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 Most of these are not new suggestions, see “The IPCC lowballs likely impacts with its instantly out-of-date reports and is clearly clueless on messaging “” should it be booted or just rebooted?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.


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