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(109)‘Consensus’ in Climate Science

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In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established. One of its important missions was to evaluate the existing scientific research about every five years and release an authoritative statement on climate change. It was supposed to establish a scientific consensus on climate issues and provide the scientific basis for policymaking. The IPCC’s report often encloses a list of thousands of first authors, co-authors, and reviewers. Hence the conclusions in the IPCC reports are often described as the consensus of thousands of the world’s top scientists.

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stated that its goal was to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. One must note that it was already assumed that climate change was caused by humans and was dangerous. Later on, the IPCC was tasked with identifying human influences on climate, dangerous environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change.

When the UNFCCC assumes that people are the culprits of dangerous climate change, it has restricted the direction of what the IPCC should identify. Also, if climate change wasn’t dangerous or wasn’t caused solely by industry, then policymaking wouldn’t be needed, and there would be no reason for the IPCC to exist. Such conflicts of interest also restricted the focus of the IPCC’s inquiry.

IPCC Reports Removed Statements of Uncertainty

Right before the IPCC released its Second Assessment Report in 1995, Dr. Frederick Seitz, a world-renowned physicist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, and president of New York’s Rockefeller University, obtained a copy of the report. Seitz later discovered that the content in the report was largely altered after it passed scientific review and before it was sent for print. All of the uncertainties of human activities about climate change were deleted.

Seitz’s article in The Wall Street Journal stated: “In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, … I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.”

The deleted statements include the following:

“None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed climate changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.”
“No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change observed to date to anthropogenic man-made causes.”
“Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.”

Though later the IPCC claimed that all the modifications were approved by the authors, the alterations reveal how the IPCC’s reporting was influenced by politics. The evaluation report doesn’t contain any original research, but mostly summarizes existing research. Because the existing research contains so many different views, in order to “reach consensus,” as it set out to do, the IPCC simply got rid of the opposing views.

In April 2000, the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report said in its draft, “There has been a discernible human influence on global climate.” The version published in October that same year says: “It is likely that increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have contributed significantly to observed warming over the past 50 years.” In the final, official conclusion, the statement was even stronger: “Most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”

When the U.N. Environment Programme’s spokesman, Tim Higham, was asked about the scientific basis of the rhetorical changes, his answer was honest: “There was no new science, but the scientists wanted to present a clear and strong message to policymakers.”

Put another way, the UNFCCC gave a homework assignment to the IPCC, making the answer they wanted clear. The IPCC then delivered as required.

IPCC Report Overstated ‘Disaster Consensus’

Paul Reiter, a professor at the Pasteur Institute in France, is a leading expert on malaria and other insect-borne diseases. He disagreed with the IPCC report, and had to threaten to initiate a lawsuit against the IPCC in order to remove his name from the list of the top two thousand scientists who are said to have endorsed the report. He said that the IPCC “makes it seem that all the top scientists are agreed, but it’s not true.”

In his testimony to the United States Senate on April 25, 2006, Reiter said: “A galling aspect of the debate is that this spurious ‘science’ is endorsed in the public forum by influential panels of ‘experts.’ I refer particularly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Every five years, this U.N.-based organization publishes a ‘consensus of the world’s top scientists’ on all aspects of climate change. Quite apart from the dubious process by which these scientists are selected, such consensus is the stuff of politics, not of science. ”

Environmentalists have been promoting the notion that insect-borne diseases such as malaria will wreak havoc when climate warming continues, which is also the main argument of the IPCC. As Bloomberg stated on November 27, 2007, “Global warming will put millions more people at risk of malaria and dengue fever, according to a United Nations report that calls for an urgent review of the health dangers posed by climate change.” But Reiter does not acknowledge this simple correlation between climate warming and the spread of infectious diseases.

He pointed out that malaria is not confined to tropical areas. A massive outbreak of malaria occurred in the former Soviet Union in the 1920s, and another one in the city of Archangel (Arkhangelsk) near the Arctic Circle, where there were thirty thousand malaria cases causing ten thousand deaths. According to a 2011 report in Nature, scientists found that, contrary to the previous assumption, malaria transmission from mosquitoes slows with rising temperatures. This confirms Reiter’s opinion.

Another scientist’s withdrawal from the IPCC also shows that it has used alleged “disaster consensus” as part of its operational culture. Christopher Landsea, a hurricane researcher at the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one of the leading authors of the IPCC’s fourth assessment report, withdrew from the IPCC in January 2005. In an open letter, he stated, “I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by preconceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.” He urged the IPCC to confirm that the report would adhere to science rather than sensationalism.

Landsea disagrees with the lead author of the IPCC report regarding the relationship between hurricanes and climate change. The IPCC lead author (who is not an expert in hurricane research) stressed that climate warming would cause more intense hurricanes, without solid factual data to support his claim. Landsea pointed out that past studies have shown that historical records could not verify such a correlation; theoretically, even if there is a correlation, it is insignificant and negligible.

David Deming, a geologist and geophysicist at the University of Oklahoma, obtained the 150-year historical temperature data for North America by studying ice cores, and published a his research article in Science. Consensus advocates then regarded Deming as an exponent of consensus. In a U.S. Senate hearing, Deming said that an IPCC lead author sent him an email saying, “We have to get rid of the medieval warm period.” The medieval warm period refers to the climate warming of the North Atlantic region between around A.D. 950 and 1150. Erasing this period in the historical curve of climate change would strengthen the claim that today’s warming is unprecedented.

There are many such incidents. In his book Red Hot Lies, How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed, Christopher C. Horner, a senior American researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, listed many of the original IPCC authors who oppose the IPCC’s conclusions and its politicized operations. They have raised reasonable questions with supporting data and have challenged the IPCC’s so-called consensus. However, in the current academic and media environment, their voices have been marginalized.

From Chapter 16: The Communism Behind Environmentalism


IPCC Report – “motivated by preconceived agendas and being scientifically unsound”

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