Guest essay by Drieu Godefridi
“I’d like to point out that the IPCC does not make recommendations on any topic and you will not find any recommendations in any of our reports.”
This brings us to the centre of the question: is the IPCC a scientific body, as it pretends to be (ipcc.ch)? The formulation of a norm, even in a propositional manner — which is the definition of a recommendation —, presupposes value judgments, which are the province of politics, not science.
To assert that the IPCC does not make recommendations is not disputable, or even somewhat ambiguous, but quite simply devoid of any possible meaning.
In the Oxford dictionary, a recommendation is defined as “a suggestion or proposal as to the best course of action, especially one put forward by an authoritative body.”
The IPCC general reports are composed of three parts: climate science (part I), negative impacts (part II), measures to be employed to curb said impacts (part III).
One can read in part III of the preface of the latest IPCC report, “AR5”: “The report assesses mitigation options at different levels of governance and in different economic sectors. It evaluates the societal implications of different mitigation policies, but does not recommend any particular option for mitigation.” (page vi, then page 4).
The fact that the IPCC does not recommend any option in particular is not in any way in accordance with Mr. Lynn’s assertion that “the IPCC does not make recommendations”. If you specify three potential courses of action among a theoretically infinite set of options, either you are recommending the use of one of these options (not any specific one in particular but, nonetheless, the use of one of the three), or you are saying absolutely nothing at all.
What would be the point of part III, if not to suggest, i.e. “recommend”, certain courses of action?
Besides, the text of part III makes ample use of the term ‘recommendation’. Page 126, you can read that national/regional allocations were recommended by the 1996 IPCC guidelines (IPCC, 1996), page 162 mentions the “recommended options”, “recommending options that maximize expected utility”, says page 169, “these recommendations yield a perfectly time-consistent valuation strategy” (page 231), “Audits are reinforced by incentives or regulations that require the implementation of the cost-effective recommended measures” (page 716), “Given the exposure of many livelihoods and communities to multiple stressors, recommendations from case studies suggest that climate risk-management strategies need to appreciate the full hazard risk envelope, as well as the compounding socio-economic stressors” (845-846), “climate action plans are only one framework under which cities plan for mitigation policies, and similar recommendations may also occur as part of a municipal sustainability, land-use, or transport plan” (971), etc.
Part III of the IPCC reports are soaked with recommendations, thus value judgments. Quod erat demonstrandum.
Drieu Godefridi obtained a PhD (Sorbonne), and is author of “The IPCC: a scientific body?”, Texquis.
Note: about 5 minutes after publication, the essay was updated with some improvemennts to text formatting in the first three paragraphs to improve the way the article was presented to web browsers.