Gill 4: Should you trust the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

Collection of five Surrey Mirror Group Website Articles written by Peter F Gill and posted from about March 2015 to January 2016. They now no longer exist on the Internet unless archived by someone.

If you put “IPCC” into the Google search box, once you get past the Independent Police Complains Commission, your first proper hit will probably be about the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). You will notice that AR5 “provides a clear and up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It consists of three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR).” This implies that those involved with IPCC consider and study all known or possible mechanisms of climate change. Certainly, no restriction would appear to be applied on IPCC’s climate change study scope. Sadly, this is far from the truth. Although Wikipedia is itself strongly biased on the subject of AGW, it accurately reports that “The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to: (1) Human-induced climate change (2) The impacts of human-induced climate change (3) Options for adaptation and mitigation.” The corollary would appear to be that IPCC does not aim to assess the scientific information relevant to climate change resulting from mechanisms other than those identified with anthropogenic (human) activity. However, this is also misleading. Particularly at the start, the scientists involved well recognised that if there was an anthropogenic signal in climate change data it would be difficult to spot given that climate has always changed for a great variety of known and unknown reasons.

IPCC was established in 1988 by two United Nations organisations. Right from the start the idea of IPCC reports was to support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. In other words, the idea was to support the notions (read hypotheses) that (a) humans are the main cause of dangerous climate change and (b) that by implication we should stop burning fossil fuels. The idea of supporting hypotheses or speculations, which is the normal everyday term for such things, is essentially non-scientific. If anything, one seeks to find ways of testing hypotheses and if found wanting rejecting them.

Those contributing to IPCC reports, do so on a voluntary basis. Its assessments are supposed to be based on peer reviewed published literature. IPCC does not conduct any original research. Many prominent scientists in fields important to understanding the mechanisms of climate change initially became involved in the IPCC process but for various reasons do not now participate. If you look into some of those reasons, you are in for a shock. By and large, those that have remained involved are recipients of government grants for work in associated fields and those with rather specific agendas.

IPCC published its first Assessment Report (AR1) in 1990 and updated it in 1992. Subsequently IPCC has treated us to the Second Assessment Report (SAR) in 1996, the Third (TAR) in 2001, the Fourth (AR4) in 2007 and the Fifth (AR5) in 2014. There is much good science in the body of these reports. Authors often highlight the uncertainties involved. However, there are disconnects between the detailed reports and the only material that the press pick up, which is contained in the Summary for Policymakers. Even Wikipedia acknowledges that the Summary “ subject to line-by-line approval by delegates from all participating governments. Typically this involves the governments of more than 120 countries.”

The following are paraphrased extracts from each successive assessment report:

AR1: Computer model predictions of the increase in mean surface temperature over the last hundred years due to the anthropogenic enhanced greenhouse effect is of the same magnitude as natural climate variability.

SAR: The balance of evidence suggests a discernible anthropogenic influence on climate.

TAR: Since the mid-20th century, most of the observed warming is “likely” (greater than 66% probability, based on expert judgement) due to anthropogenic factors.

AR4: Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is “very likely” (greater than 90% probability, based on expert judgement) due to human activities.

AR5: Anthropogenic influence on the climate system is clear. It is extremely likely (95-100% probability) that anthropogenic influence was the dominant cause of global warming between1951-2010.

So, over the last 25 years the IPCC has gone from there could be an anthropogenic effect on climate to it is almost all our fault that the climate is changing. One could easily conclude that great strides have been made in the understanding of climate mechanisms and that even if the science is not completely settled, it’s more or less all over bar the shouting.

The clear message is that we should move on to adapting to increasing temperatures and to mitigating actions to prevent or reduce predicted AGW. The emphasis has been very much on the latter. In the UK for example we have the Climate Change Act introduced by Ed Milliband and largely written by Friends of the Earth activist Bryony Worthington (now Baroness Worthington for her good work). The Act calls for the UK to decarbonise its energy conversion activities by 80% of its 1990 levels by 2050. This is impossible in the timescale postulated for a number of reasons including: current absence of proven alternative energy conversion technologies, the time it takes to develop alternative technologies and the killer – very high costs. It is now being realised (at last) that to make serious attempts to reach the Act’s aims would be disastrous for the UK economy and would push many more people into fuel poverty and death.

Of course, those reading this who are convinced that IPCC’s findings are valid believe that developed and strongly developing countries worldwide should accept that the price has to be paid to save the Earth from ecological disaster.

There are of course other stories to tell about IPCC. Donna Laframboise covers many of them in her exposé “The Delinquent Teenager who was mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert” (Ivy Press 2011 ISBN 978 1466453487). Donna makes clear, that the extent to which IPCC has been infiltrated by activists from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, is truly alarming.

Sadly, the IPCC authors have either ignored or underplayed many climate change mechanisms. If as indicated AR5 really did provide “a clear and up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change” then we would be hearing about those significant climate change factors that I shall talking about in future.

Below are two pictures, one a graph of the increase in carbon dioxide through time, the other of computer model projections of atmospheric temperatures compared with actual measurements of temperature. The computer models are the main source of alarm as regards atmospheric temperature development. As programmed, increases observed in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the main driver of the computer model outputs. If you compare actual temperature data (see satellite measurement) you may notice that nature has not obliged by following the projections of the computer models.

12Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, August 2013

My final story in this brief discussion of IPCC concerns the main alarmist worry about global warming – that of consequent rising sea levels. Some years ago, I attended a presentation by the Lead Author on the Working Group looking at Sea Levels. In the Q&A session, I posed some questions. The answers seemed to me to display a lack of a fundamental grasp of the importance of some factors of which I was aware. However, I did not challenge the responses. Sitting behind me was a friend who realised that I was not happy with the answers to my questions. He asked if I had read any of the papers of the acknowledged world expert in the field, Nils-Axel Mörner. I had to admit that whilst I had read at least one paper by Mörner it was for a specific reason and once satisfied I looked no further. My friend suggested I persue my interest direct with Mörner. A little research revealed that Mörner had written a huge number of papers on all aspects of sea level change. So, I e-mailed him asking him to list his key papers. I had in mind that reading a small number of papers would give me a proper handle on understanding the subject. He replied by return supplying an A4 page with approximately one paper per line in 10 point. At that stage, I realised that I would never have the time to reach a good understanding of the subject. I guess the Lead Author on the subject for IPCC was in a similar position

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