What to do with the IPCC?

Update:  Feb 13, 2010 NY Times letter to the editor by Paul Epstein deserves a quotation here:

That fossil fuel industry-financed forces are continuing their campaign to undermine the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its chief scientists should not distract us from what we know about our climate.

Two physical findings stand out. In the last 50 years the world ocean has accumulated 22 times as much heat as has the atmosphere (data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce). It is this repository of heat — through processes like evaporation and ocean overturning — that drives the changes in weather we are experiencing: heavier precipitation events, sequences of large storms, bitter cold spells and prolonged droughts in some regions.

The I.P.C.C. 2007 report also found that winds have changed — specifically circumpolar westerly winds (those blowing from the west) in both hemispheres. This ominous sign means that weather fronts and weather patterns are less stable.

Our society, security and the health of the global economy depend upon a stable climate. Getting off fossil fuels is the first, necessary step toward achieving climate stabilization.

Paul R. Epstein
Boston, Feb. 9, 2010

The writer, a doctor, is associate director at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School.

The AP is reporting on a Nature Opinion piece in the Feb 11, 2010 issue of the magazine. Headline: “Scientists seek better way to do climate report“.

Some climate scientists are calling for drastic changes in how future United Nations climate reports are done.

The proposals to reform the International Panel on Climate Change are published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature. The suggested changes come after four embarrassing but small errors have popped up recently in one of the panel’s four reports.

The Nature Opinion piece is located here:  IPCC:  cherish it, tweak it, or scrap it?

Five climatologists provide their opinions on what to do with the IPCC.  There recommendations are discussed below with quotations from the Nature Opinion piece.  None of the climatologists suggest scrapping the IPCC, so the Nature headline is a little misleading.

Mike Hulme:  Coordinating lead author, lead author, review editor (AR3), University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

“The IPCC needs a complete overhaul. The structure and process are past their sell-by dates.”My suggestion for radical reform is to dissolve the IPCC after the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014. The work would be split into three types of assessment and evaluation, each rather different to the three existing IPCC working groups.

The first group is called a Global Science Panel that would monitor the Earth system and put out a larger number of “smaller, sharply focused” reports on a rolling basis.  Hulme suggests that the reports would be short, on the order of 50 pages.  The second group would be made up of “Regional Evaluation Panels” and focus on the specific climate change effects on 5 to 10 areas of the world.  The third group is described as a Policy Analysis Panel — “a standing panel of expertise, global in reach, with interdisciplinary skills and a diverse analytical capacity.  Perhaps 50–100 strong, this panel would undertake focused and rapid (6–12 months) analyses of specific proposed policy options and measures that have global significance.”

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. It would better serve the world, and its peoples, in understanding and responding to anthropogenic climate change.

Eduardo Zorita:  Contributing author (AR4), GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht, Germany.

The IPCC should be made stronger and independent. We do not need to reinvent the wheel; there are excellent examples of agencies that society has set up when credibility is of the utmost importance. The European Central Bank, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Energy Agency and the US Congressional Budget Office all independently navigate their way through strong political pressures, delivering valuable assessments, advice, reports and forecasts, tapping academic research when necessary. These agencies are accountable and respected.

Zorita proposes the creation of an international climate agency with a staff of 200 full-time scientists who would be “independent of government, industry, and academia”.  The scientists “who have a widely recognized credibility” would be chosen by scientific unions such as the AGU or EGU.

Such an agency should be resourced and empowered to do the following: issue streamlined biennial state-of-the-climate reports; be a repository and quality-controller of observational climate data; advise governments on regional assessments of climate impacts; and coordinate the suite of future-climate simulations by research institutes.

Thomas J. Stocker:  Co-chair IPCC Working Group I (AR5), coordinating lead author (AR3, AR4), University of Bern, Switzerland

Stocker proposes continuing the model of the IPCC and continue strict adherence to procedures and scientific rigour at all stages.

The basis of the IPCC is the voluntary contributions of thousands of dedicated scientists from all over the world. The Principles Governing IPCC Work (IPCC, 1998) provide a clear framework for an open, transparent and robust process. This bottom-up endeavour is a unique model of providing scientific information, mainly from the peer-reviewed scientific literature, for decision-making on a challenging problem. It has worked extremely successfully for the past 21 years.

In this field of different and divergent forces, confusion may arise. An honest broker therefore is an asset. From my perspective, the IPCC has fulfilled this role with remarkable rigour and integrity. This role is now at risk, as the stakes are higher than ever before. The requirement that assessments are policy relevant but never policy prescriptive, as formulated in the Principles Governing IPCC Work, is of paramount importance. Our task is to inform the policy-makers and the public strictly in a ‘what if’ mode. Any other approach must be left to NGOs, negotiators or individuals. Only with strict adherence to procedures and to scientific rigour at all stages will the IPCC continue to provide the best and most robust information that is needed so much.

Jeff Price:  Lead author (AR3, AR4), director, climate-change adaptation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) United States

Price proposes more reports AND faster production along with changes to the peer-review requirements.  Furthermore, the selection process for Lead Author should be changed to get the “best experts” rather than adhere to the current diversity policy.

Currently, authors are selected to represent “a range of views, expertise, gender and geographical representation”. However, given the importance placed on these assessments, the most senior positions should be filled by the nominees most expert in their field, regardless of balance.

For topics of emerging importance or uncertainty, we need reports based on expert meetings and literature synthesis that undergo only a single round of extensive peer review with review-editor oversight before publication.

Finally, 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. Although the editors of the volumes should ideally be drawn from past IPCC authors and editors, the review articles could be submitted by any author, as they would for a journal, with appropriate peer review and assessment for publication.

John Christy:  Lead author (AR3), University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA

Christy is the most critical of the IPCC and proposes more open debate:  Wikipedia-style.   He also is critical of the selection process of lead-authors.

The IPCC selects lead authors from the pool of those nominated by individual governments. Over time, many governments nominated only authors who were aligned with stated policy. Indeed, the selections for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report represented a disturbing homogeneity of thought regarding humans and climate.

However, voluminous printed reports, issued every six years by government-nominated authors, cannot accommodate the rapid and chaotic development of scientific information today. 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). The authors would strike a balance between the free-for-all of true science and the need for summary statements.

Richard Black at the BBC blogs about the suggested IPCC-refits, and similarly summarizes the positions of the 5 climatologists.

All food for thought; and though it appears likely that the IPCC will remain working roughly in the way it has done until the fifth assessment report (AR5) is complete, with minor tweaks to take account of Himalayan and other issues, it is entirely within the gift of governments to make whatever changes they see fit once that process is over.

Translation:  no changes are being made — at the moment.

The Guardian chimes in with some notable quotations from their own survey of scientists around the world:

Robert Muir Wood, head of the research group at Risk Management Solutions, said the current IPCC report system was “fossilised” and that the organisation needed to move into the 21st century by setting up Wikipedia-style rolling publishing, that could be updated each month. Others suggested changes almost as radical. [William] Connolley said the “useless” synthesis reports should be ditched, while [John] Robinson said: “There needs to be continuous review of what the timing and topics should be.”


  1. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

    I suppose that nothing stops people from showing how a Wikipedia style report would be done.

    Perhaps start with CH 06 of Ar4.

    Take that as the base text and see what a community of people could agree upon.

    nasty fights I imagine

    • ryanm
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:46 PM | Permalink

      How would you determine who edits the entries on Wikipedia-IPCC and how are these changes accepted or deleted? By some sort of vote? I wouldn’t want the current Wikipedia article editing options used.

      • PhilJourdan
        Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:50 PM | Permalink

        William Connelly of course.

  2. Michael In Sydney
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:11 PM | Permalink

    I think Eduardo Zorita’s proposal is the most disturbing. Do we really want a world climate body independent of government? I don’t. 200 scientists installing themselves in a well funded tower with no chance of anyone else having a say or exerting influence, talk about a incestuous relationship – no thanks.


  3. Pat Frank
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:13 PM | Permalink

    Richard is right. They’re asking the mafiosi what should be done about the mafia; John Christy mostly excepted.

    This whole business has shown the danger of centralized authority. The levers of power get captured by ideologues, and the bulk of the population goes along to get along. The IPCC should be scrapped.

  4. Craig Loehle
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    The analogies with the CBO or the IAEA are not valid. The CBO IS accountable: if it tries to become political one party or the other will raise heck. The IAEA has only one issue, and does not try to change the world economy–and it doesn’t make pronouncements on science. On the contrary, one could argue with the virtue and value of the World Bank, which has become quite political. So the argument of precedent does not hold up very well.

  5. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Permalink

    I like some of what Hulme says. just sticking with the science WG for example.

    the pace of the reports and the time it takes to produce a final document is rather silly.

    I would see an assessment of the state of the science issued every 3-4 years.

    The document should be a living document ( like a wiki) with reccomendations
    for future studies.

    The review process should be open.

    • Jimchip
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:34 PM | Permalink

      Re: Steven Mosher (Feb 10 15:23),

      They were using the IPCC assessments as the ‘King of Peer-Reviewed Literature’ and not what it was even designed to do in the beginning. Cart, horse, wrong order.

  6. ianl8888
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Permalink

    Nature is trying to sand-bag

    On what grounds are these five opinions chosen for publication ? The addition of Christy’s view is to provide a “balance of opinion”, leaving 4/5 as minor fiddles to the existing status quo. This is a tactic employed by all “meeja” outlets – interview people in the street and then publish mostly those who agree with you: overwhelming consensus, n’est ce pas ?

    Even from here I can see the yellow (press) colour of the parchment Nature uses

  7. PaulH
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    Since it is unlikely that an “IPCC 2.0” won’t eventually follow the same road to anti-science like the original, I say scrap it. Academics and weather-wonks could still have their own conferences outside of the aegis of the UN.

  8. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:50 PM | Permalink

    I assume William Connolley would be in charge. 😉

    • Jimmy Haigh
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

      Maybe Billy Connolly would make a better jobbie of it!

      • Brooks Hurd
        Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:13 PM | Permalink

        An IPCC2.0 run by Billy Connolly would be far more entertaining.

  9. Harry
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    Any organization that sets itself up as judge and jury in a system that assumes guilt until proven innocent will eventually be subjected to violent revolution.

    The rules of evidence in a court criminal proceeding should be applied, as humanity is the defendant they should be presumed innocent, in the event the prosecution introduces false testimony or fails to provide the ‘defense team’ full access to evidence then the proceedings should be dismissed on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

  10. UK John
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 3:59 PM | Permalink

    Maybe all of them have got to go! Their work is a distraction from real things we should be getting on with.

    I tried to correspond with some Climate Scientists at the UK Met Office (there are hundreds of them), about errors they had made in press releases. Strangely I receive no reply!

    The errors were typical for the genre of disregarding their own peer reviewed science in favour of speculation and opinion.

  11. Neil Fisher
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:03 PM | Permalink

    The basis of the IPCC is the voluntary contributions of thousands of dedicated scientists from all over the world.

    Erk. This is one aspect that must be scrapped. When you ask for volunteers, you get people with strong views on the matter – people who believe that “we must act”. Get hundreds or thousands of such people together and we get things like AR4, where untrue statements are made in order to push politicians to act. This sort of thing will always get exposed and destroy any credibility such a report may have.

  12. ZT
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    Only logical people without an agenda could restore credibility to the IPCC. Here are two suggestions: Steve McIntyre or Ross McKitrick.

    With one of them in charge – you would see unvarnished facts in the report.

  13. EdB
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    Very simple, ask Steve McIntyre to oversee the project, with full authority to select scientists based on qualifiations.

  14. Alexej Buergin
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:11 PM | Permalink

    People reading this blog know the IPCC is useless. People who rely on MSM, especially those in Europe, still think there is a climate problem. Chasing Pachauri away and scrapping the IPCC would tell those folks that something, whatever, maybe might not be quite right. So pretending everything is A-OK is the first line of defense (and yes, I love to travel, too; I just pay for it myself, and fly cattle-class).

  15. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    Isn’t the real question ‘does the world need a climate change report’? Since now we know that man cannot change the climate, a silly concept in it’s own right, why dump good money after bad?

    Maybe after we have had instruments say the next 200 years, we may understand who earth’s climate actually works.

  16. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    I think that the IPCC should be buried deep. It has shown not only to do bogus research, but it has betrayed climate science as a field and destroyed its credibility.

    The whole idea of a global climate panel is built on the assumption that there is a climate change, and that we need protection from it. It was from the beginning a political project, and despite massive efforts and taxpayers’ funding, the IPCC has failed even to give credibility to its assumtions.

    There is no way to continue the panel way. If there eventually should come up solid results that a global initiative is required, from sound research, funded in the same way as other competing fields, then and only then the issue may be raised agin.

    If you buy a car from a crooked car dealer and get fooled, you don’t go there again. Don’t play with taxpayers’ money, and don’t play with the lives of the poorest people of the world.

  17. egp
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    NATURE drives me crazy: “four embarrassing but small errors”. Billions of humans, a subcontinent and a continent! What are the feelings, the lives of millions op people worth?
    NATURE does not show any ethics, any responsibility. Nature and the responsible scientists should face up to this question.

    What will happen to a driver of a schoolbus who – in an unfortunate Moment – is a little confused with two small pedals: gas and break?

    Perhaps this is OT and won’t be discussed here. But we should not forget ethics.

    • justbeau
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:20 PM | Permalink

      The Nature comment is helpful for its patent silliness.
      It helps illustrate the intellectual corruption has infected previously respected journals.

  18. Razor
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    The IPCC should be set up identically to the IPAs (Astronomy), IPP (Physics), IPBc (Biochemistry), IPAn (Anthropology), IPMed (Medicine), etc. They all do marvelous work.

  19. David Longinotti
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    I don’t know exactly how the scientific interchange should be organized (except that it be open and transparent, of course), but if the aim is to guide policy, then the effort should be undertaken in sequential steps to answer the relevant questions:

    1) Has there been extraordinary warming of late?

    2) If so, is it due to human activity?

    3) If so, will it cause net harm to humans?

    4) If so, are there effective remedies?

    5) If so, would they cost more than the harm?

    There’s no point (from a policy perspective) in going deeply into the later questions if the earlier have not been answered. A finding of “no” to any of them would mean the sensible approach is to do nothing.

    • John Andrews
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:57 AM | Permalink

      Clearly we need to look at both sides of these questions. For example, has there been extraordinary warming of late, or has there not been extraordinary warming? It essential that both sides for these issues be considered.

  20. PaulM
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:48 PM | Permalink

    I’m not sure how serious ZT and EdB are, but the only solution if the IPCC is to have any credibility is for sceptical scientists, and non-climate scientists (note: SM is a scientist) to be involved in the process.

  21. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    Free the IPCC from the academics

    • Razor
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

      Free the academics from the IPCC

  22. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    Except for John Christy’s, the ideas are just variations on keeping the same flawed process intact. All they propose are changes to the working group names, budget, timing and length of reports. None of them addresses the fundamental conflict of interest problem: The IPCC selects a group of individuals who share a uniform point of view and then asks them to assess their own work (or that of their friends) as well as that of their critics. Until they detonate that process and replace it with something that involves true cross-examination, the IPCC is going to continue to hemorrhage credibility because it will continue to produce reports larded with bias and nonsense.

    Hulme asks for a complete overhaul, but ends up just proposing new groupings of the same people writing the same stuff. The IPCC already operates with no accountability, and Eduardo Zorita’s proposal would give them more money and make them even more untouchable, without fixing the bias problem. IPCC/WWF leader Jeff Price wants even less expert review and asks us to put complete trust in the Review Editors despite their demonstrated uselessness. Thomas Stocker speaks glowingly of an ideal IPCC that does not exist and likely never did. He just seems oblivious to the crisis the IPCC is in.

    Christy is right to point to the problem that the LA selection process filters for one point of view. A wiki-style process might be better, but asking learned societies to pick the authors may just reinforce the same old culture. He is right that the IPCC needs to issue a dissenting opinion. Courts do it all the time.

    In some ways the AR5 authors are in the wiki world already, whether they realize it or not. Once Steve and David H got the AR4 documents FOI’d open and posted online that changed the rules for good. AR5 authors might think they are working behind closed doors but they better realize that every word they write, from the drafts and responses to the final edition, and possibly even their emails and meeting minutes, are going to be online, probably concurrently with the Report itself. And this time the news conference where they release the IPCC Summary will be attended by journalists who are veterans of climategate and who are going to have very little tolerance for the promotional hijinx that went on before. Any attempt to replay the glossy alarmist certainties of the past will blow up in their faces. Pachauri’s idea about rubbing on asbestos may suddenly make sense.

    So the bottom line is the IPCC in its historical form is defunct whether the participants realize it or not. As long as they keep hoping for some kind of PR-focused reform that gives them their old authority back while maintaining clique control of the writing process, they are wasting their time.

    • Tony Hansen
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 8:25 PM | Permalink

      ‘..The IPCC already operates with no accountability..’
      What type of structure would be needed, such that Lead Authors could be held accountable for their performance/behaviour?

      • Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

        All it would take is for one sponsoring government to demand that before they accept the report, the IPCC Lead Authors must sign a form certifying that they have made full, true and plain disclosure of all relevant information, that they have followed all proper procedures during the preparation of the report, and that they accept liability for any damages caused should these warranties be found to be false.

        That would put a stop to IPCC authors putting their finger on the scale in the hopes of moving policy. And if nobody wants to be an IPCC Lead Author under those circumstances, then so be it.

        • justbeau
          Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:28 PM | Permalink

          Each government should develop its own views about Global Warming, those who can afford to do so.

          This would set up some competition of ideas. Some nations might provide room for consideration of uncertainties and alternative explanations for climate changes.

          Then each nation can decide its own policy course. This could include collaboration with other nations. It could include domestic actions as opposed to interminable international blah-blah.

          The root problem is the idea that all nations have to be joined at the hip in one global treaty.
          Or there is just one way to look at the climate, decided by an elite unaccountable, often incompetent set of eco-scientists.
          The farce owes to the craving for one set of eco-science answers to be imposed on all nations. Eco-science has many genuine uncertainties, yet many practioners are oblivious to them.

        • Tony Hansen
          Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:23 AM | Permalink

          Thanks Ross,
          A simple and elegant solution.
          And a procedure that politicians are familiar with ie having their votes recorded on each bill.

        • WillR
          Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:02 AM | Permalink

          Re: Ross McKitrick (Feb 10 21:13),

          In other words scrap the IPCC? I don’t think anyone would accept those terms considering the difficulties of verifying the science.

          I’m ok with that.

        • Jimchip
          Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

          Re: Ross McKitrick (Feb 10 21:13),

          [My whine] Why can’t the US just do that?

          I don’t know.

  23. Scarface
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

    How can we get 20+ years of indoctrination out of our political systems and out of the believes of people? I fear that it will take at least the same period of time to undo this scam.

    Starting with liquidating the whole IPCC institute would be a good start.

    After all, the Relativity Theory wasn’t either produced by some governmental panel, was it? Yet is has proven itself and is commonly accepted, because it couldn’t be rejected by any other scientist. Not because your government told you so.

    So, down with the IPCC!

  24. ditmar
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:07 PM | Permalink

    Scrap it. It crossed the line into advocacy. The flattening/declining temps of the years prior to publication of the last report was enough for them to become increasingly shrill. the game was looking bad so and the hail mary play was used. Cop15 they assumed, rightly as it turned out, would be overseen by a democratic president in his first year of office and able to deliver during the honeymoon. It didn’t happen that way as the china, russia and the rest wouldn’t play ball. The honeymoon is over, estrangement a possibility and political survival will outdo all other considerations.cap and trade, the transfer of wealth and all the rest would be electoral suicide. All it would achieve is the export of co2(jobs) to the developing world. Patchy and ar4 are carrio for the blogosphere crows, once picked clean he will be disappeared to a life of semi pro cricket and smut. We need to keep the pressure on. To quote the danish woman “let’s get it (over and )done (with).
    Keep up the good work steve.

  25. Gerald Smith
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:15 PM | Permalink

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation

    The IPCC interpreted the above to mean that theyn prove that dangerous human-induced Climate Change was in process and that it was due to Anthropogenic CO2. They then proceeded to make a case to show it was a fact and required selected nations to cut their emissions drastically. (Slow their economies).

    The next phase required prosperous nations to compensate developing nations for the damages their prosperity had levied on those less prosperous and eventually become subject to a World Governmetal Body which would not be elected by the people. This Body would have the power to levy taxes and penalties for not complying with emission reductions.

    In order to accomplish this goal the data was adjused to prove Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

    The IPCC should be abolished.

    The raw data (whatever still exists)should be made available to any nation that wishes to review it for the purpose of analysis to ascertain the true past temperature record.

    Once that is known it should be examined for whatever it tells us of of what controls the climate.

    Perhaps once we have a true picture of past temperatures we may be able to determine what controls climate.

    We should not postulate a theory and then select the data to fit to prove a preconceived notion.

    Each nation should satisfy themselves that they understand the past and develope their theories based upon the past trends. These theories then should be published and representatives from all nations should review them for validity.

    Perhaps in this way we may come to an understanding as to the workings of our atmosphere and how it affects climate. Maybe then we may be able to ascertain whether the change is within normal boundaries .

    In the event it is outside the boundaries of normal changes then we investigate and implement methods of adaptation.

  26. Gareth
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    What the UNIPCC produce is not science but a meta-analysis skewed by advocacy and politics.(and it always will be) Roughly, there are only two things the IPCC reports are unequivocal about – more CO2 = warming and that the computer models are correct. Everything else is prefaced with ‘might’, ‘could’, ‘may’, etc.

    The problem is not just what the UNIPCC says but also the undue and misleading status the organisation has been given. There may indeed be 2500 actual scientists who have contributed to it but as so much of their output simply retreads the computer projections in a multitude of ways the reports are not worth the sum of their parts let alone worth more.

  27. Charles Higley
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:41 PM | Permalink

    I would take exception to William Connelly having anything to do with anything related to control of a Wikipedia-style Climate Center. It would be the same old same old with him monitoring the content.

    Just my experience with him and Wikipedia causing this opinion, but a deserved opinion.

    • PhilJourdan
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

      Charles, it was meant to be sarcastic.

  28. Brian Kelley
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    We should immediately defund anyone employed in any capacity relating to IPCC, Climate Change Policy, Climate Change Advocacy, Climate Research, Climate Journals, Climate study departments in University, etc.

    Nobody gets paid one cent, no money flows, and nobody’s career moves in this field until and only if a small, open, public, transparent, sparsely funded organization that is under real personal legal/criminal threat says climate change/cooling/warming is even an issue that is even addressable.


  29. Robert Christopher
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

    Any chance of some raw temperature data? Not forgetting the associated data, such as the geographic coordinates of the weather stations, and the siting of near by air conditioners etc.

    STEP 1: step up a new group, unconnected to the IPCC, with database and librarian skills

    STEP 2: create one database, with feeds from across the world, with a verification process, to supply the ‘lost’ temperature data.

    STEP 3: publish initial results from several groups and generate open discussion

    STEP 4: To Be Decided, and to be started well after step 3 has started

    What else is needed? I am sure there was some useful climatology and climate science related work being done before, or in addition to, the current CAGW work, wasn’t there?
    The IPCC, which does not perform research itself, could be put on hold, indefinitely.

    • Ausie Dan
      Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

      I suggest they stop at the first half of step 3.
      What is needed amongst other things, is the seperation of data collection from analysis and the seperation of analysis from political action (should any be needed in the future).

      • Paul A
        Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

        In some ways I’m hoping this is what Zorita is talking about, but maybe not.

        I think a good analogy here is the generation of economic statistics. At least as I understand it, there are hundreds of academics studying, say, inflation. But we don’t depend on them for the raw data, a group of professionals collects and publishes the data.

        We need to actually know what’s going on, right now we don’t.

  30. Ray Girouard
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

    At a minimum, all participants must be subject to stringent, enforceable, conflict of interest standards including disclosure of financial and other interests on the part of them and their families.

  31. JamesG
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    What’s the point of another 3000 page report that you can summarize in a single sentence and which not even the contributors read? They’ve already stated their case load and clear. It doesn’t matter that the more they study the less alarming it actually becomes because their mind is set on massive CO2 reductions just in case a tipping point is round the corner. We get it, we really do! Now they’ve had their say most should just b*gger off, get a real job and start contributing to society rather than leeching off it. The remainder need to be sent to collect Siberian tree ring data or Antarctic cores.

  32. Craig Loehle
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 6:26 PM | Permalink

    It has become clear that the IPCC is not auditable, can not be investigated for bribery, does not respond to FOIA, and generally is void of feedback and oversight. We can never assume virtue, even by scientists, but can only make sure we detect crime, using checks and balances.

  33. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

    For starters, people with the position title such as the one below (which he may or may not have held at that time) should not be lead authors!

    Jeff Price: Lead author (AR3, AR4), director, climate-change adaptation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) United States

  34. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    The primitive logic goes:

    “Is there indeed a climate change trend that is a cause for concern?” (e.g. Each day the instrumental global temperature graph flattens as new reasearch and interpretations come in.)

    “Is there unequivocal anthropogenic climate change of any significant concern?”(e.g.Steve still awaits the engineering standard study linking man-made CO2 – or any alleged GHG – to global temperature).

    “If there is anthropogenic climate change, is remediation possible, practial or sensible?”
    (e.g. Is it wise to spray the air with aluminium flakes?)

    “Is there a more humane allocation of the funds presently used by IPCC?” (e.g. is there a better social yield from investment in certain medical research?)

    Therefore, is an IPCC body required at all?

    If an IPCC clone is deemed to be needed, then there would have to be massive recasting of its functions to prevent or to reduce (a) scientific dishonesty (b)political interference (c) interest group interference (d)media manipulation (e) money gouging (e)trips to Tahiti.

  35. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

    To be able to give a rounded assessment, based upon the best science available, there must first be a clear view on the boundaries of science. This blog has shown on a number of occasions there the criteria for publication of a paper is not the best theory, or the best verified by the data. Rather it is conformity and support to a particular viewpoint. Without this conspicuous bias, the Mann hockey stick, or Briffa’s Yamal Tree Ring analysis would never have risen to prominence.
    Then, when drawing together the current state of the literature, there needs to be a recognition of competing views and the limits of our current knowledge. That lack of clear scientific understanding needs to tempor the reports recommendations.

  36. EdeF
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

    The world has moved on. Since the advent of the internet there exists the possibility that most science can be eventually placed on-line for all to see. The days of the small paper peer reviewed publications are coming to an end. Publications have to move with the times and publish quickly,
    accurately knowing a very wide, learned, inquisitive audience awaits each article. Especially with something like climate science, which at one time seems to have been a backwater hang-out for hippies, because of the implications of the science engineers, doctors, accountants, chemists, aerospace experts and other technical types have become interested in the subject. The new medium must be able to assimilate skeptical, critical reviews of the science. Their views cannot be easily swept aside, hidden
    or shouted down. In the new medium, the competent and those with integrity will eventually survive. Those who try the quick trick, those who shine for awhile among the literati will eventually be found out if their work is not of top quality. Quality will seek out quality, truth will yearn for truth. These are fundamental issues that go back to the dawn of history. The miners, the rocket scientists and the truck drivers have computers, they can read, and they are connected.

  37. Ausie Dan
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

    Why have an IPCC?
    First demonstrate the need.
    What are scientific journals for, if not to allow for new knowledge to be disseminated, discussed and assessed?

    What is needed is a bureau to audit these journals, to ensure that the scientific method is duly followed.

    What is needed is a permantent Climate Audit, made central to the process.

  38. Roy_US_Ohio
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 7:46 PM | Permalink

    Of all the scientists interviewed, Eduardo Zorita comments are the most surprisingly simplistic and naive.

    “Zorita proposes the creation of an international climate agency with a staff of 200 full-time scientists who would be ‘independent of government, industry, and academia'”

    How does he expect this agency to be funded? Any money-producing or controlling entity either belongs to one of these three categories or gets its money from another entity that does. Even considering foundations and non-profits, the only large scale entity with large financial resources gathered solely from private contributions is the Church. I doubt that is where he intends this suggestion to lead, or that he really thought this through as a practical matter.

    From the Zorita quote:
    “…there are excellent examples of agencies that society has set up when credibility is of the utmost importance. The European Central Bank, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Energy Agency and the US Congressional Budget Office all independently navigate their way through strong political pressures, delivering valuable assessments, advice, reports and forecasts, tapping academic research when necessary. These agencies are accountable and respected. …”

    Perhaps within the circles in which Zorita travels this is certainly held to be true, but these are not unvarnished facts. All of these agencies are viewed variously by different groups, particularly those that have had direct experience with them. I won’t offer my own opinion about any of these agencies, but I do recognize that the question of their accountability, value, and reputation depends entirely on whose opinion you’re soliciting.

  39. Raven
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 8:24 PM | Permalink

    I liked Ross Mc’s idea from a few years ago: dispense with the notion that an unbiased scientific report is achievable and move to adversarial system like our courts where advocates for both (multiple) sides would make their best case forward. These groups would publish a report and a rebuttle to their aversaries report. The policy makers/publis would then have the duty of a jury who has to sort out the claims of the dueling experts and make a judgement.

    If we combined this with Christy’s wikipedia concept it could work very well.

  40. David Wright
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 9:23 PM | Permalink

    Medical science, has the advantage of being testable, and so it has gained practical benefit. Not so with With climatology, where any treatment is as likely to cause harm as good, and where we cannot even discern between the two.

    The field of Climatology is much to “soft” to be compared with scientific fields requiring influential panels of political advisors.

    This spoiled young pup needs some training before we bring it on the hunt with us.

  41. kuhnkat
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Permalink

    Do nothing with the IPCC. Allow it to continue imploding on its own until it disappears from lack of interest or embarassment.

  42. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 10:11 PM | Permalink

    One thing that I find odd about current accounts of the IPCC is that is said to be supported by thousands of volunteer scientists. These scientists are not volunteers. They do what scientists do. They get grants and work on problems that concern them and as well get grants. These scientists may very well be sincere in their concern for the environment and AGW in particulr but it is a real stretch to be calling them volunteers.

    • Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 10:52 PM | Permalink

      …and it is in the scientists’ career, financial, and personal interest to see that their work is prominently cited. Climate change science is still a small field with only a smattering of people working on it.

      The simplest reason why there is not a louder skeptical voice in the IPCC (and the consensus) is that there are many fewer skeptical climate change scientists (almost by definition).

  43. Rick d
    Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

    A small and somewhat meaningless point. On the same level as Bagpuss the Cat.

    The esteemed AP blurb writer as well as the stuffed cat reporter know so little about the climate change issue that they don’t even bother to find out what the “I” in the acronym “IPCC” stands for.

    ………….For the last time, the “I” is for Irony.

  44. ianl8888
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 12:50 AM | Permalink

    Unhappily I cannot link to an article in today’s Ausralian Financial Review because it hides behind a paywall, but this published opinion from Peter Doherty (Laureate Professor, Microbiology, Uni of Melbourne) essentially repeats the defence that minor mistakes were made, but the system and core science is sound (“Shoot the messenger but accept the facts”)

    Aus newspapers, TV (international) and other media have been full of Grand Old Scientists (like Oppenheimer) being wheeled out to calm a fractious public with exactly the same line. Aus newspapers are full of similar letters from Professors of Astrophysics, Environmental Studies, Environmental Geology, etc etc

    John Christy (annoyingly I can’t find the link, I think it was on Pielke Jr) commented that about two weeks ago he attended a meeting of Lead Authors where he expressed the concept of opening up the data, code etc. He then commented that this idea was met with a stone silence

    Despite all the expectations of honest sceptics, seekers of open data and such, together with exhortations from some prominent people, not one further single byte of data or code has been released. Clearly, I believe that it will not be

    Doherty opined that he had thought Climategate had about run its course, no need for any further response

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 4:00 AM | Permalink

      Re Ianl8888,

      I have tremendous respect for the capability and work of Prof Doherty. In my reading of his attitude, which is subjective and therefore might be wrong, he is doing little more than saying “There is important futher science to be done, so let’s get this Climategate distraction out of the way quickly to allow better concentration of effort on real advances”.

      It would surprise me if he would (hypothetically) look at employing any of the Climatgate people or their type to assist in his progress. It’s like swatting a fly and hoping you hit it first time.

      • ianl8888
        Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

        Geoff Sherrington

        I have no argument with Doherty’s ability and output

        The opinion piece he wrote for the AFR was at best uninformed and more likely disingenuous – it doesn’t help. Look carefully at his view on assembling data from two disparate provenances into one linear graph

  45. geo
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:06 AM | Permalink

    Well, I have to say it is nice to see at least an attempt by the “scientific establishment” to have a serious dialogue about reforming the IPCC process. At times one has been tempted to wonder if the scientific process has just utterly broken down in climatology.

    I like the idea of “rolling, sharply focused” area reports. A single massive report every five years is just too unwieldy, and too likely to be outdated by the time it gets published. If experts are focusing in turn on smaller reports more regularly, I think that would help in identifying errors. It would also give more regular updates as to the progress of the science.

    I think they should be including “minority reports” as well. This idea that “policymakers” are too stupid, or don’t want to hear, the other side is just wrong-headed. Excluding the credible and reasoned view points of minority view scientists just doesn’t work –they won’t get excluded from the public debate, the “official” process will just end up looking like an attempt at an establishment railroad job, whether that was the explicit intent or not. Better to include minority views, and their basis, identified as such, than to look like you are trying to suppress them.

  46. Charles DrPH
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 1:16 AM | Permalink

    I’d like to see the study of anthropogenic influence upon the climate studied in a systems manner, whereby other disciplines including astrophysics, meteorology, biology etc. are given equal weight to climatology. I’d include economics and social sciences in also.

    Ironic that the world has made rather remarkable strides in other areas of environment including CFC abatement, water treatment etc. without the need for a UN body overseeing this work. National governments seem to do a good job in this role.

    Time for a big reboot!

  47. davidc
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:34 AM | Permalink


    “Peter Doherty (Laureate Professor, Microbiology, Uni of Melbourne) essentially repeats the defence that minor mistakes were made, but the system and core science is sound”

    That would be the same Peter Doherty who urged all Australians to get their own supplies of Tamiflu when the Swine Flu scare was gathering momentum. He had already done so, he said, to protect his family. It was the worst possible advice from a public health perspective as supplies to protect those in the front line (such as the health workers immediately exposed to infectious patients – who had the highest death toll with SARS) would be unavailable.

  48. Stefan
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 4:48 AM | Permalink

    Integral to the public image of the IPCC was the notion that “the science” was authoritative and factual. My first objection with friends was, “what about paradigms?” Quite simply, the more “agreement” and “consensus” there is, the harder it becomes to check whether the science is right. It might well be right, but the more “peer pressure” there is, the harder it becomes to check whether it is right. It simply becomes unquestionable, undeniable.

    The other problem is the notion that scientists are pure, objective, truth seekers. Yes, generally that’s the goal, but every human being has their own subjective filters, and every human being is part of a number of sub-cultures, which have their own filters. This was of course, what AGW alarmists kept accusing everyone else of suffering from–that people were too attached to their consumerist lifestyle to be objective about the dangers of carbon emissions. Well, whilst Climate Audit has been excellent at staying well clear of issues about secret motivations, and rightly so, I think the only thing that needs saying is that anyone can have some sort of agenda, and whilst it often is not necessary to know what that agenda is–people often don’t know themselves if shadow psychology is to be believed–what we do need is some way to check and balance against any agenda that might be operating in a group of people.

    Paradigms and agendas, that’s two problems. One is more about science and the other is more about politics. The AGW movement seems to be suffering from both problems simultaneously.

    Any monolithic single “authority” won’t really solve the problem of paradigms. But ignoring expert opinion doesn’t really solve the problem of agendas.

    People like to say that the science is “self correcting”. I say, true, but how long does that take? Say it is claimed that it takes 20 years for science to self-correct. OK, that means we regard as “early” any finding for the first 20 years. If it still stands up to scrutiny after that, it’s worthy of serious action.

    A real problem seems to be the way that the ink was barely dry on the AGW page before people started claiming it was “settled”.

    Once “settled” it became locked as a paradigm and as a political movement.

    “The science is settled we must act now!” — That sort of thing made me instantly sceptical. Why are they trying so hard and fast to convince us?

    I don’t know how you would prevent any organisation from being infected with a political agenda, and I don’t know how you would prevent a single paradigm from spreading through multiple “independent” institutions.

    But when we are faced with any alarming claims, perhaps all we can learn to do, as citizens, is to sit back and count to ten, and take a moment to collect our thoughts, and start to think about the very complex nature of risk.

  49. Paul Boyce
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 5:10 AM | Permalink

    Never mind Climategate and all the other Gates, the mistakes in AR4, or even the ever more curious behaviour of the chairman of the IPCC. The IPCC’s fate was sealed at Copenhagen.

    Despite all the countless meetings in the years beforehand, despite all the talking at the conference itself, in the end it was all for nothing. In the end it was China and the US that spelled out the facts of life to the World. And these were: It’s going to be Business As Usual – take it or leave it.

    In the end the IPCC’s advice and recommendations were ignored, very publicly.

    So what function does the IPCC serve exactly? To provide governments with advice which, when push comes to shove, will be completely ignored?

    The IPCC no longer serves any useful purpose, and should be scrapped. There’s no point trying to reform it.

    • PhilJourdan
      Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

      Paul, but they will be back as long as they believe they have the righteousness of truth on their side, as well as a majority of people. That is why the seekers of the truth must remain vigilant and constantly probing the “consensus” for the truth.

      Once we stop asking the questions, those in charge will stop providing any rationale for their actions except the tired old “for the good of the people”.

      You are right, the IPCC does not serve a good purpose. But Copenhagan failed because of the efforts of the skeptics, not in spite of them.

  50. Alexej Buergin
    Posted Feb 11, 2010 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

    One thing must be admitted: Those people believe so much in Hannnos Hockey Stick, they even adapt their name and call themselves (I translate from German) Sticker. Quite admirable.

  51. ryanm
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 1:45 AM | Permalink

    updated post with Letter to Editor by Paul Epstein — as directed to by my fossil fuel masters.

  52. danley wolfe
    Posted Feb 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

    I fail to see why it would be diffult to fix the way the IPCC work is done and reported. First IPCC is not allowed to shape and make policy. Second recognize that computer code models are not theories unless the data and scientific hypotheses are falsifiable and testable in genuine scientific context. A long range projection that is 100 years out of sample is not a hypothesis. Recognize that all of the model runs say things like expected temperature rise of 1.5-4.5 deg C and sea level rise of 39 feet — over the next 100 years is pure nonsense. Real scientists would not make these statements, let alone call them “highly likely.” Next get rid of the subjective ranking IPCC uses based on Delphi voting of the authors of the report ranking as 90% likely, 95% very likely, 99% highly likely when these numerical likelihoods are not based on scientific findings but opinions of authors who have huge vested interests and unavoidable cognitive biases (selection bias, attribution bias, filtering bias, etc.). Make all persons involved pass examination / training on the scientific method and ethics in science.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By So much for Labor democracy! « TWAWKI on Feb 10, 2010 at 10:35 PM

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  2. […] the many suggestions that the IPCC be cherished, tweaked, or scrapped by Nature in a recent opinion piece by 5-climatologists, one was by John Christy who proposed a Wikipedia-style assessment process or […]

  3. By Streetwise Professor » Open Access Review on Feb 11, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    […] hierarchical, peer review system.  University of Alabama-Huntsville climatologist John Christy has suggested that this could serve as a replacement for the highly politicized, deeply…: The IPCC selects lead authors from the pool of those nominated by individual governments. Over […]

  4. […] and ideas to improve the IPCC process. Ryan Maue wrote a fine piece for ClimateAudit titled “What to do with the IPCC?” which describes some of the thoughts by different climate researchers. There are a number of […]

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