst way to generate scientific information, except for all the others.” (23 Aug 2005) I now think I was a bit too generous.

A fundamental problem with the entire issue here is that climate science is not a classic, experimental science. As an emerging science of a complex, chaotic climate system, it is plagued by uncertainty and ambiguity in both observations and theory. Lacking classic, laboratory results, it easily becomes hostage to opinion, groupthink, arguments-from-authority, overstatement of confidence, and even Hollywood movies.

When climate scientists are placed in the limelight because this issue can generate compelling disaster scenarios, we simply don’t want to say, “We just don’t know.”

I have been a contributor to the IPCC Assessments since 1992 and a Lead Author in the Third Assessment of 2001. Though I had some good things to say about the IPCC, I did respond in 2001 to the US National Academy of Sciences when they solicited information about certain problems (see Appendix A). At the time, I was more concerned about the product rather than the process.

The first objection I raised regarding the Third Assessment was that the fabled Hockey Stick was oversold as an indicator of past climate change. This was well before the critical work of the Wegman Report, National Academy of Sciences, McIntyre’s papers and the East Anglia emails. Indeed, I urge you in the strongest terms to engage Stephen McIntyre in your deliberations at a high level as he has accurately documented specific failures in the IPCC process, some of which I can attest to, as I was there.

My second objection to the TAR was its overstatement of confidence in model projections. My role in the Fourth Assessment of 2007 was limited to that of a Contributing Author. This means I submitted recommendations that were
dealt with by the Lead Authors who tended to disagree with my published findings. Thus, their views carried the day in the report. In this process, the final result really boils down the opinions of those selected as Lead Authors, a point I will address below.

In March of last year, 8 months before the email fiasco, about 140 former IPCC Lead Authors gathered in Hawaii for a preview of what the Fifth Assessment might tackle. I was the only one there well-known to be essentially outside the IPCC “consensus.” I had come to the conclusion that the IPCC establishment demonstrated a disturbing homogeneity-of-thought regarding the hypothesized but unproven role that greenhouse gases might impose on the climate system. My short talk (Appendix B) and poster (Appendix C) at that meeting last year dealt with three science issues and
offered a recommendation.

The three issues were (1) the surface temperature record is flawed in many ways, but is flawed in particular as a metric to detect greenhouse-imposed warming, (2) direct tests of the socalled fingerprint of climate model temperature changes versus observations indicated significant differences, failing simple hypothesis tests, and (3) the critical value of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases was overstated because it had not been properly calculated. All of these were supported by peer-reviewed publications which even now continue to appear.

Brokers vs gatekeepers
In my view, the IPCC process had drifted away from allowing authors to serve as Brokers of climate science, in which various views are given attention, to becoming Gatekeepers of climate science in which one view is elevated and promoted. The IPCC Assessment had become a “consensus of those who agreed with the consensus.” Since “consensus” is a political notion, not a scientific notion, a goal of “consensus” in any forum is at its heart a political goal.

My recommendation last year was to include a chapter written by credentialed climate scientists who would provide evidence concerning these heretofore minimized issues, in particular the low sensitivity of the climate system. My assumption at that time was that the IPCC writing process would be the same, i.e. that the Lead Authors of this chapter, as the others, would be given the sacred right of being their own final reviewers to let a new voice be heard. No one at the meeting thought this was a useful suggestion, I believe, because it would allow the expression of reasonable
alternatives to claims too entrenched in the message of looming climate disasters promoted with IPCC indulgence.

Since last March, much has happened to expose some of the scientists who dominated the IPCC, whom I call the establishment, as less than transparent, subject to bias, and who suppress alternative views while using the IPCC’s
perception as a near-sacred document to promote their own opinions. This establishment dominates not only the IPCC but also the review process of the peer-reviewed literature, making it extremely difficult for alternative evidence to even be published now. This happens when your type of science is rather murky to begin with.

Fundamental flaws
In my view, the three fundamental flaws in the current IPCC process are (1) the two-step political filter by which Lead Authors are selected, (2) the review-authority granted the Lead Authors who write the chapters and synthesis reports, and, (3) the very limited word-count available for each topic, which encourages short and overconfident statements about questions that in truth are plainly nasty to deal with.

In February of this year, Nature magazine asked me for a brief discussion about the IPCC and a way forward (Appendix D, last page). My main concern there was to define a process that would let the world know that our ignorance of much of the climate system is simply enormous and we have much to do. Mother Nature has a tremendous number of degrees of freedom up her sleeves, many of which we don’t even know about or account for.

So, I suggested a living, carefully-managed, wikipedia-style process. Important questions, most of which are already laid out in the IPCC manifest, would be addressed by teams of Lead Authors who would be far less constrained by the word-count rules, and so would allow fuller expression of uncertainty and disagreement – expressions contributed by the specific people who perform whatever research is being discussed. The Lead Authors main task would be to organize and summarize the information on each question, acting strictly as Brokers, not Gatekeepers.

With web-based links to actual text (and data) the Lead Authors would be far less tempted to be biased. Lead Authors need to know they do not have to agree with the findings they report. I believe such transparency would spur the Lead Authors to be fairer and more humble in their summary comments.

Peer-reviewed research of course would dominate the source material, but other documents – whose source is clearly identified – could contribute to the discussion. I know there would be significant issues of managing such a process, but I believe it would be far better than producing big books every six years that are limited, biased and out-of-date when they are printed. We are in the 21st Century, and, to the despair of those who find comfort in absolute answers, there are only continuously evolving levels of understanding (and ignorance) to most of the climate questions being asked.

This situation begs for a dynamic assessment process. The selection of Lead Authors through a two-step political process is a problem too. Presently, national governments nominate to the IPCC those who over the years, they can generally count on to be consistent with national policy. From this pool, the IPCC itself selects those it wants to be
Lead Authors.

To combat the political influence of governments and the U.N., to a small extent, I would recommend that Lead Authors be nominated by appropriate learned societies, such as yours, and selected for overlapping, rotating terms. I’m not completely comfortable with this as I’m aware that councils of science are deeply involved in political maneuvering which is why I state that to a “small extent” the political influence of governments and the U.N. might be mitigated.

Some Lead Authors could and should be scholars from other disciplines but who have a keen awareness of the hard rules of hypothesis testing, admissible evidence, and the power of language … physicists, chemists, engineers and yes, even lawyers. As I told a colleague the other day, it is clear to me now that climate science needs some adult supervision.

I realize such a recommendation creates consternation among those who have controlled the process up to now and who believe deeply that the “science is settled” because they find comfort in easy and unimaginative answers to difficult questions. For example, why doesn’t the IPCC report on (and funding agencies invest in) major research about the internal dynamical properties of the climate system? At present these properties are incapably represented in climate models to date, and yet have been shown to be a major source of the variability we’ve seen. Why must we be so
unimaginative that we just give up and claim that nothing else but enhanced greenhouse forcing explains most of the temperature rise in the past 50 years?

Others will complain that such an open process I describe will not generate the definitive statements necessary to drive policy. To those I say, “Welcome to climate science.” If a specific policy is desired, climate science is a weak leg on which to stand which means a policy should have multiple, defensible reasons for adoption.

You will hear from those within the IPCC establishment that the IPCC does a terrific job of getting down to the truth about climate science and that the consensus reports are the best documents for policymakers. But as one mostly outside the “consensus”, I can not agree, and I am far, far from being alone in that disagreement. I say this as a working-stiff climate scientist who builds datasets from scratch to create understanding and test assertions about the climate system. The process followed in the Fourth Assessment, in my view, simply did not provide to the world the true ambiguities, uncertainties and contentions of our fledgling science.

In summary, to me, the impediments to providing a more honest expression of our science to the world in the current IPCC process are (1) Lead Authors essentially having final review authority, (2) the Lead Author selection process which encourages government-approved, homogeneity-of-thought, and (3) the limited size, the dead-line character, and the past-expiration-date of printed documents.

Thank you.

Door | 2010-06-17T23:12:24+00:00 17 juni 2010|10 Reacties

10 Reacties

  1. Boels069 19 juni 2010 om 13:06 - Antwoorden

    Uit bovenstaande link:

    "Modelers are working to reproduce observations, and when a match is finally constructed, the insinuation is that the models are successful.

    In my view, this procedure is not a scientific success as much as an exercise in curve-fitting."

    Dat moet hard zijn angekomen.

  2. Scarface 19 juni 2010 om 12:15 - Antwoorden

    Voor de presentatie van Christy (met bijlagen), zie:

    Christy heeft een bijzonder scherpe kijk op het geheel. Hij legt de problemen met het IPCC dan ook genadeloos bloot.

  3. Keeef1 18 juni 2010 om 20:46 - Antwoorden

    Climate science is an immature primitive discipline which is largely ignorant about many of the factors which influence science. For the IPCC to recommend the deindustrialization of the West and restructuring of the world's economy on the basis of this shaky science is absurd.

  4. MacTheKnife 18 juni 2010 om 19:16 - Antwoorden

    Mr Christy I wholely agree with your assessment of the IPCC and current uncertainties in climate science. You seem far to sensible and rational to be an IPCC author !!!

  5. Oliver K. Manuel 18 juni 2010 om 17:46 - Antwoorden

    Thank you, Professor Christy, for speaking candidly about Climategate and the IPCC process. That is only way to save science from becoming a propaganda tool of those who control grant funds.

    I especially appreciate the courage of your advice to the IPCC panel:

    "Indeed, I urge you in the strongest terms to engage Stephen McIntyre in your deliberations at a high level as he has accurately documented specific failures in the IPCC process, some of which I can attest to, as I was there."

    With kind regards,

    Oliver K. Manuel

    Emeritus Professor

    Nuclear & Space Studies

    Former NASA Principal Investigator for Apollo

  6. harold 18 juni 2010 om 02:12 - Antwoorden

    Mooi Marcel, de Q and A sessie is ook interessant en begint 2:41:00

  7. TINSTAAFL 18 juni 2010 om 00:48 - Antwoorden

    McIntyre is voor de IPCC de Antichrist. Hij is degene die begonnen is een bijl te zetten in de AGW stam. Ofschoon SteveMc uiterst correct is wordt hij door elke, maar dan ook elke onderzoekscommissie genegeerd. Hem uitnodigen wordt hetzelfde beschouwd als zijn werk te accepteren. En dan kan toch niet van een "scientific fraud" (Mann in de Climategate emails)? Zo schreef Mann al in 2003 aan zijn collega´s “The important thing is to deny that this has any intellectual credibility whatsoever and, if contacted by any media, to dismiss this for the stunt that it is.”

    Christy is al lang een roepende in de IPCC woestijn. Ik geloof echter dat hij steeds meer gehoor krijgt. Van de sceptische klimaatwetenschappers zijn hij en Dick Lindzen de beste woordvoerders.

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