This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final section of its massive new climate report. It contains 60 chapters and, by the time the dust settles and the concluding summary is made public in October, will total nearly 7,000 pages.
A great deal of time and effort went into the preparation of this report. Years of intellectual and financial resources were consumed by it. So what has the world gained?
Is this a credible scientific document? Are its findings trustworthy? Below are three reasons the new IPCC report deserves to be taken with a grain of salt:
1. When the IPCC convicted humanity of triggering dangerous climate change, it acted as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury.
The IPCC is a United Nations body. In the words of its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC’s “main customer” is a UN climate treaty. The politicians who signed that treaty back in 1992 had already decided human activity was harming the climate. The treaty was supposed to keep us safe by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we emit.
Like the dumb cop in a detective story, the IPCC has always suffered from tunnel vision. It never gave serious consideration to other possible explanations of what was going on with the climate. When your job is to legitimize a UN treaty, you amass evidence that implicates human greenhouse gases, you declare this evidence persuasive, and you insist that bad things will happen if the treaty isn’t strengthened and extended.
2. Scientists are only human. Their judgment can be tainted by environmental activism, and they can be unconsciously seduced by the notion that they’re superheroes saving the planet.
The IPCC has a long history of recruiting personnel with close links to activist organizations such as Greenpeace and the WWF. Despite an embarrassing scandal involving an incorrect WWF document and the melting of Himalayan glaciers last time around, this new IPCC report also treats WWF-produced literature as reliable evidence.
When it released part two of its report at a meeting in Japan last month, the IPCC produced a blatantly activist brochure that talks about delivering “Hope for our Earth,” and of “Saving the planet for future generations.”
When scientists join bandwagons rather than remaining scrupulously objective, they undermine their own credibility.
3. It is both fair and appropriate to judge an organization by it leader. The IPCC has been led, for the past 12 years, by a man who does not inspire confidence.
For decades, Rajendra Pachauri incorrectly claimed he’d earned two PhDs. Only in the past year, and only due to persistent inquires on the part of Australian journalist Tony Thomas, was his CV fixed.
When the IPCC – as an organization – was awarded half of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Pachauri sent an e-mail to thousands of IPCC affiliated scientists mistakenly telling them “this makes each of you Nobel Laureates.” The IPCC later issued a formal statement admitting that it is improper for any IPCC-linked individuals to be described in this manner.
Pachauri has repeatedly made statements about the qualifications of IPCC personnel and about the material on which the IPCC relies that have been shown to wrong.
Taken together, the picture that emerges is of a man prone to exaggeration and careless with the truth. No organization with such an individual at its helm should be surprised when its conclusions are greeted with skepticism.
Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise is the author of two books about the IPCC. She blogs at NoFrakkingConsensus.com