First, what recent events (Jan 2010)?
The issues arising from the story in the UK Mail that the IPCC used “sexed-up” climate forecasts to put political pressure on world leaders:
Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement (about Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035), in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.
Then there are a number of stories on a similar theme where the predictions of climate change catastrophe weren’t based on “peer-reviewed” literature but on reports from activist organizations, like the WWF. And the reports were written not by specialists in the field, but activists..
And these follow the “climategate” leak of November 2009 where emails from the CRU from prominent IPCC scientists like Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Keith Briffa and others show them in a poor light.
This blog is focused on the science but once you read stories like this you wonder how much of anything to believe.
- For some, the science is settled, these are distractions by the right/big oil/energy companies and what is there to discuss?
- For others, we knew all along that the IPCC is a green/marxist plot to take over world government, what is there to discuss?
If you are in one of those mindsets, this blog is probably the wrong place to come.
Being skeptical doesn’t mean not believing anything you hear. Being skeptical means asking for some evidence.
I see many individuals watching the recent events unfolding and saying:
See! CO2 can’t cause climate change. It’s all a scam.
Actually the two aren’t related. CO2 and the IPCC are not an indivisible unit!
It’s a challenge to keep a level head. To be a good skeptic means to realize that an organization can be flawed, corrupt even, but it doesn’t mean that all the people whose work it has drawn on have produced junk science.
When a government tries to convince its electorate that it has produced amazing economic results by stretching or inventing a few statistics, does this mean the statisticians working for that government are all corrupt, or even that the very science of statistics is clearly in error?
Most people wouldn’t come to that conclusion.
Politics and Science
But in climate science it’s that much harder because to understand the science itself takes some effort. The IPCC is a political body formed to get political momentum behind action to “prevent climate change”. Whereas climate science is mostly about physics and chemistry.
They are a long way apart.
For myself, I believe that the IPCC has been bringing the science of climate into disrepute for a long time, despite producing some excellent work. It has claimed too much certainty about what the science can predict. Tenuous findings that might possibly show that a warmer world will lead to more problems are pressed into service. Findings against are ignored.
This causes a problem for anyone trying to find out the truth.
It’s tempting to dismiss anything that is in an IPCC report because of these obvious flaws – and they have been obvious for a long time. But even that would be a mistake. Much of what the IPCC produces is of a very high quality. They have a bias, so don’t take it all on faith..
The Easy Answer
Find a group of people you like and just believe them.
The Road Less Travelled
My own suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to put time into trying to get a better understanding of climate science. Then it is that much easier to separate fact from fiction. One idea – if you live near a university, you can visit their library and probably find a decent entry-level book or two about climate science basics.
Another idea – for around $40 you can purchase Elementary Climate Physics by Prof. F.W. Taylor – from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ – free shipping around the world. Amazing. And I don’t get paid for this advert either, not until I work out how to get adverts down the side of the blog. It’s an excellent book with some maths, but skip the maths and you will still learn 10x more than reading any blog including mine.
And, of course, visit blogs which focus on the science and ask a few questions.
Be prepared to change your mind.