WashPost on Climategate, Cuccinelli witch hunt, IPCC review: “The overblown critique of climate science that emerged early this year continues to underwhelm.”

The new review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s by the InterAcademy Council offers some useful suggestions for improving the IPCC process and its reports.  Most of these are not new suggestions, see “The IPCC lowballs likely impacts with its instantly out-of-date reports and is clearly clueless on messaging “” should it be booted or just rebooted?

In any case, as I wrote three years ago, I don’t think that continuing the IPCC process will have any meaningful impact on American climate policy.  The IPCC is simply not set up to provide intelligent messaging in the face of rapid climate change or in the face of the rapid disinformation effort.

I agreed with Dutch assessment of the IPCC: “Overall the summary conclusions are considered well founded and none were found to contain any significant errors.”  They foresee much higher sea-level-rise risk than IPCC — and urge IPCC to “to pay attention to ‘worst-case scenarios’. ”  To have any serious value going forward, the IPCC must do a better job of spelling out both what we face if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path and the worst-case scenario.

The IAC Chair, economist Harold Shapiro of Princeton University, made the key point that:

… overall, the “IPCC’s assessment process has been a success and served society well,” Shapiro noted. “The assessments have put IPCC on the world stage, raised public awareness of climate change, and driven policymakers to consider options for responding to climate change.” That’s a conclusion backed by entities ranging from the Dutch and U.S. environmental agencies (pdf) to independent academic researchers, who have all completed reviews of the IPCC’s scientific claims in the past year.

Yes, well, driving policymakers to “consider options” ain’t exactly a resounding success.

The Washington Post had a very good editorial today on all the recent news, “A federal judge puts a damper on Mr. Cuccinelli’s U-Va. witch hunt,” which I excerpt:

EARLY THIS YEAR, climate-change skeptics went on the attack, pointing to two molehills of scandal that they claimed were towering peaks of scientific malfeasance. One was “Climategate,” in which skeptics used highly selective excerpts of stolen e-mails in an effort to discredit some well-known scientists. The other was the identification of errors in the last assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the canon of the international consensus on global warming — particularly a dubious prediction that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

Investigation after investigation has since shown that neither episode undermined the basic science of climate change or the credibility of climate scientists. On Monday, the scientists were vindicated again, twice.

One such important action came in an Albemarle County courtroom, where Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. put a damper on a pernicious fishing expedition by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R). Mr. Cuccinelli, twisting a state law aimed at preventing fraud in contracting, had sought to force the University of Virginia to provide a warehouse of documents and correspondence relating to climate scientist Michael Mann, who used to work at the university.

Judge Peatross pointed out that the attorney general hadn’t provided an “objective basis” to conclude that the scientist did anything fraudulent. That’s because there is no objective basis for the charge. Mr. Mann’s work might be construed as controversial, but it has been heavily scrutinized and found to be legitimate.

Also on Monday, an international review panel from the independent InterAcademy Council released a report on the IPCC’s procedures for producing “assessments” of climate science, which are supposed to provide policymakers with a rigorous guide to the evidence and its interpretation. Though Fox News claimed it “slams” the IPCC, the study doesn’t show that the much-maligned assessment process was rigged or even fundamentally flawed. In fact, much of what the review panel suggests involves enhancing and making more transparent the procedures already in place, and the report’s authors underscore how valuable the IPCC’s work has been.

So the overblown critique of climate science that emerged early this year continues to underwhelm.


Related Post:

10 Responses to WashPost on Climategate, Cuccinelli witch hunt, IPCC review: “The overblown critique of climate science that emerged early this year continues to underwhelm.”

  1. cervantes says:

    Yeah well does that mean they are going to stop printing denialist op-eds all the time? Does George Will still get a free exemption from the facts?

    [JR: No, although Will has been strangely silent on the subject.]

  2. Andy says:

    Hey, accurate coverage by the MSM! Wow!! Washington Post is perhaps coming around to reality…

  3. MapleLeaf says:

    By golly, someone got it right.

    Not the BBC though…..

  4. Philip Finck says:

    Amazing how different people can read the same thing and come away with totally different impressions. A a government scientist, considering the ICC report is in `government talk’, it was a massive slam of the IPCC, the lead authors of several chapters, the conclusions, the claimed probability, and corruption of the review process and science. Whether one is a warmer or a denialist it helps no ones case to be blind to the reality.

  5. John atcheson says:

    While it’s good to see the Post get it right on Climate for a change, it’s a bit of closing the barn door after the horse left.

    As for the IPCC — let it die, or make it consider worst case. Talking about sea level rise and ice melting while scarcely considering the growing and serious evidence on dynamic melting of ice sheets made it irrelevant before it was released.

    Perhaps if they had figured out a way to include new data and emphasize the potentially huge downsides of climate change, officials would have done more than “consider policy options.”

  6. PSU Grad says:

    To Joe Romm’s comments @ #1….I follow the Pennsylvania right wing think tank blubbering and have noticed the same thing. They’ve been very quiet about climate change over the past few weeks. I’m not sure why, the best explanation seems to be they’re coming up with a new message.

    These are all organizations heavily funded by the Kochs and Scaife, so some coordinated messaging may be in the works. Or they’re simply waiting for the weather to start getting cooler, which it tends to do in the fall.

  7. Barry says:

    PSU Grad (#6)…or it could be that rats know that the lifeboats are pulling away from a sinking ship and they better get on one fast.

    See Lomborg’s recent leap from the delayers’ deck railings to the departing liferaft as covered in the Guardian front page yesterday and today. Somehow Lomborg has shifted from his view that spending on climate change is a bottom priority to a top priority and now thinks hundreds of billions a year from a global carbon tax is needed. Yes that Lomborg.

    It is going to get very ugly for the delayers and deniers left behind now that climate weirdness is so obvious that even leaders of petro-state russia are openly freaking out.

    Look for a rush to the exits from the A-list roster of sponsorship celebrities shilling for the fossil industry.

    I predict the new message will be some form of yes to problem, yes to green but also yes to brown. The current China model.

  8. DavidCOG says:


    > By golly, someone got it right. … Not the BBC though…..

    Ain’t that the truth?! The BBC have shockingly bad coverage on climate change – on the rare occasion they actually attempt to cover it.

  9. Zac says:

    Our local newspaper (Kansas City Star) just printed this unsigned piece attempting to discredit the IPCC and, in general, the concept of anthropologically induced climate change: It seems rather generic — meaning not specific to Kansas — which makes me wonder if this is a coordinated effort that may be more national in scope. Have you seen/heard anything similar?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!


  10. Herman says:

    To Zac.

    “Our local newspaper (Kansas City Star) just printed this unsigned piece attempting to discredit the IPCC and, in general, the concept of anthropologically induced climate change”

    Before you comment on something, you might find out what the subject title is. It is anthropogenic, which means human caused, anthropologic means the exact opposite, nature caused, which I agree this global warming is all about, as the recently recorded cold and last years early snow records prove.

    And Mr. Manns “accomplishments” included eliminating the well founded record of the Medieval warm period between 1050 and 1400, when global temperatures were at least 3.5 degrees warmer than today, and Vikings had well running agriculture on Greenland which they abandoned towards the end of the 14th century because the glaciers were taking back their land.
    Mother nature did all that without industrialization and SUVs