Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Please act all "Sciency", mkay?

Several people have emailed me about the report that's just been published, on improving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process. I'm underwhelmed.

First the good: the report has many sensible conclusions that would without question improve the process:
UNITED NATIONS — The scientists involved in producing the periodic United Nations reports on climate change need to be more open to alternative views and more transparent about their own possible conflicts of interest, an independent review panel said Monday.
Here's the problem in a nutshell: there is a huge lack of transparency in the IPCC process, and as a result people don't trust the output. I wrote of this before, how Willis Eschenbach's j'accuse has yet to be dealt with head on by the establishment Climate Science community:

The lack of trust is not a problem of perception or communication. It is a problem of lack of substance. Results are routinely exaggerated. “Scientific papers” are larded with “may” and “might” and “could possibly”. Advocacy is a common thread in climate science papers. Codes are routinely concealed, data is not archived. A concerted effort is made to marginalize and censor opposing views.

And most disturbing, for years you and the other climate scientists have not said a word about this disgraceful situation. When Michael Mann had to be hauled in front of a congressional committee to force him to follow the simplest of scientific requirements, transparency, you guys were all wailing about how this was a huge insult to him.

"May". "Might". "Could". Scandalously, these are the coin of the realm in Climate Science today - at least the Climate Science that makes the headlines. So what's in the new report?

The IPCC should elect an Executive Director to lead the Secretariat and handle day-to-day operations of the organization. The term of this senior scientist should be limited to the timeframe of one assessment.


The IPCC should encourage Review Editors to fully exercise their authority to ensure that reviewers’ comments are adequately considered by the authors and that genuine controversies are adequately reflected in the report.

The IPCC should adopt a more targeted and effective process for responding to reviewer comments. In such a process, Review Editors would prepare a written summary of the most significant issues raised by reviewers shortly after review comments have been received. Authors would be required to provide detailed written responses to the most significant review issues identified by the Review Editors, abbreviated responses to all non-editorial comments, and no written responses to editorial comments.


All Working Groups should use the qualitative level-of-understanding scale in their Summary for Policy Makers and Technical Summary, as suggested in IPCC’s uncertainty guidance for the Fourth Assessment Report. This scale may be supplemented by a quantitative probability scale, if appropriate.

Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs).


The IPCC should complete and implement a communications strategy that emphasizes transparency, rapid and thoughtful responses, and relevance to stakeholders, and which includes guidelines about who can speak on behalf of IPCC and how to represent the organization appropriately.

Emphasis mine. In other words, the IPCC should, but presumably is not required to offer up actual science. But let's look at that one about dealing with comments. Remember, one of the scandalous (no other word will do) errors in AR4 claimed increasing magnitude of weather related damage. The scandal wasn't that this was wrong, but that the IPCC was told of this by a reviewer, who was ignored:
It was all but certainly this passage that survived the review process and appear in the final report:
A previous normalisation of losses, undertaken for U.S. hurricanes by Pielke and Landsea (1998) and U.S. floods (Pielke et al., 2002) included normalising the economic losses for changes in wealth and population so as to express losses in constant dollars. These previous national U.S. assessments, as well as those for normalised Cuban hurricane losses (Pielke et al., 2003), did not show any significant upward trend in losses over time, but this was before the remarkable hurricane losses of 2004 and 2005.
What did Pielke think about this? Good question, easily answered. The IPCC never asked, but that did not stop the IPCC from making up an answer for me, which it did in its response to Zwiers (here in PDF, at p. 121):
I believe Pielke agrees that adding 2004 and 2005 has the potential to change his earlier conclusions – at least about the absence of a trend in US Cat losses.

So not only did the IPCC AR4 WGII egregiously misrepresent the science of disasters and climate change, but when questions were raised about that section by at least one expert reviewer, it simply made up a misleading and false response about my views. Not good.
The editor of that section of the IPCC AR4 report is - surprise! - the editor of the AR5 report. But the new guidelines say that you shouldn't do this, mkay?

The starting point for these sorts of "improvements" all seem to be that Climate Science deserves the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't. Freedom of Information Act requests are still being turned down. Software is still not being released. The quality of the data in the major temperature databases is highly questionable.

Climate Science isn't dealing with any of these issues. They should.


Lissa said...

Whenever I come across "The World Is Gonna Freeze/Melt/Die And Science Says It's Your Fault" reports, I tend to think of Dr. Floyd Ferris' report on the possible dangers of Rearden Metal.

In fact, I think I'll link this post over at my place and lay out the excerpt I've got in mind.

Lissa said...



Eagle said...

Ah, but Climate Science is not TRUE science: it is a religion. Arguing with the high priests of a religion is the surest way to be tossed out of the congregation and land out in the street on your ear.

It is the high priests with the support of the congregation whom determine who receives grants, who receives financial rewards, and who receives public acclaim for supporting and defending the religion in public.

It is those same high priests who, having claimed to have heard "the voice of truth", refuse to consider where that "voice" came from... or whose it is.

We know what happens to heretics who, armed with fact, science, and truth, attempt to confront the high priests and explain that the religion is based on faith and NOT fact: they are derided in public, held up to ridicule, and chased out of town.

Hence, "Climate Science", as currently practiced, is not a science at all. It is, in fact, a religion...

...whose acolytes are watching their congregation discover that their once-vaunted religion is based on nothing more than old wive's tales, lies and half-truths, and the need to deceive.

But you've made all these points before, BP.

lelnet said...

To be fair (and it's important to be fair...especially when one doesn't feel like it), "should" is probably the most appropriate word, considering that this thing doesn't seem to come from anyone with the authority to throw around words like "shall" and "must".

I am not confident that these reccomendations will be followed, nor that even if followed, they would cause meaningful improvement. But they're at least correctly addressing several (but of course not all) of the most critical problems.