I’m about three quarters of the way through a book, the reading of which was prompted by a brief exchange here, and a slightly longer one by e-mail, with GD, whose professional expertise is as a fuel chemist. The book, The Frozen Climate Views of the IPPC (Clintel Foundation, Amsterdam, 2023), is an analysis of the IPCC’s latest report, AR6, by a range of “questioning” scientists including those who have been expert reviewers and contributors to IPCC reports. Such analysis is essential because – sobering thought – almost nobody in the world has read AR6, or any of the other IPCC reports, in their entirety.
This is not surprising, as the entire report is some 10,000 pages long, which is voluminous enough to make reading the reports, which emerge every few years, let alone evaluating them, a full-time occupation. Ostensibly the IPPC reports summarise the entire field of climate science, the various working groups first reviewing the literature in their particular purview (such as climate science itself or the impacts of its predictions on economic matters), which summaries are in turn distilled into a technical summary, and then the final “Summary for Policymakers,” which is what gets looked at not by most politicians, but by their civil servants and scientific advisers. Diligent leaders will simply digest the latter’s digests, and less diligent ones will simply go with what the press or the general political flow makes as its conclusions.
Such an unwieldy process is bound to produce an unwieldy product, so maybe, like many essentially bureaucratic reports, it is not intended to be read. It is now well known that IPCC was set up as a political, not a scientific body, making the opportunities for allowing policy goals to interpret, or even to subvert, the scientific process numerous.
Given what I have said about the length of the full report, it is a vain hope that “fact-checkers” in the media or elsewhere – themselves almost entirely ideologically driven – will apply effective correction to any stage of the process. After all, consider how silent those same fact-checkers have been on the recent “Israeli atrocity” in bombing a hospital in Gaza, now pretty much proven to have (a) been due to a Hamas rocket that went astray, (b) been on a much smaller scale than Palestinian sources reported and (c) been par for the course of Hamas disinformation, whatever one may think of Israeli reporting. Yet the original atrocity report continues to be endorsed by the very journalists who are tasked with spotting “misinformation” by COVID dissidents, BLM sceptics, “Putin stooges” and the like… such as “climate deniers.”
In thirteen chapters, the Clintel analysis looks at the basis for key claims of the climate movement drawn from AR6. These include firstly the accuracy of observations made on topics like the comparisons of the present climate with the Middle Holocene maximum, the surprising resurrection in AR6 of a Hockey-stick temperature diagram reminiscent of Michael Mann’s discredited one, the measurement of global surface temperatures, trends in snow-fall and the alleged acceleration in sea-level rise.
The next section deals with the causes of climate change, which to the IPCC simply are anthropogenic greenhouse gases: downplaying the sun’s role, taking for granted the climate’s sensitivity to CO2, and preferring models to actual data when the latter seems to cast doubt on the preferred theory.
The third section looks at climate change scenarios, and how the least likely pessimistic projections (as IPCC itself quietly admits in the report) have somehow become the baseline assumption in much climate change literature.
The last section, which I have not reached, takes a critical look at how the IPCC represents the human impacts of climate change.
The evidence presented is both scientifically rigorous and referenced, not to say beautifully illustrated in colour in the charts, though the case is presented for the general scientifically-literate reader rather than academic specialists.
The general conclusion is actually surprisingly generous to the IPCC. In a number of cases there are pretty clear signs that political influence has been brought to bear on, at least, the Summary for Policymakers, in the suppression of certain important research (and certain important researchers on the cancellation principle, it seems). In some cases this has led to the summary actually contradicting the evidence presented earlier in AR6, one notable example being its insistence on extreme weather events resulting from current climate change, when Working Group 1 could find virtually no signals that any phenomenon has worsened significantly over the last century. Some, such as storm intensity, have even improved.
But this analysis from people who are “in the know,” having in many cases actually done work for the IPCC, made me aware of the subtle ways in which ideological commitment to man’s malignant influence on the climate corrupts the IPCC process at all levels. For example, the choice (by politically-appointed officials) of team leaders for the working groups has, in at least one case, led to the total omission of references to key research, in favour of work by the team-leader before full publication. More often, bias is seen in the readiness to include preliminary work that agrees with the IPCC’s position, whilst fastidiously ignoring contradictory papers because they had not yet completed peer review when AR6 was compiled. More generally, the Clintel analysis points to just how selectively the climatology literature is incorporated even at the technical stages, let alone the progressively more political stages of summary.
The actual motivations behind this bias are as opaque, and probably complex, as those behind the many other areas of current science that are controversial. It is humanly unlikely that IPCC leaders will exclude their own work in favour of their opponents’, even before we factor in personal rivalry, political or financial ambition and so on. Even prior to that, all the government and commercial funding is known by everyone in the field to favour research supportive of the IPCC, which leaves it to the emeritus professors and financially independent scientists to challenge it. This contrarianism obviously does not enamour them to those compiling the IPCC reports, and it’s easy to see how ideologically-grounded criticisms like “He is senile…” or “She must be funded by Exxon…” gain traction.
Then again, as climatology has become a lucrative field with good career prospects, as opposed to a rag-tag collection of enthusiasts from other fields, it has its own education structure. The central importance of the Greenhouse Effect is likely to be as axiomatic to this as germ theory was to medicine in my day. It is a rare student who questions their mentors’ philosophical basis, as any biologist doubting Darwin knows to his cost.
It has also been pointed out how most of the work in climatology is in the form of Kuhn’s “ordinary science,” that is it takes the professional paradigm for granted and applies it. Hence, “Given RCP8.5, what will be the effect on northern temperate wildlife?”
And yet the central assumptions of “anthropogenic climate change” have never been more in doubt in the light of unfolding evidence. For example, on the question of climate sensitivity to CO2, authors in the analysis show how the divergence of virtually all the models from the measured data show that (in contradiction to AR6’s rather fudged conclusions) climate sensitivity must be at the very lowest end of the excessively wide range represented in the theory.
Yet their conclusion in this is based on the IPCC’s own current assumption (now, compared to earlier reports) that virtually 100% of warming is caused by human greenhouse gases. In fact, there are strong lines of evidence that this is not the case, most notably the complete absence of fulfillment of the theory’s prediction of a tropical “hot spot” in the upper troposhere. Everyone agrees that such a hot spot is not there, in contradiction of every single climate model, which casts grave doubt on the theory underlying the models. In other words, there is key evidence suggesting that most of the warming we have seen in the industrial age (ie at the end of the Little Ice Age) is natural. This would also explain the way in which the observed data fits many of the proposed natural cycles in solar activity and other, highly complex, natural phenomena, rather than the rise in atmospheric CO2.
And that brings me to my last point. To me, the discussion of the climate has become a tedious and soul-destroying thing. I know I’m being lied to by every aspect of the press, and most politicians. I hear people in church taking the evils of fossil-fuels (are they really even fuel from organic fossils?) for granted, without ever acknowledging the human good that has come from the industrial age. I am bored sick by relatives regaling me with the virtues of their electric cars as they double my month’s electricity bill by recharging for the journey home from my bedroom socket. And, most of all, I see Western civilization collapsing about my ears in the futile quest for Net Zero, hitting mostly the poor at home and in the developing world.
But reading the Clintel book, I began to get a sense of the fascination of studying the climate for its own sake. It is a worthy study of massive complexity, cosmic implications and great human importance. But it has, crassly, been reduced to to treating CO2 from human activity as the single control knob for climate that has unaccountably cancelled out all the natural controls that brought us wine-growing in Scotland, plagues in the Dark ages, a succession of ice-ages at some times and ice-free poles at others.
It seems a bit like studying English Literature in order to read the directions on a frozen pizza.