Saturday, June 30, 2007

Understanding the IPCC and its origins and purpose

In the latest in his series on key scientists skeptical about the threats posed by climate change, Lawrence Solomon offers a profile of the dean of climatology, Reid Bryson.

Now 87, Bryson is considered by many the "father of scientific climatology," and he's also pronounced on the most consequential climate issue of the day -- man-made global warming. His verdict: "That is a theory for which there is no credible proof. There is very little truth to what is being said and an awful lot of religion," he has decided. "It's almost a religion where you have to believe in anthropogenic global warming or else you are nuts."

Bryson is everything a scientist should be. Principled and objective, not letting his politics influence his view of the science. Clearly, climate is changing. Always has, always will because climate is itself, dynamic -- always in a state of change. Clearly, human beings are modifying the climate, warming it some ways, cooling it others. Neither activity is cause for alarm, unless it becomes the cause and vehicle for ideologically driven alarmism.

In discussing the origins of the climate change issue and the IPCC, this essay raises the following questions:

  • How much of the global warming issue is shaped by new scientific discoveries, and how much by broader cultural and political trends?
  • How has the interaction between scientists, international institutions, governments, media and activists influenced the development of climate change policy?
  • Was the establishment of the IPCC a visionary act or an expression of political implosion in the West?
It suggests that the emergence of global warming as the dominant environmental narrative today is a reflection of an ideology characterized by
  • ...sense of profound social pessimism' in which human potential became viewed more as a 'threat rather than a positive attribute'. The orthodoxy of precaution 'emphasised not only the actual damage being done to the environment but potential threats in the future'. This is precisely how the global warming issue was framed by certain scientists and latterly latched on to by environmental campaign groups that had paid little or no attention to it prior to the late 1980s.
  • From the moment the IPCC was born, the scope for an overtly political approach to dealing with any questions raised or problems thrown up by climate change was compromised by politicians with little vision for society, who became increasingly attracted to the notion of 'natural limits' as a justification for political and economic stasis.

Let's be clear: consensus is a political term, a political desire for some. Science is not consensual, it is factual. Whenever we discourage scientific skepticism, we are being political and not scientific. The IPCC was founded to promote a particular perspective on science. It is a politicized perspective that is not about science but about the use and mis-use of science to advocate an ideology of stasis control and governance.


Al Gore is called to account to his own (new) standards for scientific integrity here. Seems Al wants people to do as he says not as he does: no wonder he is now credited with inventing Gorebull warming.