IPCC must consider alternate policy views, researchers say

From Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

In addition to providing regular assessments of scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process (IPCC) also produces a “Summary for Policymakers” intended to highlight relevant policy issues through data.

While the summary presents powerful scientific evidence, it goes through an approval process in which governments can question wording and the selection of findings but not alter scientific facts or introduce statements at odds with the science. In particular, during this process, the most recent summary on mitigation policies was stripped of several important figures and paragraphs that were in the scientists’ draft, leading some IPCC scientists to express concerns about excessive political intrusion.

Delicate issues of political interpretation cannot be avoided, wrote three IPCC authors in the journal Science. In their analysis, the team – which includes Marc Fleurbaey from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs – uses global emissions data to show how multiple political interpretations can be made from the same dataset. They argue that the IPCC should consider a writing process that better connects scientific findings with multiple political outcomes.

“The IPCC should consider opening up more channels for dialogue in which salient political discussions are connected to relevant scientific material,” said the article’s co-author Marc Fleurbaey, the Robert E. Kuenne Professor in Economics, Humanistic Studies and Public Affairs. “Such a collaboration or coproduction is what lends the IPCC its credibility as the voice of scientists – but with more weight for policy.”

While the IPCC undoubtedly produces the most up-to-date, comprehensive scientific reports on climate change, its approval process has become tediously extensive. As the panel embarks upon its sixth assessment, those involved have been working toward streamlining the process.

In their review, Fleurbaey and his co-authors – Navroz Dubash from the Centre for Policy Research in India and Sivan Kartha from the Stockholm Environment Institute – write that this approval process sets the IPCC apart from other technical reports. Instead of changing the approval process, they suggest an alternate vision for articulating science and policy at the IPCC.

To illustrate their vision, the researchers analyzed global emissions by reviewing income growth across countries, a key driver of emissions growth. When looking at income, countries are sometimes grouped into such categories as lower-income, lower-middle income, upper-middle income and high-income. The trouble, however, is that some countries are rapidly changing in terms of income, which elides relevant information. Likewise, a few big countries can dominate the statistics, and the time reference used for grouping them also can lead to large differences.

When global emissions are analyzed according to groupings based on current income figures, upper-middle income countries account for 75 percent of the rise in global emissions from 2000 to 2010. This presentation of data was deleted from the recent summary report. A political interpretation of this, Fleurbaey and his collaborators write, may be that country groupings should reflect the increasing role of upper-middle income countries and perhaps impose commensurate emission limits.

However, when grouping countries according to their income in the middle of the decade (2005), global emissions rose three quarters in lower-middle income countries, a change due in part to the fact that China joined the upper-middle income group in 2010 only. This presentation highlighting lower-middle income countries may suggest supporting these countries financially and technologically in developing lower carbon economies.

“As you can see, both representations would be equally faithful to the underlying data, but they are also equally synthetic and incomplete, and they differ markedly in their political extrapolations,” said Fleurbaey. “It’s hard to accurately group these countries without imposing political perceptions, and analysis by country groups is highly sensitive in the current context of the renegotiation of the groups defined in the Kyoto protocol.”

As an illustration that more positive outcomes can be obtained from governmental dealings, the authors report that some sections benefited from the approval process, as they were eventually expanded and clarified by additional explanations. For example, the framing section of the summary, which was taken up for discussion early in the approval process, achieved a smooth convergence between the authors and country delegates.

On the flip side, the international cooperation section was much shortened, simplified and seemingly stripped of controversy. This section had much less time allowed for discussion and was examined in a contentious atmosphere after the removal of several figures involving country groupings.

Fellow IPCC author Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences, who was not an author of the Science article, fully supported its position.

“IPCC, and attempts to solve the climate problem, would benefit immensely from a strengthening of the science-policy interface,” Oppenheimer said. “Proposals to completely separate the science and policy functions are simply wrong-headed and self-defeating. This collaboration is what makes IPCC unique and uniquely effective”

“Seemingly technical choices can crystallize into value-laden political conclusions, particularly given tight word and time limits,” said Fleurbaey. “It is more productive for authors to be aware of the varying political implications and factor these into their representations of data.”

The review, “Political implications of data presentation,” was published July 4 in Science.

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32 thoughts on “IPCC must consider alternate policy views, researchers say

  1. This sounds like a new way to be more cunning with weasel words rather than tell the truth.

  2. The IPCC is to its core a ‘political animal ‘ more it’s a UN ‘political animal ‘ which means you combine politics with a high level of incompetence. Expecting them not to have a political focus is like expecting dogs not to sniff each other’s rear end.

  3. “It is more productive for authors to be aware of the varying political implications and factor these into their representations of data.”

    I tend to prefer Sgt. Joe Friday’s approach: “The facts, ma’am, just the facts.”

  4. Friends:

    The article begins saying

    In addition to providing regular assessments of scientific literature, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process (IPCC) also produces a “Summary for Policymakers” intended to highlight relevant policy issues through data.

    While the summary presents powerful scientific evidence, it goes through an approval process in which governments can question wording and the selection of findings but not alter scientific facts or introduce statements at odds with the science. In particular, during this process, the most recent summary on mitigation policies was stripped of several important figures and paragraphs that were in the scientists’ draft, leading some IPCC scientists to express concerns about excessive political intrusion.

    It is difficult to reconcile the involvement of “some IPCC scientists” with the IPCC with their ignorance being so great as to give them “concerns about excessive political intrusion”. It is not possible for there to be “political intrusion” into anything the IPCC does. This is because a house cannot intrude into itself.
    The IPCC only exists to fulfil political objectives and uses the IPCC to provide selected scientific information which can be used as a tool to promote the political objectives.

    I have repeatedly posted the facts of this which are as follows.

    The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of each IPCC Report is agreed “line by line” by politicians and/or representatives of politicians, and it is then published. After that the so-called ‘scientific’ Reports are amended to agree with the SPM. This became IPCC custom and practice of the IPCC when prior to its Second Report the then IPCC Chairman, John Houghton, decreed,

    We can rely on the Authors to ensure the Report agrees with the Summary.

    This was done and has been the normal IPCC procedure since then.

    This custom and practice enabled the infamous ‘Chapter 8′ scandal so perhaps it should – at long last – be changed. However, it has been adopted as official IPCC procedure for all subsequent IPCC Reports. Appendix A of the present IPCC Report, AR5, states this where it says.

    4.6 Reports Approved and Adopted by the Panel
    Reports approved and adopted by the Panel will be the Synthesis Report of the Assessment Reports and other Reports as decided by the Panel whereby Section 4.4 applies mutatis mutandis .

    This is completely in accord with the official purpose of the IPCC.

    The IPCC does NOT exist to summarise climate science and it does not.

    The IPCC is only permitted to say AGW is a significant problem because they are tasked to accept that there is a “risk of human-induced climate change” which requires “options for adaptation and mitigation” that can be selected as political polices and the IPCC is tasked to provide those “options”.

    This is clearly stated in the “Principles” which govern the work of the IPCC. These are stated at

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principles/ipcc-principles.pdf

    Near its beginning that document says

    ROLE
    2. 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. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.

    This says the IPCC exists to provide
    (a) “information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change”
    and
    (b) “options for adaptation and mitigation” which pertain to “the application of particular policies”.

    Hence, its “Role” demands that the IPCC accepts as a given that there is a “risk of human-induced climate change” which requires “options for adaptation and mitigation” which pertain to “the application of particular policies”. Any ‘science’ which fails to support that political purpose is ‘amended’ in furtherance of the IPCC’s “Role”.

    This is achieved by the IPCC’s so-called ‘scientific’ Reports being amended prior to publication to ensure the so-called Scientific Reports agree with the SPM which has been amended by politicians to ensure it fulfills the IPCC’s political purpose as defined by the IPCC’s “Role”.

    All IPCC Reports including the IPCC AR5 are pure pseudoscience intended to provide information to justify political actions; i.e.Lysenkoism.

    It is not possible for politics to “intrude” into IPCC activities for the same reason it is not possible for the Pope to “intrude” into Roman Catholic activities.

    Richard

  5. “IPCC, and attempts to solve the climate problem, would benefit immensely from a strengthening of the science-policy interface,” Oppenheimer said.

    What ‘climate problem’?

  6. The IPCC remains a political football of the social; dogooders hoping to wedge in more control over nations through typical government policies of taxing the rich and rewarding the poor to a degree while protecting and cementing their own role in the process. It really adds little value to the world.

  7. To me a “strengthening of the science-policy interface” is an invitation for scientists to censor their output even more in accordance with their masters’ policy preferences,

  8. Too many professors from The Woodrow Wilson School for me. Progressivism and world order are their denominator, not science.

  9. Yes, still more colors and brands of lipstick for the climate piggy. That’s the ticket.

  10. While the summary presents powerful scientific evidence, it goes through an approval process in which governments can question wording and the selection of findings but not alter scientific facts or introduce statements at odds with the science.

    Yeah, right. Pull the other leg.

  11. What’s left out of the IPCC reports or obscuring whats in them is what’s causing them head aches.
    Blogs all over the world continually point out the contradictions and back pedaling in, as another here put it, “their weasel words”.

  12. It is not possible for politics to “intrude” into IPCC activities for the same reason it is not possible for the Pope to “intrude” into Roman Catholic activities.

    Richard

    ===

    Well said. The “concerns” about political intrusion are about 30 years too late. Some people seem to have trouble reading the words “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

    From the very outset it’s name presupposes there IS climate change and acknowledges that it is a political body.

  13. “… leading some IPCC scientists to express concerns about excessive political intrusion.”

    Jesus, Joseph, and Mary! So now the “scientists” are going to complain that an overt, by design political process is too political? There is some deep irony in that.

    While the IPCC undoubtedly produces the most up-to-date, comprehensive scientific reports on climate change, its approval process has become tediously extensive. As the panel embarks upon its sixth assessment, those involved have been working toward streamlining the process.

    I don’t believe the IPCC produces the most up-to-date, comprehensive scientific reports, but rather, the most up-to-date propaganda standing in the way of science. The entire process is designed to use computer models (computer games is more like it) to convince the population that we need to save the world by destroying our industrial civilization — mostly by making energy outrageously expensive and unreliable.

    The IPCC can not be reformed — it is working as designed now.

  14. “Instead of changing the approval process, they suggest an alternate vision for articulating science and policy at the IPCC.”

    Gobbledegook. Just call a spade a spade for God’s sake. If it aint warming say it aint warming. If the models fail to fit the facts then say that. If you haven’t got the courage to say the obvious then get off the payroll. There is no need for fancy “articulation” for those who refuse to see the obvious unless you stand to profit by going thru the articulation process. I’m sick of this BS.

  15. They spend a lot of time talking about the problems with grouping countries by income category. Well maybe the problem is with their basic method. Why group countries by some arbitrary income categories? Just list them by CO2 per capita or CO2 per $ of gdp.

    Let’s compare France, Germany and the UK, all of whom I would assume are in the high income category. Yet Germany produces 9.1 metric tons per capita (2010) while the UK is at 7.9 and France is at 7.6. Per $ of gdp Germany is at 0.2716 kg while the UK is at 0.2416 and France is at 0.1883. So by both metrics all 3 countries look very different, yet they all get lumped into the ‘high income’ group.

    As just about everyone has said. The IPCC is just a political weapon. It’s job is to blame ‘high income’ countries for injuring ‘low income’ countries, and they will do whatever is needed to support their preordained result.

    Because we all know that is how good science works. Develope a theory and cherry-pick or falsify results to prove your theory while ignoring what is actually happening in the real world, I mean computer models of the planet are more ‘real’ than the reality we actually percieve and measure.

  16. Professor of Economics and Humanistic Studies worries scientists are overly focused on math.

    Blog commenter wonders when the Humanistic Studdies guy will stop blathering and go get the coffee.

  17. Could we just round up ALL climate scientists and the entire IPCC and toss them into the refugee boats as a back loading bonus to the people smugglers.
    There are still a few hell holes on this planet where unfortunates disappear into never to be seen again that the people smugglers could off load them too.
    It would certainly lead to a far more harmonious and livable society for the rest of us and we could all forget about all those fear driven, deeply depressing, human spirit destroying predictions of a bankrupt cult that goes by the name of an ideologically bigoted misnomer called “climate science”.

  18. These people love to talk about a mystical globally ecological collapse. I don’t know what they mean by that.
    However I do believe that the world would improve if the ecosystem of eco-bureaucrats and self-appointed climate expert do indeed collapse and that it did that as soon as possible.

  19. The article claims that govts are not permitted to alter the language so that it differs from the scientific facts.

    Now that there is funny, I don’t care who you are.

  20. The most important discussions should be about adaptation, not mitigation.

    Here are a few key areas:

    1. Cutting energy requirements in buildings through improved construction design (underfloor heating, better insulation, better glazing, optimal solar panel usage etc).
    2. Reducing cost of extreme weather events through better planning, notably concerning construction around flood plains.
    3. Improvement of global water management through storage management, urban design, wood/forestry management, agricultural mulch strategies, soil improvement strategies etc etc.

    Etc etc etc.

    The ‘global warming’ paradigm is diverting societies from these basic hygiene factors for a well-run globe. How such strategies adapt to oscillations or longer-term temperature changes is the key issue, after all.

  21. Until a scientific theory has been robustly confirmed, anyone who tries to use rhetorical techniques of convincing others that it is known to be true is both dishonest and anti-science. Also, anyone who disparages skeptics of such a theory is anti-science. These are two types of anti-science.

  22. “it goes through an approval process in which governments can question wording and the selection of findings but not alter scientific facts or introduce statements at odds with the science.”

    Thank goodness it’s only the science that they have made up. After all the accurate predictions since the 1990’s have been based on this science, how could we possibly question this science? Or even alter it, it is worse than we thought. If any other scientific field made the kind of statements and predictions based on these models, they’d be hounded into humiliation, stripped of all creditably. How they can continue to operate is beyond anything in science. Even in the political field, it’s a three ring circus. What I read into this was a more clever way of brainwashing people to agree with them. Especially policy makers, don’t listen to the rabble outside the gates of the imperial palace.

  23. In climatology, terms that include “science” and “prediction” have more than one meaning. In the IPCC’s periodic assessment reports and in the article from Princeton, they change meanings in the midst of arguments. These arguments are examples of equivocations. By logical rule, one may not draw a conclusion from an equivocation. To so is an equivocation fallacy. The assessment reports and the article from Princeton make repeated uses of the equivocation fallacy in reaching logically illicit conclusions.

    • Of course they do, and have been doing that. A clear example is the terms ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. When it suits their purpose weather is climate (implying worldwide), however when it doesn’t, it’s just weather (local) and is to be expected. They are just extending the idea into more abstract areas like policy making. Along with the liberal use of words such as ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘in the future’, ‘could’. . Unlike other fields such as the eclipse will occur at, or if you mix these two elements you will get, or the principal for flight is… every time.

  24. This horse flogged itself to death. Princeton’s deodorizer won’t help. A decent, cheap burial and an accounting of damage is all that remains to be done.

  25. Rhys Jaggar says:
    July 8, 2014 at 5:45 am

    The most important discussions should be about adaptation, not mitigation.

    Here are a few key areas:

    1. Cutting energy requirements in buildings through improved construction design (underfloor heating, better insulation, better glazing, optimal solar panel usage etc).
    2. Reducing cost of extreme weather events through better planning, notably concerning construction around flood plains.
    3. Improvement of global water management through storage management, urban design, wood/forestry management, agricultural mulch strategies, soil improvement strategies etc etc.

    Etc etc etc.

    The ‘global warming’ paradigm is diverting societies from these basic hygiene factors for a well-run globe. How such strategies adapt to oscillations or longer-term temperature changes is the key issue, after all.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    Rhys identifies some adaptations well worth considering. But why global? Forgive my suspicious attitude, but it seems to me that there is a personality type that is obsessed with forcing everyone everywhere to do the same purportedly meritricious thing at the same time, and seeks personal fulfillment through global governance solving global problems real or imagined. Let’s try the things Rhys identifies on a local level and allow other localities to evaluate their merits and adopt as appropriate. Small, decentralized power corrupts only in a small and decentralized way.

  26. The fact that the lead author is from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs highlights another one of the inconsistencies in the IPCC. A lot of times, we of the skeptic persuasion are bludgeoned with “2500 climate scientists of the IPCC
    agree that AGW is a problem”.

    The hitch is that MOST of those 2500 are NOT climate scientists. They’re economists,
    public policy specialists, or just plain U.N. political hacks. For example, I have seen
    online that only 38% of the U.S. delegation to the UN IPCC are actually climate scientists.
    (I cannot recall the link, sorry.) The balance are of the types listed above. And the U.S.’s delegation is actually heavier on scientists than most other countries. It’s quite conceivable to
    me that only ~700 of the frequently quoted “2500 climate scientists” are actually “climate scientists”. As to the purpose of the other, let us be polite, “hangers-on”? See the excellent post by richardscourtney above.

  27. No matter how much lipstick you put on it, a pig is never going to anything other than a pig.

  28. “In particular, during this process, the most recent summary on mitigation policies was stripped of several important figures and paragraphs that were in the scientists’ draft, leading some IPCC scientists to express concerns about excessive political intrusion.”

    Dam those pesky facts get in the way of political agenda…. This is why the IPCC report is nothing more than the New York Times …. which its only use is for bird cage floor cover…

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