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Why The IPCC Cannot Survive – Qui Fama Ferit Fama Perit

“Qui Fama Ferit Fama Perit” is Latin for  “He who lives by reputation, die by reputation

(the below has been inspired by “The Future is Another Country” on the “Marc Roberts cartoon” blog)

The number of big and little mistakes surfacing up day in and day out and known with various terms including “Gate du Jour” is fatally undermining the very idea of the IPCC, not necessarily for the most obvious reasons. You see, it’s a matter of square science pegs and round policy holes…

I am not interested in arguing how good the peer-reviewed literature contained in AR4 was. That becomes an irrelevant point once one realizes that until a couple of months ago any doubt of any sort about the IPCC was quickly dismissed as “denialism”. Now instead, it is clear to all that the whole IPCC process was not geared up for science, rather to provide policymakers with something of whatever (good, or bad) scientific value and quality.

Just last Friday Bob Ward has re-stated at the Royal Institution in London that the IPCC is there to provide advice to policymakers. In this respect, the presence of incorrect/exaggerated statements must be expected, since policymakers need advice also where science cannot (yet?) provide advice.

So the IPCC report has to (must!) be made of a great bulk of scientific literature review patched up with all missing-but-needed-by-policymakers (non-scientific) bits. Rather than being “a few cherry picked gaffes“, the mistakes that are now being exposed are therefore exactly the best evidence to make the ultimate goal of the IPCC process remarkably clear: policy, not science.

But that’s contrary to the IPCC’s own principles:

The role of the IPCC is 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.

Set up to “assess” the “information relevant to [the] understanding [of climate change]“, the IPCC has found itself tasked to “provide” the “information needed by policymakers“.

The claim that “IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy” is therefore almost meaningless, and the presence of thousands of scientifically strong peer-reviewed papers in AR4 borders on the inconsequential: what is important is that the policy hole is round so the IPCC peg has to be round as well, no matter how square a peg science is bound to produce. And this ultimately destroys the scientific reputation of the IPCC.

A possible way forward? In a later blog…

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  1. 2010/02/10 at 22:23

    Have posted the following at WSJ.com:

    Just think for a second – the IPCC authors had all those peer-reviewed papers, hundreds and hundreds of pages to write and STILL they found it necessary to patch it all up with several “dodgy” references. Why? Evidently, because they felt they had to. And why did they feel they had to? Because the IPCC report was being written not to describe the scientific knowledge at the time, but to present the necessary information to policymakers.

    This means that it can now be ascertained without much doubt that the IPCC report was not a policy-relevant scientific document, rather a policy document. And that is absolutely contrary to the principles of the IPCC itself.

  2. geoff chambers
    2010/02/10 at 10:38

    Nice cartoon though. Really the most intelligent comment from a warmist perspective I’ve seen for a long time.

  3. 2010/02/09 at 12:28

    “that’s scary…how can you tell post-normal science from rubbish?”

    You can’t, from the perspective of of normal science, because from that perspective the post-normal activity is rubbish as it is not truth seeking. As Ravetz says:

    “…the puzzle-solving approach of ‘normal science’ is obsolete. This is a drastic cultural change for science, which many scientists will find difficult to accept. But there is no turning back…For us, quality is a replacement for truth in our methodology. We argue that this is quite enough for doing science, and that truth is a category with symbolic importance, which itself is historically and culturally conditioned.”

    To read Hulme about climate change takes on the air of politics and religion – certainly not science. As I mentioned in the post, the professorship and lecturerships at UEA are in ‘climate change’ not ‘climate science’. Hulme is unavowedly socialist, and is riding the climate change tiger to promote a political agenda. As far as I’m concerned, Hulme has crossed the line out of science into politics. He might call it ‘post-normal’ science to pretend that he’s a scientist still, but that is the danger – how to warp things to serve a political agenda with everyone still thinking you are a ‘normal’ scientist. Good cover! But for those who are prepared to study Hulme, there can be no doubt what he’s up to. He says:

    “scientists – and politicians – must trade truth for influence”
    “The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change…to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects…”
    “Climate change has moved from being a predominantly physical phenomenon to being a social one…”
    “mythical ways of thinking about climate change reflect back to us truths about the human condition…”
    “We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us…Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.”
    “Rather than asking “how do we solve climate change?” we need to turn the question around and ask: “how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations…?””
    “As a resource of the imagination, the idea of climate change can be deployed around our geographical, social and virtual worlds in creative ways…We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects.”

  4. 2010/02/09 at 10:58

    Like I said in my post

    http://buythetruth.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/climate-change-and-the-death-of-science/

    the IPCC process is understood to be “post-normal”. As Mike Hulme says: “Disputes in post-normal science focus…on the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy…The IPCC is a classic example of a post-normal scientific activity.”

    As Eva Kunseler stated in “Towards a new paradigm of Science in scientific policy advising”:
    “The concept of post-normal science goes beyond the traditional assumptions that science is both certain and value-free…[post-normal scientific activity] is defined by the dominance of goal orientation where scientific goals are controlled by political or societal actors…Scientists’ integrity lies not in disinterestedness but in their behaviour as stakeholders. Normal science made the world believe that scientists should and could provide certain, objective factual information…The guiding principle of normal science – the goal of achievement of factual knowledge – must be modified to fit the post-normal principle…For this purpose, post-normal scientists should…allow for ‘extended facts’ from non-scientific experts…Involved social actors must agree on the definition of perceptions, narratives, interpretation of models, data and indicators…”

    Basically, then, since as Hulme admits, the IPCC is classically post-normal, its remit to “assess” and “provide” will not be grounded in facts but will be serving political aims.

    • 2010/02/09 at 11:25

      that’s scary…how can you tell post-normal science from rubbish?

      • Luke Warmer
        2010/02/10 at 13:23

        I think you have to revert to normal science:-)

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