Bij deze roep ik iedereen op om de komende dagen samen met mij het zeer betaalbare een e-book te lezen: Delinquent teenager who was mistaken for the worlds top climate expert . In ben pas op een kwart dus je haalt me gemakkelijk in.
Sinds Sperber en Mercier 2011 weten we dat het menselijk brein niet gebouwd is voor logica maar voor overtuigingskracht. Wél: het bovenstaande boek van Donna met de mooie achternaam Laframboise is f…… overtuigend! Daarbij moet je bedenken dat voor mij lezen over het IPCC en meer aan de weet komen over deze club is alsof ik de ingrediënten van een stinkende hondendrol onder de loep neem. En toch! Dit boek móet ik lezen. Omdat het een spannend jongensboek is dat leest als een trein. En helaas geen fictie!
Hieronder de inhoudsopgave en de gratis sample…
The Delinquent Teenager
who was mistaken for the world’s top climate expert
© 2011 by Donna Laframboise
Ivy Avenue Press, Toronto, Canada
The following exposé of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was written by an investigative journalist and is the product of two years of research. Learn more about the author here. Praise for this book appears here.
Clicking on a footnote will bring you to additional commentary within this book. (Pressing your Back button returns you to the main text.) Hundreds of additional links have also been included. Clicking one of these usually takes you beyond these pages and out onto the Internet. You may find it more convenient to explore such links by viewing this book from within Kindle Cloud Reader software on your desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.
There are no real experts, only people who understand their own little pieces of the puzzle. The big picture is a mystery…
– Danny Hillis, Millennium bug skeptic,Newsweek, May 1999
Science is a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions.
– Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel, 2006
Table of Contents
1 – A Closer Look at the World’s Leading Climate Body
2 – Showered with Praise
3 – The Top Scientists & Best Experts?
4 – Twenty-Something Graduate Students
5 – The Right Gender or the Right Country
6 – Activists
7 – Climate Modelers
8 – Clear as Mud
9 – The Immense Edifice That Wasn’t
10 – The Shield and the Sword
11 – The Peer Review Fairy Tale
12 – Facts and Fiction
13 – Screw the Rules
14 – The Stern Review Scandal
15 – Cutoff Dates, What Cutoff Dates?
16 – This is Called Cheating
17 – Cross-Examination
18 – Endangered: Independent Minds
19 – The International Political Stage
20 – The Cart Before the Horse
21 – What’s a Nice Scientist Like You Doing in a Place Like This?
22 – Science Has (Not) Spoken
23 – Science is Not a Tyrant
24 – A Solution in Search of a Problem
25 – Pachauri’s Cause
26 – Following the Leader
27 – Moral Midgets
28 – Spinning Straw into Gold
29 – The Cut-and-Paste Job
30 – Steering Society
31 – Extinction Fiction
32 – The Hockey Stick
33 – Peer Review IPCC-Style
34 – A Damning Assessment
35 – If the Jury Has Been Rigged…
36 – Disband the IPCC
1 – A Closer Look at the World’s Leading Climate Body
This book is about a spoiled child. Year after year, this child has been admired, flattered, and praised. There has been no end of self-esteem-building in his life. What there has been little of, though, is honest feedback or constructive criticism.
When we’re young, our parents ensure that we confront our mistakes. When our ball shatters a neighbor’s window we’re required to apologize – and to help pay for a replacement. What happens, though, if a child is insulated from consequences? What if he hears his parents tell the neighbor that because he’s special and precious he hasn’t done anything that wrong by trampling the neighbor’s flower bed?
The answer is obvious. A child who is never corrected is unlikely to develop self-discipline. A child whom everyone says is brilliant feels no need to strive for excellence. Nor does he have much hope of developing what, in this tale, is the most important quality of all: sound judgment.
The child at the center of this book was brought into the world by two United Nations bodies – one focused on the weather, the other on the environment. Called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – IPCC for short – this child arrived more than 20 years ago. [footnote 1-1]
Notice that the word intergovernmentalis part of its name. This means that every country that chooses to send delegates to infrequent meetings is a godparent of the IPCC. Any child with over 100 godparents is bound to be spoiled. Even when he torments small animals there will always be those who think he can do no wrong.
Which means that disciplining this child is next to impossible.
Having morphed into an obnoxious adolescent, the IPCC is now everyone’s problem. This is because it performs one of the most important jobs in the world. Its purpose is to survey the scientific literature regarding climate change, to decide what it all means, and to write an ongoing series of reports. These reports are informally known as the Climate Bible.
The Climate Bible is cited by governments around the world. It is the reason carbon taxes are being introduced, heating bills are rising, and costly new regulations are being enacted. It is why everyone thinks carbon dioxide emissions are dangerous.
Put simply: the entire planet is in a tizzy because of a UN report. What most of us don’t know is that, rather than being written by a meticulous, upstanding professional in business attire, this report was produced by a slapdash, slovenly teenager who has trouble distinguishing right from wrong.
For now, let us consider just one example. In the grown-up world, whenever important decisions and large amounts of money are involved conflict-of-interest mechanisms are firmly in place. Lawyers, accountants, politicians, and many others are subject to these rules as a matter-of-course. People who expect to be trusted by the public adopted them long ago.
Yet even though the IPCC is one of the world’s most influential bodies, and even though it evaluates matters in which trillions of dollars are at stake, well into the 21st century it saw no need to even discuss conflict-of-interest. This organization is so arrogant, so used to being fawned over, that its leaders failed to take the most ordinary of precautions.
2 – Showered With Praise
The IPCC has lounged, for more than two decades, in a large comfy chair atop a pedestal. When the IPCC is mentioned in broadcasts, newspapers, and books it is portrayed as a paragon of scientific truth and authority. Here are some direct quotes from people describing the IPCC:
- phenomenally successful
- a remarkable history of accomplishments
- there is not a parallel on this planet, in any field of endeavour
- its place in the history books is clear
- if the IPCC says something, you had better believe it [footnote 2-1]
Journalists are among the IPCC’s most ardent admirers. They say the Climate Bible is written by thousands of the world’s top experts who all agree with its conclusions. They routinely use words such as gold standard, authoritative, and pre-eminent to describe it. Indeed, when discussing the IPCC the media sound more like cheerleaders than hard-nosed reporters:
- the IPCC…has shown us the way (Timemagazine)
- It is chapter and verse, it is Holy Writ (Irish Independent)
- most scientists have been awed by the IPCC’s deliberate work (New York Times)
- The greatest feat of global scientific cooperation ever seen…utterly unique and authoritative (UK Guardian) [footnote 2-2]
In 2007, the Nobel committee joined the chorus of praise singers and crowned the IPCC with a Nobel Peace Prize. During his presentation speech, the Nobel chairman thanked the IPCC for its “outstanding scientific work” and for all it has done “for mother earth.” According to the Nobel committee, although it was once unclear whether human activities were causing global warming, “Thanks to the IPCC there is very little such doubt today.”
If you know a bit about history, though, that Nobel speech may have left you uneasy. This is how it ended: “Action is needed now. Climate changes are already moving beyond human control.” [footnote 2-3]
Let us be sensible for a moment. Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. During that time it has endured all sorts of perfectly natural climate transformations. As recently as 20,000 years ago 97% of Canadawas covered by ice. [footnote 2-4] That ice melted and retreated and the Ice Age ended all on its own. The Egyptian pharaohs, remember, only came into the picture 5,000 years ago, while the Romans ruled 2,000 years ago. To suggest that the climate has ever been within human control is surely a bit silly.
Mark Twain once observed that:
…people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
If Twain were alive today, he might have sharp words for all the hype surrounding the IPCC. Twain was talking about religion and politics when he made the above remarks and, for some people, environmentalism has become a substitute religion. It is their worldview, the lens through which they interpret everything. Moreover, because the IPCC is a child of the United Nations – the stage on which so many of the world’s power blocs jostle with one another – whether we like it or not the IPCC is also mixed up with politics.
It has long been fashionable to be green. For half a century we’ve taught our children that the planet is fragile, that humans treat it carelessly, and that we are on the brink of ecological disaster. Smart individuals armed with plenty of facts and figures arguethat the opposite is actually the case. They say the state of the world is steadily improving, that it’s becoming cleaner and healthier. But their voices barely register.
The larger point is that because we have been told so frequently that humans are a threat to the planet we are all predisposedto believe that our actions might trigger dangerous climate change. Most of us have never seriously questioned this idea. Among us are prime ministers, regulators, and supreme court judges. Among us are educators, community activists, and parents understandably concerned about the world their children will inherit.
This is why the IPCC has received so little scrutiny. This is why no one noticed that conflict-of-interest guidelines were missing. We all made the mistake of believing the IPCC was a gem of an organization simply because it is connected to protecting the environment.
Closer examination reveals that many of the things we’ve been told about the IPCC are mistaken. For instance, a great deal of noise is made about the allegedly rigorous manner in which its reports get written. The implication is that the IPCC has procedures and that these procedures are followed diligently.
But while the IPCC has taken the time to write down some rules of the road, it has never hired any traffic cops. Since many people exceed the speed limit when police officers are plentiful, what do we suppose happens when they’re entirely absent?
In the real world, when undisciplined youngsters slide behind the wheel of a fast car, how many of them can be counted on to behave?
3 – The Top Scientists & Best Experts?
The people who write IPCC reports are the crème de la crème. Everyone says so. Rajendra Pachauri, the person who has been the IPCC’s chairman since 2002, tells us this repeatedly. In 2007 he explained to a newspaper how his organization selects individuals to help write the Climate Bible:
These are people who have been chosen on the basis of their track record, on their record of publications, on the research that they have done…They are people who are at the top of their profession…
Two years later, when testifying before a committee of the US Senate, Pachauriargued that “all rational persons” should be persuaded by the IPCC’s conclusions since his organization mobilizes “the best talent available across the world.”
Whether he speaks in Austria or Australia, whether he gives an interview or writes articles himself, Pachauri says he “can’t think of a better set of qualified people” to write IPCC reports. At various times he has said the IPCC consists of:
- thousands of the best scientists
- the best scientific expertise from around the world
- almost four thousand of the world’s best specialists [footnote 3-1]
Nor is he the only one to make such claims. Robert Watson, who chaired the IPCC for the five years before Pachauri took over, also says the “IPCC engages thousands of the world’s best experts.” Media outlets have repeated these assertions time and again.
But such claims are bogus. For starters, some of the world’s most experienced experts have been left out in the cold. In 2005 an atmospheric science professor from Colorado State University named William Gray told a US Senate Committee:
Despite my 50 years of meteorology experience and my many years of involvement in seasonal hurricane and climate prediction, I have never been asked for input on any of the [IPCC] reports.
The reason he wasn’t invited to the party, he says, is because he doesn’t think global warming causes more (or stronger) hurricanes. “They know my views and do not wish to have to deal with them.”
Six months prior to Gray’s testimony, an expert on the other side of the Atlantic wasraising his own concerns before a committee of the British House of Lords.Paul Reiter knows little about atmospheric science. What he does know is the field in which he has specialized for more than 40 years – diseases that are spread by mosquitoes. According to him, the people who’ve been writing about those diseases in the Climate Bible are not experts.
While a large portion of the health chapter in the 1995 edition dealt with malaria, Reiter points out that “not one of the lead authors had ever written a research paper on the subject!” Only those with limited knowledge of this field, he says, could have produced such “amateurish” work.
For example, the Climate Bible said malaria-transmitting mosquitoes usually don’t survive in areas where winter temperatures drop below 16°C (60°F). Reiter says that’s nonsense. We now associate malaria with tropical locales, but poverty and an absence of health care are important factors. Hawaii, Aruba, and Barbados are all tropical, but malaria isn’t a problem there. On the other hand, in the 1800s thousands died of malaria in North America and Europe – even in Siberia. [footnote 3-2]
It’s the same story with sea levels. The former president of a Commission on Sea Level Change, Nils-Axel Mörner, alsoaddressed the House of Lords committee. Mörner, who has 40 years experience in his field, called attention to the disparity between what genuine sea level specialists think and what those who write IPCC reports believe. Those in the second group, he says, lack hands-on expertise. Instead, they attempt to predict the future via mathematical formulas that have been fed into computers (computer modeling).
Mörner told the House of Lords that, between 1999 and 2003, genuine sea level experts held five international meetings to discuss the available real-world evidence. They concluded that sea levels are unlikely to increase by more than 10 cm (4 inches) by the year 2100. Mörner says the claim that sea levels are rising quickly – or that entire island nations are in imminent danger of drowning – are simply not true.
Dr. Gray, the hurricane specialist, resides in America. Dr. Reiter, the malaria expert, works at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Dr. Mörner is the former head of a geodynamics unit at the University of Stockholm, in Sweden.
Each of them possesses highly specialized knowledge. Each of them is a seasoned professional with long experience in his field. They are, in other words, exactly the kind of people you’d expect to find at the heart of an organization comprised of world-class scientists examining one of the planet’s most important questions.
But they are all IPCC outsiders. This suggests the IPCC defines top scientists andbest experts differently than do most of us.
4 – Twenty-Something Graduate Students
So if malaria experts aren’t writing the section on malaria in the Climate Bible and world-renowned sea level experts aren’t writing the section on sea levels, who iswriting IPCC reports?
One group consists of graduate students. Typically these are individuals in their twenties. Their experience of the world is neither broad nor deep. If they were merely performing administrative tasks that would be one thing. But the IPCC has long relied on their expert judgment.
Richard Klein, now a Dutch geography professor, is a classic example. In 1992 Klein turned 23, completed a Masters degree, and worked as a Greenpeace campaigner. Two years later, at the tender age of 25, he found himself serving as an IPCC lead author.
(The IPCC has three classes of writers.Coordinating lead authors are in charge of an entire chapter and are therefore the most senior in rank. Each chapter usually has two. Lead authors are expected to write a significant amount of text. Their numbers vary from a handful to several dozen.Contributing authors provide supplemental knowledge. They typically don’t participate in the meetings attended by the other two kinds of authors, but are asked to write briefly about a narrow, specific topic. A chapter may have no contributing authors or as many as 20 of them.)
Klein’s online biography tells us that, since 1994, he has been a lead author for six IPCC reports. On three of those occasions, beginning in 1997, he served as a coordinating lead author. This means that Klein was promoted to the IPCC’s most senior author role at age 28 – six years priorto the 2003 completion of his PhD. Neither his youth nor his thin academic credentials prevented the IPCC from regarding him as one of the world’s top experts. [footnote 4-1]
Nor is he an isolated case. Laurens Bouwer is currently employed by an environmental studies institute at the VU University Amsterdam. In 1999-2000, he served as an IPCC lead author before earning his Masters in 2001.
How can a young man without even a Masters degree become an IPCC lead author? Good question. Nor is it the only one. Bouwer’s expertise is in climate change and water resources. Yet the chapter for which he first served as a lead author was titled Insurance and Other Financial Services.
It turns out that, during part of 2000, Bouwer was a trainee at Munich Reinsurance Company. This means the IPCC chose as a lead author someone whoa) was a trainee, b) lacked a Masters degree, and c) was still a full decade away from receiving his 2010 PhD.
Who else falls into this category? Step forward Lisa Alexander. As recently as 2008, this woman was a research assistantat Australia’s Monash University. After earning her PhD in 2009, she was hired by another Aussie university – which noted in its announcement that she had already “played a key role” in both the 2001 and 2007 editions of the Climate Bible. (She was a contributing author the first time, and a lead author the second.)
The IPCC selected its 2001 authors during 1999. This means its leadership decided that Alexander was a world-class expert 10 years before she, too, had earned her doctorate.
Sari Kovats, currently a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is an even more egregious example. She didn’t earn her PhD until2010. Yet back in 1994 – 16 years prior to that event and three years before her firstacademic paper was published – Kovats was one of only 21 people in the entire world selected to work on the first IPCC chapter that examined how climate change might affect human health. In total, Kovats has been an IPCC lead author twice and a contributing author once – all long before she’d completed her PhD.
One of Kovats’ health chapter colleagues was an American named Jonathan Patz. He earned a Masters degree in Public Health in 1992 and had his first academic paper published in late 1995. Yet in 1994 the IPCC judged his credentials so impressive he was appointed one of its lead authors.
Given the involvement of both Kovats and Patz, Paul Reiter‘s description of the IPCC’s 1995 health chapter as amateurishstarts to make sense. Rather than recruiting real experts like Reiter the IPCC enlisted young, inexperienced, non-experts instead.
It has been doing so since the mid-1990s. Yet in 2011 newspapers still report that the IPCC is a collection of “the world’s leading scientists.”
5 – The Right Gender or the Right Country
In early 2010 the InterAcademy Council, an organization comprised of science bodies from around the world, took an historic step. It established a committee whose purpose was to investigate IPCC policies and procedures. [footnote 5-1]
The committee posted a questionnaire on its website and invited interested parties to respond. Answers to those questionnaires were eventually made public after the names of the respondents had been removed. Those provided by IPCC insiders can be separated from the ones submitted by concerned citizens because the questionnaire begins by asking what role the respondent has played in the IPCC.[footnote 5-2]
People with direct experience of this organization were remarkably frank in their feedback. According to them, scientific excellence isn’t the only reason individuals are invited to participate in the IPCC.
Remember, this is a UN body. It therefore cares about the same things other UN bodies care about. Things like diversity. Gender balance. Regional representation. The degree to which developing countries are represented compared to developed countries.
The collected answers to the questionnaire total 678 pages. As early as page 16, someone complains that: “some of the lead authors…are clearly not qualified to be lead authors.” Here are other direct quotes:
- There are far too many politically correct appointments, so that developing country scientists are appointed who have insufficient scientific competence to do anything useful. This is reasonable if it is regarded as a learning experience, but in my chapter…we had half of the [lead authors] who were not competent. (p. 138)
- The whole process…[is] flawed by an excessive concern for geographical balance. All decisions are political before being scientific. (p. 554)
- half of the authors are there for simply representing different parts of the world. (p. 296)
Lest anyone think that people from less affluent countries were being unjustly stereotyped, the person whose comments appear on page 330 agrees:
The team members from the developing countries (including myself) were made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the team. In reality we were out of our intellectual depth as meaningful contributors to the process.
The questionnaire did not contain the word gender. Nevertheless, it is uttered dozens of times in the answers people provided. While some feel the IPCC should not aim for gender balance, others applaud the use of this selection criteria.
Among those with firsthand IPCC experience, therefore, it is an open secret that some people are appointed for reasons that have little to do with world-class scientific expertise. Depending on whose opinion you believe, this is true in either a small minority of cases or with regard to as many as half of the authors. In the view of at least one person, every IPCC personnel decision is influenced by concerns unrelated to science.
If the United Nations regards the IPCC as a training ground for scientists from the developing world that’s perfectly OK. If it thinks one of the main goals of the IPCC is to raise the profile of female scientists that’s OK, too. It is entitled to do whatever it wants with its own organization. But it is dishonest to tell the world you’ve assembled a group of competitive cyclists when many on your team are actually riding tricycles.
Journalists say we should trust the IPCC’s conclusions because its reports have been written by the world’s finest scientific minds. But in order for that to be the case the IPCC would need to apply very different criteria when selecting its authors.
It would need an explicit policy that says something along the lines of: Even though we are a UN body, we are not influenced by UN diversity concerns. We select the world’s best experts and only the best experts – regardless of where they come from or what gender they happen to be.
That is the kind of IPCC I could believe in. But that is not the IPCC we have.
6 – Activists
Many environmental organizations employ people whose sole purpose is to raise awareness about global warming. The more effective these people are at convincing the public there’s an urgent problem, the more money we’re likely to contribute to their cause.
Since activists bring their own agenda to the table, and since agendas and science don’t mix, environmentalists need to keep their distance from scientific endeavors. Data cannot be considered scientifically reputable if it has been collected and analyzed by activists. Scientific conclusions – especially those involving judgment calls – cannot be trusted if activists have played a role.
But activists have not kept their distance from the IPCC. Nor has that organization taken steps to safeguard its reputation by maintaining a strict boundary between itself and green groups. This is one of those red flags, an indicator that the IPCC is a spoiled child that feels no need to conduct its affairs in a grown-up, professional manner.
The improper relationship between activists and the IPCC is illustrated by a 2007 Greenpeace publication. Theforeword to that document was written by none other than Rajendra Pachauri. At the end of his remarks, beside his photograph, he is identified not as a private individual expressing private opinions but as the chairman of the IPCC.
The following year Pachauri wrote another foreword for another Greenpeace publication. Think about this for a moment. The IPCC’s role is similar to that of a trial judge. It examines the scientific evidence and decides whether or not human-produced carbon dioxide is guilty of triggering climate change.
How much faith would you have in the impartiality of a murder trial if the judge was hearing evidence during the day and partying with the prosecution team during the evening?
As has been mentioned above, the fact that Richard Klein worked as a Greenpeace campaigner at age 23 was no impediment to the IPCC appointing him a lead author at age 25. But that’s just the beginning.
Bill Hare has been a Greenpeacespokesperson since 1992 and served as its ‘chief climate negotiator’ in 2007. A Greenpeace blog post describes him as alegend in that organization. Yet none of this has prevented him from filling senior IPCC roles.
When the 2007 edition of the Climate Bible was released, we learned that Hare had served as a lead author, that he’d been an expert reviewer for two out of three sections of the report, and that he was one of only 40 people on the “core writing team” for the overall, big-picture summary known as the Synthesis Report.
It’s worth noting that the IPCC is less-than-candid about Hare’s Greenpeace ties. The 2007 Climate Bible lists his affiliationas the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Since Hare is a ‘visiting scientist‘ there the IPCC hasn’t lied. Nevertheless, it has committed a sin of omission. His Greenpeace affiliation means he’s not just any researcher.
Imagine you’re an accident victim on the side of the road. You’re told not to worry, that the person who’s going to remain with you until the ambulance arrives is trained in first aid. What you aren’t told is that he is also a vampire and that the blood seeping from your wound will be difficult for him to resist. You have not been warned about the presence of another agenda – one that changes the picture dramatically.
In 2009 an activist think tank observedthat both Hare and a person named Malte have “long been key members of the Greenpeace International climate team.” Malte’s surname is Meinshausen. In 2001 he and Hare co-authored an analysis of the Kyoto Protocol. During 2002 and 2003 he was a Greenpeace spokesperson. [footnote 6-1]
But these facts didn’t prevent him from being recruited as a contributing author to not one, not two, but three chapters of the 2007 Climate Bible. Like the graduate students discussed above, Meinshausen’s participation demonstrates that many IPCC authors are hardly elder scholars. He onlyreceived his doctorate in 2005.
A number of passages in the 2007 Climate Bible blandly cite research papers authored by Hare and Meinshausen as though it’s immaterial that they are Greenpeace personnel. Indeed, the IPCC goes so far as to reprint a graph that appears in a paper for which these two men are the sole authors.
But the Greenpeace connection extends still further. Australian marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is often described as a “world renowned reef expert.” Nine chapters of the 2007 Climate Bible base their conclusions partly on his work. [footnote 6-2] He was a contributing author to that report and has been appointed acoordinating lead author for the upcoming edition.
The problem is that Hoegh-Guldberg has had close ties to activist organizations for the past 17 years. Between 1994 and 2000 he wrote four reports about coral reefs and climate change that were funded, vetted, and published by Greenpeace. Since then he has written two more for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Someone who has spent 17 years working closely with activist groups is thoroughly tainted. By no stretch of the imagination can he be considered a disinterested party who will carefully weigh the pros and cons and then write a scrupulously objective account of the situation.
Speaking of the WWF, its websiteincludes a formal photograph of 20 of the IPCC’s most senior personnel. In the second row there’s a gentleman named Richard Moss, who has been involved with the IPCC for nearly 20 years. During part of that time he was employed by the WWF as one of its vice-presidents. [footnote 6-3]
Similarly, Jennifer Morgan spent several years as the WWF’s chief spokesperson on climate change. She led its global climate change program and headed its delegation to the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. Prior to that, she worked for the Climate Action Network. Currently she is director of a climate program for the World Resources Institute.
In other words, Morgan is not one of the world finest scientific minds. She is a professional activist. Yet in June 2010 the IPCC appointed her to work on a report it describes as objective, rigorous, and balanced.
Michael Oppenheimer is also worth a mention. When the public hears the term ‘scientist’ we think of someone who is above the fray – who’s disinterested and dispassionate and who goes wherever the scientific results happen to lead. This implied neutrality is what gives scientists their authority. But in the 1970s a new kind of scientist began to emerge – the activist scientist. Nowadays these people occupy impressive positions at universities. They are often employed by respectable government bodies. All of that disguises the fact that they hold activist worldviews and that those views can influence their scientific judgment. [footnote 6-4]
Research findings are rarely clear-cut. Data is collected, selected, discarded, adjusted, and interpreted by human beings. At every juncture there is the risk of going astray, of dismissing information that is actually important. The bits and pieces that get left on the cutting-room floor might add up to a different story. Because activist scientists begin with a particular narrative in mind, they may be unconsciously blind to these other possibilities.
At first glance, Oppenheimer could hardly seem more eminent. He is director of a program in science, technology and environmental policy at Princeton University, as well as a professor in the atmospheric sciences department.
Prior to these appointments, however, Oppenheimer spent more than two decades as the chief scientist for the activist Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). That organization is so wealthy its list of staff experts includes more than 100 names. Among them are seven attorneys, eight economists, and a vice-president of corporate sponsorships.
Although we are familiar with the idea that big business exerts an influence on public debates, most of us have overlooked the fact that there’s also such a thing as big green. Groups like the EDF lobby ferociously to advance their particular perspective. They also hire people who provide their activist agenda with a veneer of scientific respectability. Even now, Oppenheimer continues to advise the EDF. This means that his professional life has been spent in an activist milieu.
The IPCC doesn’t think that matters. His online biography says Oppenheimer has been “a long-time participant.” He was a lead author for the 2007 edition of the Climate Bible, is serving as an even more senior author for the upcoming edition, and also helped the IPCC write a special report on “climate extremes and disasters.” [footnote 6-5]
Perhaps one of the reasons the IPCC doesn’t view Oppenheimer as irredeemably contaminated is because the scientific profession itself appears to have lost its bearings on such matters. Oppenheimer’s Princeton bio further tells us that he:
has been a member of several panels of the National Academy of Sciences and is now a member of the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Studies. He is also…a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The activist scientists who emerged in the 1970s have been working their way into high-status, leadership positions. Rather than keeping its distance from those whose careers have been associated with activism, the scientific establishment now honors, celebrates, and promotes such people.
But this has consequences. The public is supposed to accept the Climate Bible’s findings because it is a scientific document written by the world’s top scientific experts. What happens when the public discovers that those involved are actually brazen activists? What happens when it discovers that the world’s most illustrious science bodies have themselves stopped drawing a line in the sand between activists and those who strive to pursue science in a genuinely neutral and unbiased fashion?
If scientists want us to trust their expert opinions they need to behave in a trustworthy manner. If they want us to be impressed by their high standards, they need to enforce these standards.
From this perspective, the shenanigans at the IPCC shed light on a broader malaise within the scientific community as a whole.
7 – Climate Modelers
Along with graduate students, those appointed due to their gender or their county, and activists, yet another group is prominent among IPCC authors – climate modelers. Although these people are often called scientists, their work has little in common with traditional science.
The scientific method involves forming an hypothesis, testing that hypothesis in the real world, and then confirming, adjusting, or abandoning the hypothesis according to what the real-world tests reveal. But there is no duplicate planet Earth on which experiments may be safely conducted. No one knows, therefore, what will happen if the number of carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere increases from 390 to 600 parts per million.
These really are the amounts under discussion. Scientists believe carbon dioxide used to comprise less than 0.03% of the atmosphere – 280 parts per million – prior to the industrial revolution. Currently, at 390 parts per million, it’s approaching 0.04%. Barring emissions reductions, by the year 2100 that number could reach 0.06%. All this fuss is based on a hypothesis that says our planet is so unstable a slight increase in one particular trace gas will trigger disaster. [footnote 7-1]
Since there’s no way to actually test this hypothesis, some people have adopted an alternative approach. They say that supercomputers programmed with complex mathematical formulas confirm that a bit more CO2 in the atmosphere will be really bad news. In the view of climate modelers, these computer simulations are as good as hard evidence.
But this requires a rather large leap of faith. If math and computing power were the only things necessary to predict the future, investors would already know the price at which gold will be trading five, ten, and twenty years hence. But the world is chaotic and unpredictable. It rarely unfolds in the manner that even the smartest people, aided by graphs, charts, and computers, think it will.
Many of the same institutions now involved in long-term climate modeling got their start predicting short-term weather. We all know how unreliable that can be. Sometimes the weather behaves the way the experts think it will. Often it does not.
Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most eminent physicists, has studied climate models. He says that although they do some things well,
They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.
In other words, climate modelers spend their professional lives in a virtual world rather than in the real one. If an engineer’s bridge is faulty, it doesn’t matter how highly his fellow engineers praise its design, harsh reality will make its shortcomings evident to everyone. Since climate modelers are insulated from real world checks-and-balances (there’s no way to verify their long term predictions in the short term), the only thing that seems to matter are the opinions of other modelers. This is a recipe for tunnel-vision. It is groupthink waiting to happen.
The research bodies that fund climate modeling teams don’t appear to have taken any precautions against groupthink. Nor has the IPCC subjected climate models to rigorous evaluation by neutral, disinterested parties. Instead, it recruits the same people who work with these models on a daily basis to write the section of the Climate Bible that passes judgment on them. This is like asking parents to rate their own children’s attractiveness. Do we really expect them to tell us their kids are homely?
The relationship between one country’s climate modelers and the IPCC illustrates this point. George Boer is considered thearchitect of Canada’s climate modeling efforts. As an employee of Environment Canada (which also produces weather forecasts), he has spent much of his career attempting to convince the powers-that-be that climate models are a legitimate use of public money. There has been a direct relationship between how persuasive he has been and how many staff he’s been permitted to hire, how much computing power he’s been permitted to purchase, and the amount of professional prestige he has acquired.
Given that his own interests are closely linked to the effectiveness with which hepromotes climate models, he is emphatically not the sort of person who’s likely to conduct the cold, hard assessment the public is entitled to expect before the entire world begins taking climate model results seriously.
Nevertheless, when the IPCC chose 10 lead authors to write a chapter titledClimate Models – Evaluation for its 1995 edition, Boer was among them. So wasAndrew Weaver, another Canadian whose entire career depends on climate modeling. (The term ‘climate modeler’ would seem to apply to a minimum of five of that chapter’s other eight lead authors.)
When the same chapter of the 2001 edition of the Climate Bible got written, the story was similar. Weaver and two other modelers repeated their lead author roles. Boer, along with four other Canadians who earn their living as climate modelers, all served as contributing authors.
By the time the IPCC published the 2007 Climate Bible, had it realized that asking climate modelers to evaluate their own handiwork was foolhardy? Nope. Climate modelers once again comprised the vast majority of lead authors for the Climate Models and Their Evaluation chapter.
I’m sure that all of those currently involved in writing the Evaluation of Climate Models chapter of the upcoming Climate Bible are marvelous human beings. But if the world were to decide that climate models are a colossal waste of time and money, many of them would be out of a job. How likely is it, therefore, that this chapter will come to such a conclusion?
End of this sample Kindle book.
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