Is the IPCC Biased?

For those new to this blog the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change is the world’s leader in promoting the theory that mankind is dangerously warming the globe aka AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming. It wouldn’t be too much to say it even has a monopoly on it.

It is ultimately from them that international governments are being badgered to adopt emission control targets via means of the UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty.

But the accusation of bias by the IPCC regarding AGW has been raised many times by climate sceptics.  This example provides more insight into how the IPCC is operating:
Bias and the IPCC Report – Accentuate the Negative

It’s hard to say the IPCC is not biased.  There is a suite of prima facie evidence that it is, and I will cover this point in some future post for readers to judge for themselves. However I am sure there must be people with good moral ethics in there. But I also think it’s highly likely there are people that should perhaps be scrutinized a bit more closely. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

The IPCC Mandate

Aside from the people who actually work inside the IPCC, I do believe that as an organisation it has no other choice than to be biased on the issue of AGW because of the mandate that was given to them at the time of their inception:

to focus only on man-made contributions to dangerous global warming – AGW.

This quote comes from the IPCC’s own website here:
https://www.ipcc.ch/organization/organization_history.shtml

quote:
…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.
/unquote.

and again:
https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch1s1-6.html

quote:
…The WMO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the IPCC in 1988 with the assigned role of assessing the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for understanding the risk of human-induced climate change.
/unquote.

IPCC Approach to Climate Change

This is where the whole approach of the IPCC has been flawed:

  1. They focused only on mankind contributions instead of “in the round”, and also only since the beginnings of the industrial age – an insignificant amount of climate time.  It seems illogical that any kind of solution to a problem can be solved by looking at just a part of it.
  2. They were entirely wrong in accepting an unproven theory in the first place and then set about validating it to the world, instead of the other way around.

This back-to-front approach came about because a group of scientists agreed beforehand that AGW was the problem. It’s understood this took place at a UN sponsored conference in Austria in 1985.  They believed that even a small change such as additional CO2 being added to the natural greenhouse gas processes could trigger runaway greenhouse global warming.

Consensus or Arrogance?

It’s a valid theory and certainly worthy of further investigation, but unfortunately they didn’t set about to prove it in a proper accepted scientific method,  which includes getting their theory validated by their world peers.  If they had, it would never have got off the ground because it still hasn’t been proved  almost 30 years later.

They believed the evidence was so convincing even though not proven, that it could be accepted by consensus as an established fact. That was the single biggest mistake in this whole saga of climate change debates in assuming that consensus and science can co-exist. It was to send the world into an expensive and fruitless tail-spin for decades and which still continues.

In any event, in the eyes of those original scientists their own research was sufficient to accept the premise of AGW.  It was decided right there to set up an organisation (now the IPCC) to validate and promote the theory to the world. They wanted to get everyone on board to rein in mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions and in particular CO2 as being the major one. And they did an exceedingly good job of it so that today the IPCC has the first and final say to all things related to climate science – as opposed to an opinion as seen by many other non-IPCC aligned scientific peers.

How AGW Was Sold

The marketing effort by the IPCC was exemplary. Their big ticket items in selling the idea of AGW to the masses were “scientific consensus” and versions of the infamous “hockey stick”. Both of these have since been proven wrong.

To get the idea to governments and other scientists, the IPCC releases progressive  Assessment Reports (ARs), that progressively labelled mankind more and more as being responsible. They didn’t appear to make any real attempt at consideration of any other cause. Usually any counter-argument in the ARs if any, apparently gets drowned out in the Summaries of their reports. And some believe there is an over-emphasis on the negative items.

The heart of the real problem with the IPCC is that they are political by nature – not scientific. It was deliberately formed as such. Among other duties they were tasked to take submissions from scientists across their various fields, then rewrite them so that they could be more easily read by the masses.  This is where other less-noble aspects of human behaviour can potentially come into play and because of that, should be studied carefully.  It doesn’t appear that’s what has been happening.

For example the text of the 2nd AR was allegedly altered to give more support to AGW, the perpetrators probably being motivated by “noble cause”.  Questions began to be raised about the effectiveness of the “peer review” processes used by the IPCC.

With all this in mind one wonders why so many international governments and scientific organizations have also come on board in the AGW blame game?

It’s probably not so hard to understand why Governments have come on board. There continues to be considerable interest in the well being of the planet since about the 1960s. The outpourings of the IPCC received tremendous publicity as would be expected from a headline hungry media.

And it doesn’t appear to be particularly hard to sway a politicians viewpoint if there is sufficient noise coming from their electorates in support of an issue. It’s disgusting when the strength of politicians is measured by how much he/she sways in the breeze. Yes … it is a cynical view but I’ve watched successive governments at least in Australia, change their approach to the issue depending on whether they’re either in power or in opposition.

As regarding actual scientific organisations that have come on board with the IPCC, if I were the head of a scientific organisation of a country that becomes a member of a certain institution,  I would be thinking deeply about the ramifications of bucking my own government with counter or controversial viewpoints. This would be especially so if the available science coming out from that institution seemed logical and conclusive enough. It’s just human psychology at work.

Source: Climate: The Counter Consensus, 2010 Professor Robert M. Carter

The Limitations of Climate Science

As a generalisation it would be fairly safe to say we tend to trust those who have expertise in a given field or topic to guide us. So when  some individual scientist pops up in the media somewhere to tell us something, then we’ll often tend to listen and take heed of any warning/s.  It’s what mankind has always done – for example the tribal witch doctor, ancient Greeks and oracles.

The power to sway the beliefs of the masses can be especially stronger today when it comes via multimedia and even more so if the information comes from a notable scientist or scientific organisation(s), or else ostensibly connected in some way to scientific research.

Yet you will often see TV media presenters bringing climate “experts” onto their show in an apparent effort to give some credibility or background information to a particular subject i.e. melting of the polar ice caps, glaciers retreating and so on.

Have you ever wondered about these people when they are so definite about mankind causing climate change? Have you ever wondered how much of the information is from their own expertise and how much is what they’ve learned from someone else? Are they really passing on real proven scientific facts or just what they believe to be true from information provided by someone else?

Or do you just accept what they are telling you?

The Scope of Scientific Research

To date despite the claims to the contrary, the efforts of the best scientists in the world have yet to find a definitive pointer that identifies mankind as the actual cause of dangerous global warming.

The subjects under scientific research are many but basically there are just a few categories from which most scientific fields branch. Each of these encompass a variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines, and can even branch further after that. The three main categories are:

1. Physical Sciences – studies of inanimate objects e.g. physics, chemistry, computers, engineering;
2. Earth & Space Sciences – studies of the natural processes of the Earth and space e.g. meteorology, geology, oceanography, atmosphere, solar system;
3. Life Sciences – studies of living organisms e.g. biology, anatomy.

The average person on the street might be forgiven for thinking that climate change scientists are primarily meteorologists or climatologists plus perhaps some others with supporting expertise.  But that would be only partially right.

The subjects relating to climate change actually diverge into more than 100 scientific sub-disciplines, the elements of which can be exceptionally intricate, highly complicated and intertwined.  Just changing one of the many data inputs e.g. the output chemistry of sub-sea volcanoes to a climate change puzzle can flow-on to incorrect or at least misleading changes in the final solution. And the answer will still be a “best probable” result – not fact.

No matter how acclaimed a meteorologist, climatologist, physicist, chemist or any other individual scientist may be, they will generally only have a partial knowledge or exposure if any, to other sciences that affect climate change.

At most there may be a handful of scientists that have mastery of two or three scientific disciplines such as Professor Robert M. Carter (decd) who was a qualified palaeontogist, stratigrapher and marine geologist.  Yet even if a scientist does have expertise in two or more of the climate change elements, he/she still needs to find and use data from other sources to cover the gaps in his/her own knowledge. Such data may in turn only be a “best probable” solution as opposed to fact(s) as will be explained further below.

Alternatively a scientist may collaborate with others from different scientific fields but at some point they will likely need to use other scientific “best probable” results, or use a form of scientific calculation where the data to be input is not known for example Bayesian Reasoning theorem – read educated guesswork.

It must therefore be obvious that there can be no such thing as an “expert” simply because no one can fully comprehend the entirely of it all.

This doesn’t stop the media, in particular the TV media in regularly presenting interviewees as experts to lend credibility to their show. But anyone who claims or admits to being an expert in climate change is either kidding themselves, egocentric or is being deceitful.

The bottom line is that when a supposed expert fronts up in the media – watch it guardedly or else switch the channel.   At the end of the day everyone, including the scientists themselves are basically amateurs when a topic is outside their own field of expertise – even if they are an educated amateur.

But having someone with at least some scientific background involved in climate change discussions has got to be far more preferable than pulling celebrities into the debate. These people despite their best intentions, are simply promoting their own views and muddying the waters for the public to make a realistic conclusion in their own minds.

So WHO Are The Climate Change Scientists?

Basically there are three different groups of scientists who look into the issue of climate change, and by extension mankind’s role in creating dangerous global warming:

Group 1 Scientists

  • are experts in various weather sciences such as meteorology, atmospheric physics, chemistry and computer modelling;
  • tend to study climate change over shorter periods of time i.e. the last 150 years of recorded temperatures;
  • have expertise in how weather generates and ultimately how climate is formed; and
  • are arguably the loudest in generating alarm about AGW and the warming of the planet.

Group 2 Scientists

  • are experts in geological earth sciences and in use of proxy data over long periods of time e.g. rock formations, fossils, ice core data, tree rings;
  • they look at climate history as it relates to climate today; and
  • generally see no real cause for alarm when comparing current climate with past climate.

Group 3 Scientists

  • are experts in enabling disciplines such as mathematics or statistics.

Bayesian Reasoning

Bayesian reasoning is widely used in science where some but not all the information is known.  It’s an important technique for statistics and especially in mathematics but it does not produce factual evidence.

At its simplest level it goes something like this:
1. a bag is filled with red and green apples,
2. three people are blindfolded and told to pull out an apple from the bag,
3. each pulls out a red apple.

The logical conclusion is that the bag must be full of red apples. This may be accompanied by an indication regarding confidence on the degree of probability e.g. 95% confidence that the bag is full of red apples.

In other words, “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck”!

Obviously the methodology is much more complicated but the logic remains pretty much the same. The theorem is widely used and is perhaps an acceptable scientific method in some circumstances, but what matters most is how the resulting answer was and is still being  treated as scientific fact.

In the example of the apples, if one were to loudly and unreservedly claim that the bag is full of red apples then that would be at best simply wrong, or at worst underhanded.

Yet this  sort of thing is exactly what is happening on both sides of the AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming debate.  This Propaganda v. Science image shows an alarmist claim at left with a sceptic response at right.  Neither side yet understands that if you lie about something you will eventually be found out and lose credibility to your cause.

A classic example of misleading propaganda is the infamous Hockey Stick diagram produced in 1988 by pro-AGW scientists Mann, Bradley and Hughes. In that case they cobbled actual thermometer temperature records to the foot of estimations of temperatures calculated from proxy data over the past 1000 years and then extrapolated global warming out to the year 2000.  Then it was promulgated with a 95% high probabilty in being correct. In this case one of the major flaws in statistical calculations was to add real temperature records to assessed or calculated historical records using proxy data.

The Real Argument About AGW

For a scientist to formulate a reasonable hypothesis about AGW he/she would need to have some level of familiarity in all three groups – something which is nigh impossible. It’s therefore not surprising that there are differences between the various scientists and scientific fields using different “best probable” data so it should never be said that the science is “settled”. 

It isn’t. Not unequivocally – even though the IPCC offers what some might consider to be reasonable answers. Ultimately  the theory of AGW is still based on circumstantial evidence including calculated probabilities.

Apart from that all three groups of scientists generally DO agree that the Earth’s climate has always changed, that human emissions affect local climates e.g. urban areas and have a summed potential to affect climate globally, and that carbon dioxide is a mild greenhouse house – note the word “mild”.

The real argument then is not about whether the Earth is heating up, but about how relevant is AGW when considered against natural climate change processes.

Source: Climate: The Counter Consensus 2010, Professor Robert M. Carter.