The IPCC was created in 1988 largely due to the efforts of Maurice Strong, a billionaire and self-confessed socialist, as part of a larger campaign to justify giving the United Nations the authority to tax businesses in developed countries and redistribute trillions of dollars a year to developing nations. Strong had previously succeeded in bringing about the creation of the UN Environment Programme in 1972 and served as its first executive director. The IPCC is a joint project of that entity and the World Meteorological Organization.
(Strong was subsequently implicated in corruption surrounding the UN’s Oil-for-Food-Program and has resigned from his UN positions. According to John Izzard writing for the Australian publication Quadrant Online, <1> “Following his exposure for bribery and corruption in the UN’s Oil-for-Food scandal Maurice Strong was stripped of many of his 53 international awards and honours he had collected during his lifetime working in dual role of arch conservationist and ruthless businessman.”<1>)
Strong and his allies at the UN gave the IPCC a very narrow brief by defining climate change in the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Article 1.2, as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” IPCC’s mandate is not to study climate change “in the round,” or to look at natural as well as man-made influences on climate. It is to specifically find and report a human impact on climate, and thereby make a scientific case for the adoption of national and international policies that would supposedly reduce that impact.
The IPCC is also designed to put political leaders and bureaucrats rather than scientists in control of the research project. It is a membership organization composed of governments, not scientists. The governments that created the IPCC fund it, staff it, select the scientists who get to participate, and revise and rewrite the reports after the scientists have concluded their work. Obviously, this is not how a real scientific organization operates.
The IPCC’s first report, released in 1990, admitted that observed climate change was probably due to natural rather than human causes. However, every report since then has claimed with rising certainty that there is a “discernable human impact” on the climate and that steps must be taken to avoid a global climate crisis. There is ample evidence that this level of alarmism and asserted confidence is fueled by political considerations rather than actual science.
For example, in 1996, Dr. Frederick Seitz, one of the world’s most prominent and respected physicists, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: <2>“In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.”
Numerous authors (see here, here, and here)<3> have observed a growing disconnect between the “Summaries for Policymakers,” which are designed to be read and used by political leaders and the media, and the reports themselves. The former systematically remove the expressions of scientific uncertainty and alternative explanations of climate phenomena that were abundantly present in the first three reports, with the obvious intention of misrepresenting the science and fueling unnecessary alarm. By the fourth and fifth assessment reports, even the underlying reports were being purged of ideas and evidence that contradicted the IPCC’s political agenda.
In 2009, a hacker or whistle blower made available on the Internet a collection of email exchanges among leading authors and contributors to the IPCC reports. The ensuing scandal, called Climategate, <4> exposed efforts by IPCC authors to withhold data from independent scholars and attempt to prevent peer-reviewed journals from publishing research that undermined or questioned their own work. In 2011 <5> the hacker or whistle blower released a second batch of emails that made even more clear that the IPCC process was broken.
This sordid history has led to calls for the IPCC to be dismantled <6> and for its Fifth Assessment to be its last. <7> This would be good news, though long over-due. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was created to take the IPCC’s place by giving honest scientists an alternative outlet for their work and citizens of the world a genuinely independent source of research on this issue.
<1> John Izzard, “Discovering Maurice Strong,” Quadrant Online, January 31, 2010
<2> Dr. Frederick Seitz, “A Major Deception on Global Warming,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1996
<3> First here: Larry Bell, “The U.N.’s Global Warming War On Capitalism: An Important History Lesson,” Forbes.com, January 22, 2013
Second here: Rupert Darwall, The Age of Global Warming: A History (Quartet Books Ltd, 2013)
Third here: Donna Laframbois, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011)
<4> Joseph Bast, https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/climate-gate-scandal-should-be-wake-up-call-for-press-politicians
<5> James Taylor, Climategate 2.0: New E-Mails Rock The Global Warming Debate
<6> Ross McKitrick, “What is Wrong with the IPCC? Proposals for a Radical Reform,” Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2011
<7> Nature, “The Final Assessment”
In 2010 the Amsterdam-based InterAcademy Council (IAC), a scientific body composed of the heads of national science academies around the world, revealed crippling flaws in the IPCC’s peer-review process and other procedural problems – long pointed out by global warming skeptics but ignored by the mainstream media – that seriously undermined the IPCC’s credibility.<1> Two years later, the IPCC itself officially recognized the truth of the critique and promised to reform itself.<2>
The IAC reported that IPCC lead authors fail to give “due consideration … to properly documented alternative views” (p. 20), fail to “provide detailed written responses to the most significant review issues identified by the Review Editors” (p. 21), and fail to “consider review comments carefully and document their responses” (p. 22). In plain English: the IPCC reports are not peer reviewed.
The IAC 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). In other words: authors are selected by politicians from a “club” of scientists and non-scientists who agree with the alarmist perspective.
The rewriting of the Summary for Policy Makers by politicians and environmental activists – a problem called out by global warming realists for many years, but with little apparent notice by the media or policymakers – is plainly admitted, perhaps for the first time by an organization in the “mainstream” of alarmist climate change thinking. “[M]any were concerned that reinterpretations of the assessment’s findings, suggested in the final Plenary, might be politically motivated,” the auditors wrote. The scientists they interviewed commonly found the Synthesis Report “too political” (p. 25). In other words, the Summary for Policymakers and the Synthesis Report are political documents, not scientific reports.
Finally, the IAC noted, “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” as well as “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 in light of recent revelations that a majority of the authors and contributors to some chapters of the IPCC reports are environmental activists, not scientists at all. That’s a structural problem with the IPCC that could dwarf the big problems already reported.
Despite its pledge to reform itself, the Fifth Assessment Report reveals that the IPCC is still operating in defiance of the IAC’s recommendations. A widely circulated draft of the Summary for Policymakers prior to the all-night sessions in Stockholm held in late September show that politicians and bureaucrats made extensive changes that removed admissions of uncertainty and attempted to hide key walk-backs of past findings. And once again, the full report is being edited (as this was written in early October 2013) “for consistency with the approved SPM.” This is not how truly scientific reports are produced.
<1> The following quotations from the IAC audit of the IPCC appeared in a “pre-publication” version that was formally released in August 2010 and is still available online here. Many of these criticisms mysteriously disappeared or were much muted when the final IAC report was released. The following summary is based on Joseph Bast, “IPCC Admits Its Past Reports Were Junk,” American Thinker, July 16, 2012.
<2> IPCC, “IPCC completes review of processes and procedures,” News Release, June 27, 2012
While often said to represent the views of nearly all climate scientists, the IPCC reports actually reflect the views of a small and unrepresentative minority of that community. Here is how we know this is true, and why claims to the contrary don’t hold up under scrutiny.
First, the history and organization of the IPCC virtually guarantee that it expresses only those views that its founders and government members support. It is a political organization, not a scientific body. It was created to advance an agenda: finding a human impact on climate in order to justify giving the UN the power to imposes taxes on businesses in the developed world. Its organization gives politicians and bureaucrats the authority to choose which scientists can participate and what ideas and evidence are allowed to appear in its publications.
Second, the IPCC’s procedures ensure that its reports do not reflect the views of most climate scientists. The Summaries for Policymakers are extensively revised and rewritten after scientists themselves have written and approved the summaries. These summaries systematically exclude expressions of scientific uncertainty that appear in the full reports and exaggerate the possibility of dangerous climate change. Then the full reports, including the latest Fifth Assessment Report, are revised after peer review has been completed to make the full reports conform to the Summaries for Policymakers.
Third, surveys that supposedly show a consensus in favor of the hypothesis of man-made dangerous global warming invariably ask meaningless questions, such as “is climate change real?” that any skeptic would answer “yes” to. See here and here. A close look at the latest “study” used by alarmists to back their claim actually found that barely 1% of published scientific articles support the claim of dangerous man-made global warming.
Fourth, the most detailed and reliable international survey of climate scientists reveals that when asked about climate models, the source of most of the alarmists’ claims and predictions, most scientists say they are too crude and unreliable to be useful for policymaking. For two-thirds of the questions asked, scientific opinion is deeply divided, and in half of those cases, most scientists disagree with positions that are at the foundation of the alarmist case. There is certainly no consensus on the science behind the global warming scare.
Finally, if there were really a “consensus” among scientists about climate change, why are there 78 different climate models that vary widely in their “parameters” (assumptions) and outcomes? Why isn’t there just one? The simple fact is that scientists disagree on basic matters such as how big the human impact on climate is, whether natural forcings and feedbacks partially or completely cancel any likely feedback, and whether man-made global warming rises to the level of being a serious problem.
The skeptics who disagree with the IPCC’s proclamations don’t say humans are not “causing global warming,” because they acknowledge that agriculture, building roads and airports and water treatment plants, and emissions of various kinds (including carbon dioxide) may indeed affect regional climates and may even be enough to have a discernable impact globally. But is it enough to “disrupt the Earth’s climate”? There is no evidence that it is.