The Wall Street Journal reported today on its front page (and all of page 12) about the InterAcademy Council report on the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is a surprisingly critical report written by academics who are colleagues and personal friends of many of the people who participate in the IPCC process. The science academies that constitute the members of the IAC are themselves deeply politicized, dependent on government funding, and on the record as endorsing the IPCC’s most alarmist claims. This is not, therefore, an “independent” evaluation of the IPCC.
The report is written in the common language of academics commenting on one another’s shortcomings. Recommendations to “strengthen” and “improve” put a positive spin on findings that reveal that current management and review systems are weak, broken, or even corrupt. It takes a little reading between the lines to realize what faults were discovered and being reported.
The discussion of peer review clearly reveals that Assessment Reports are NOT peer reviewed in the true academic sense. “The Lead Authors have the final say on the content of their chapters,” and Review Editors need to be “encouraged … to ensure that reviewers’ comments are adequately considered by the authors and that genuine controversies are adequately reflected in the report.” (p. 3) Translated: Lead Authors have ignored and censored qualified scientists who they disagree with, and have suppressed or refused to acknowledge genuine controversies.
The Assessment Reports “are intended to be policy relevant, not policy prescriptive, and to present the range of thoughtful scientific viewpoints.” (p. 13). But it is clear that the authors are failing to give “due consideration … to properly documented alternative views” (p. 20), are failing to “provide detailed written responses to the most significant review issues identified by the Review Editors” (p. 21) and are not “consider[ing] review comments carefully and document[ing] their responses.” (p. 22)
The IAC’s examination of how authors and contributors are selected found “the IPCC has no formal process or criteria for selecting authors” and “the selection criteria seemed arbitrary to many respondents.” (p. 18) Government officials appoint scientists from their countries and “do not always nominate the best scientists from among those who volunteer, either because they do not know who these scientists are or because political considerations are given more weight than scientific qualifications.” (p. 18)
The failure to rely on peer-reviewed journal articles is a major problem. (p. 19) They cite a study on this regarding the use of “gray material” in the Third Assessment but don’t cite research that is much more damning regarding the Fourth Assessment.
The re-writing of the Summary for Policy Makers by politicians and environmental activists – perhaps the biggest IPCC scandal of them all – is plainly admitted, maybe for the first time by a “mainstream” organization, on p. 25. Check this out, it’s all very damaging:
- “A team of scientists drafts the Summary for Policy Makers, and government representatives negotiate and agree to the final wording line by line.”
- “[M]any were concerned that reinterpretations of the assessment’s findings, suggested in the final Plenary, might be politically motivated.”
- “Plenary sessions to approve a Summary for Policy Makers last for several days and commonly end with an all-night meeting. Thus, the individuals with the most endurance or the countries that have large delegations can end up having the most influence on the report.” [Can you believe this?]
- “The distillation of the many findings of a massive report into the relatively brief, high-level messages that characterize the Summary for Policy Makers necessarily results in the loss of important nuances and caveats that appear in the Working Group report. Moreover, the choice of messages and description of topics may be influenced in subtle ways by political considerations.” [You think?]
And on page 26:
“Respondents to the Committee’s questionnaire were divided about the usefulness of the Synthesis Report. Scientists commonly found the report to be redundant with the Working Group reports and too political.” [emphasis added]
The use of phony “confidence intervals” and estimates of “certainty” in the Summary for Policy Makers is called out pp. 27-34. We knew this was make-believe, almost to the point of a joke, when we first saw it. Armstrong’s work on the science of forecasting (which has nothing to do with finding a consensus of experts) makes it doubly obvious that you don’t sit around a table and vote on how confident we all are about some prediction, and then affix a number to it like “80% confident.” The IAC authors say it is “not an appropriate way to characterize uncertainty,” (p. 34) a huge understatement. This is just fraud, pure and simple. Unfortunately, the AIC authors recommend an equally fraudulent substitute, called “level of understanding scale,” which is mush-mouth for “consensus.”
The IAC authors warn, also on p. 34, that “conclusions will likely be stated so vaguely as to make them impossible to refute, and therefore statements of ‘very high confidence’ will have little substantive value.”
In its discussion of conflict of interest and disclosure, the report said “the lack of a conflict of interest and disclosure policy for IPCC leaders and Lead Authors was a concern raised by a number of individuals who were interviewed by the Committee or provided written input …. and about the practice of scientists responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work. The Committee did not investigate the basis of these claims, which is beyond the mandate of this review.” (p. 46). Too bad, because these are both BIG ISSUES and their presence in this report is a big admission of structural problems with the IPCC.
Although the IAC authors would probably not admit it, since many of them have similar conflicts, reliance on government funding and being paid by nonprofits, for-profits, and trade associations with stakes in renewable fuels compromise the independence of an overwhelming majority of IPCC leaders and Lead Authors. It ought not only to be disclosed but should disqualify them from participating.