Guest post by Ron Cram
Since Climategate, PachauriGate, GlacierGate and AmazonGate, a number of mainstream and skeptical climate scientists have been very critical of the IPCC. Some are suggesting the IPCC should be disbanded and future assessment reports should come from international science organizations. I would like to make a more modest proposal, a proposal which may have a chance to become reality.
Before you write this off as a hare-brained scheme, hear me out. The proposal is starting to get some traction. It was mentioned by Tallbloke (who liked the idea) and DeepClimate (who didn’t like the idea). It is a workable plan, but first let’s review the current situation.
Criticisms of the IPCC Process
After Climategate, many people have put forward criticisms and ideas to improve the IPCC process. Ryan Maue wrote a fine piece for ClimateAudit titled “What to do with the IPCC?” which describes some of the thoughts by different climate researchers. There are a number of criticisms we should consider more closely.
Roger Pielke is an ISI highly cited climatologist. He has criticized IPCC for a number of biases, including ignoring articles on problems with the surface temperature record (UHI and poorly sited stations) and ignoring or downplaying papers showing the climate change effect of land use/land cover changes (which he calls a first order climate forcing). Pielke has also criticized the IPCC for cherry-picking papers to “promote a particular conclusion on climate change.”
Judith Curry has criticized the IPCC for a number of reasons also. She claim the IPCC broke its own rules to accept papers prior to peer-review and assigned high-status positions to untested researchers who happen to make claims which support the IPCC narrative of impending doom. Curry is still worried about global warming but says she no longer feels the need to substitute the IPCC for her own personal judgment.
Eduardo Zorita is also very concerned about future warming, but he is concerned that uncertainty is being hidden from policymakers. He has criticized Climategate researchers and called on the IPCC to ban them from any participation in future IPCC assessment reports, a worthy proposal but one the IPCC is almost certain to ignore. Zorita has also written about the pressure put on climate scientists to toe the line. He thinks policy makers should be made aware of “the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture.”
Patrick Michaels claims the IPCC ignores the conclusions of peer-reviewed papers they find disagreeable. As evidence for this criticism, he points to Climategate emails.
Steve McIntyre’s experience as an IPCC reviewer has not convinced him the process is fair or unbiased. As a reviewer, McIntyre advised the IPCC not to truncate data but to show and fully discuss the Divergence Problem, but McIntyre’s recommendations were rejected out of hand. McIntyre seems to feel reviewer’s comments are routinely ignored by Coordinating Lead Authors.
Richard Lindzen, professor at MIT and member of the National Academy of Sciences, has served as a lead author for IPCC. He says the “most egregious” problem is the IPCC represents its reports as the consensus findings of thousands of scientists when none were asked if they approved of the final version of the report.
John Christy has also served as a Lead Author and has been critical of the IPCC’s selection process of Lead Authors because of the reliance on nominations by national governments. Christy says, “Indeed, the selections for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report represented a disturbing homogeneity of thought regarding humans and climate.” Christy has proposed a living ‘Wikipedia-IPCC.’ While this is an interesting idea, anyone who has ever been involved in an edit war on Wikipedia knows how frustrating it can be.
Ross McKitrick has written about his frustrations in getting simple IPCC errors corrected. He is convinced IPCC data is contaminated with industrialization effects and he has called for the IPCC to be disbanded.
What does IPCC Chairman Pachauri say to all of this criticism? He says:
IPCC relies entirely on peer-reviewed literature in carrying out its assessment and follows a process that renders it unlikely that any peer reviewed piece of literature, however contrary to the views of any individual author, would be left out.
As the links above show, this statement is clearly untrue. A great many of the world’s finest climate researchers have expressed significant criticisms of the IPCC process and the final assessment reports. But it appears nothing will change unless an idea is put forward which is so compelling and so obvious a solution that it cannot be ignored. The alarmists have seized the apparatus of editorship and will not relinquish it.
A Modest Proposal
If policymakers want a less biased picture, there is only one way to achieve it. It is necessary for the IPCC AR5 to consist of a Majority Report and a Minority Report. Going into the process, no one will know which of the competing reports will be named the Majority Report and which the Minority Report. That decision will come after both reports are completed and voted on by the climate scientists involved.
Climate scientists will be asked to vote for the report they believe best represents a careful presentation of current science. The requirement the final report must gain the approval of contributing climate scientists will be new for the IPCC. It will require the Coordinating Lead Authors to be more responsive to reasonable reviewer comments and will tend to make the assessment report less alarmist. If it fails to make the report less alarmist, the “consensus report” may find their report named the Minority Report.
Here’s how the idea would work: Both reports would have its own set of Editors. One report would have traditional IPCC editors, the other will have editors who have been critical of the IPCC process. All climate researchers are free to contribute to either report in any invited capacity. Researchers do not have to choose a “team.” In fact, the safest career choice for climate scientists will be to contribute to both reports and be a reviewer of both reports.
This represents the best chance for the IPCC to fulfill its mission of providing policymakers with a balanced assessment of climate science.
Scope of the Effort
Working Group I of AR4 was dominated by relatively few scientists. The report lists two co-chairs, Susan Solomon and Dahe Qin. Another six people are listed on the editing team for a total of eight. Here is the breakdown of authors by chapter:
|Chapters||Coordinating Lead Authors||Lead Authors||Contributing Authors||Review Editors|
If counted correctly and all of these were different people, there would be 721 total editors and authors. We know some people served in more than one capacity. For example, Kevin Trenberth served as Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 3 and Contributing Author of Chapter 7.
The number of Lead Authors is high because Chapter 3 credited every involved scientist as a Lead Author with zero Contributing Authors. Normally, each chapter has 2 Coordinating Lead Authors, 2 or 3 Review Editors and 10 or 11 Lead Authors. So then AR 4 Working Group I was dominated by about 150 scientists and another 500 served as Contributing Authors.
In reality, AR4 Working Group I was dominated by about 150 climate scientists, but the most important were the eight editors and the 22 Coordinating Lead Authors. It would be very easy to duplicate this effort by climate scientists who have been critical of the IPCC.
The alternate report could be edited by the team of Roger A. Pielke, Syun-Ichi Akasofu, Eduardo Zorita, Judith Curry, Hans von Storch, John Christy, Garth Paltridge and Richard Lindzen. These names are only a suggestion but, a team like this could not be easily dismissed. It includes strong proponents of global warming theory, strong skeptics and luke-warmers. It has representatives from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. It has experts on the Arctic, Antarctica and the tropics and specialists on oceans, atmosphere, radiative transfer and more.
An editing team of this strength would find it easy to attract top quality coordinating lead authors for each chapter. Roger Pielke alone has probably written papers with 150 (just a guess) different climate scientists as co-authors, all of whom respect him and would stand in line to join him in an assessment report. Richard Lindzen is a member of National Academy of Sciences and also commands tremendous respect. He also could attract many top climate researchers to write an unbiased assessment report. The same is true of Christy, Curry, Akasofu and the rest.
What if the IPCC refuses?
It is possible the IPCC will not bow to pressure to publish two reports. In that case, climate scientists simply come together to publish an alternative assessment report without the IPCC. Since IPCC authors and reviewers are not paid, funding is not a problem. Since the book-sized assessment report can be published on the internet, there are no real publication costs.
Yes, I am familiar with the Nature, Not Human Activity Rules the Climate. While it was written by an international panel of scientists, there were only 24 authors. It suffers by not getting the buy-in of a larger segment of the climate science community. I am proposing a full and fair assessment of climate science. It should be timed to be published at about the same time as, or shortly after, AR5.
It is hard to imagine that Pielke, Christy, Akasofu and others would not like to see an alternative assessment report to the IPCC – an effort dedicated to correcting the poor methods of the IPCC – a report which actually considers comments from reviewers. It is difficult to imagine they would not like to be a part of such an effort. And it is just as difficult to imagine that would not like to see their report put to the vote against AR5. This will be a time-consuming and unpaid effort. But it will be a grand effort and one that future generations will be very grateful for.
The question now is: Is this a project Pielke, Curry, Lindzen and others are willing to take on?