What to do with the IPCC

So, I didn’t like the IAC prescription for the IPCC. So I need my own. And I forgot that I already had one. PK said it well in the comments:

How many IPCC reports does it take to screw in a light bulb? The bureaucratic solution for inefficient bureaucracy always seems to be more bureaucracy. If the purpose of the IPCC is to inform governments on climate change and its possible impacts, the job is pretty much done. If the purpose is to provide a rationale for global taxation and control of CO2, we’ll be arguing over the results of AR15.

but it bears repeating and expanding. No number of IPCC reports is going to convince people who don’t want to know, that the science is good and, yes, to use that term that everyone hates, settled – at least in the basics. You can – if you hold your nose – visit any number of septic blog sites and find people arguing passionately for positions totally divorced from scientific knowledge. These people don’t argue against what is in the IPCC reports, because they have never read them or anything vaguely based on them. Producing another bigger fatter more up to date version will not sway them. That is fine really – such people aren’t the target audience. But they are voters, and politicians can’t be too bold while their constituents believe twaddle.

Some people still seem to hold the belief that the *next* IPCC report – which will be even more unequivocal on the-temperature-is-going-up-and-it-is-our-fault – will change peoples mind. I’m very dubious about that. For that kind of thing, we have all the evidence that is required (disclaimers: I’m only really speaking about WGI stuff, because it is the only thing i have a clue about, and I’m not saying we should shut down all the physical climate change research. There are plenty of exciting and interesting things to discover. But they won’t change the big picture). This is, I think (but can’t be bothered to look up) the RP Jr viewpoint: that doing something about GW is a political problem, not a scientific one (in a way that it wasn’t in, say, 1990, when the scientific field was far more open).

So while I stick by what I said a while back I think then I didn’t really understand what I would now take to be the key point: which is to stop trying to make WGI policy relevant. Make the WGI report much smaller; less bureaucratic; put fewer people on it. Report on less research. There is no need at all for it to summarise everything, or even try to. Put a note on the front page: “This is a research report. If you care about the politics, go elsewhere. We’ve already told you all you need to know”.

See also

* IPCC troubles in context: Some good Dutch media coverage
* A modest proposal for the IPCC – page limits are a good start, and hive off detail. I’d make them stricter.

Comments

  1. #1 J Bowers
    2010/09/05

    “…that the science is good and, yes, to use that term that everyone hates, settled – at least in the basics.”

    Don’t feel too bad about that, William. Plastic sceptics love to use it when it suits their agenda.

    “…And I’m going to show you the latest science, which now doesn’t leave the question unsettled anymore this is now settled science, it is now settled science that there is not a problem with our influence over Climate. The science is in, the truth is out and the scare is over.”
    — Christopher Monckton. 10/14/9 Minnesota Free Market Institute presentation

    Sourced from Citizen’s Challenge.

  2. #2 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/09/06

    Stoat: ‘disclaimers: I’m only really speaking about WGI stuff, because it is the only thing i have a clue about’

    Surely WG1 (yes, I know you pros call it WGI, but that’s wrong) stuff is pretty much irrelevant except as input to WG2 and WG3, and WG2 and WG3 are all that matter to non-scientists? It might even be better if WG1 were kept secret. That might put a stop to the constant confounding by activists and governments and intergovernments and intergovernmental activists and NGOs and GONGOs and BONGOs and so on of WG1 certainties and certainties about impacts and remedies. This conflation is what has made the ‘debate’ so noisy and bitter: on one side, scientific illiterates shouting that ‘The science is settled, we’re all going to die, the scientists say so’ and, on the other, scientific illiterates shouting that ‘The science isn’t settled, look what this scientist here said, you’re a load of hysterical metrosexuals, the whole thing’s a scam’. The second lot are wrong but as long as the Establishment – the first lot – keep overstating the certainties and extents of the only thing that matters – what climates might do – and keep claiming a bogus scientific authority for its distortions, they – the parties of the second part – have the best possible excuse for keeping their heads in the sand. Stop publishing WG1 and all that might go away.

    No, it wouldn’t. I did have a better point but I lost it halfway through all that.

  3. #3 chek
    2010/09/06

    What Vinny’s missing is that group 2 would have all the equivalence of flat-earthers, if they weren’t financed and enabled to the extent that they’ve almost created the appearance of an alternate reality composed of nothing more substantial than their own repeating echoes.

    Stop the finance and it all goes away, except for the rump of crazies who have been encouraged and indulged so far. Big deal.

    But how, is the question.

  4. #4 Brian Schmidt
    2010/09/06

    1. It’s the undecideds that we’re after, not the confirmed septics. A new, more emphatic report would help get them.

    2. Regional and local effects of climate change will drive politics more than global levels, and those levels remain a moving target where the IPCC can help.

  5. #5 Tom Fid
    2010/09/06

    I second your proposal
    http://blog.metasd.com/2010/06/a-modest-proposal-for-the-ipcc/

    [Well, that is two of us. I've linked you in as a ref -W]

  6. #6 Tony O'Brien
    2010/09/06

    What are we doing about global warming? Why having another report of course.

    Where are we in our adaption plans? Why we are planning to plan for a plan. Then we will have a few committees. New York will not see a problem until Laguardia is underwater.

    When half of the WAIS slides into the ocean William might realise he has been a tad conservative. Even William recognizes Laguardia will not see out the century (or would if he looked at the altitudes and storm surges).

    Tell me again how I am too pessimistic.

  7. #7 Lev Bronstein
    2010/09/06

    Per Colin Chapman, “Simplificate and add more lightness.”

    People often think they improve things by explaining in more detail or planning for every possible contingency. But usually that’s the opposite of what they should do. Prose is made clearer by being more concise, not more wordy. Organizational structures are better streamlined than made more byzantine. And so on.

    I’d eliminate the big WG1, 2, 3 reports and SPMs, and just make one report for each WG of 50 pages max. That would be short enough that even a political staffer might be able to read the damn thing. Maybe even a journalist.

    It would also reduce the workload on the scientists involved (which is becoming a big complaint). If the procedure is made more intricate and bureaucratic it will be that much harder to get competent scientists involved. Which almost makes one wonder…

    [Agreed - reducing scientist load is good. SOme way of reducing the distortion of GCM groups timescales is needed, too -W]

  8. #8 Paul Kelly
    2010/09/07

    At what point does the IPCC become a hindering distraction? Time, effort, talent, and money are limited resources better applied to something more productive. This is not a criticism of the IPCC. It is acknowledging the time has come to say, “Thank you for your wonderful work. We can take it from here.”

    [I disagree with that. While I think many of the major questions are done as much as needed, there is still more to do, and a report on the new things would be valuable. Secondly, at the moment scrapping IPCC (no matter how kindly phrased) would be a politicial victory for the trolls -W]

  9. #9 Paul Kelly
    2010/09/07

    Scrapped, dismantled, or downsized, so far there isn’t any support either for continuing the IPCC as is or taking IAC recommendations. AR5 will proceed pretty much as planned. Other than new model runs and novel reconstructions, how many valuable new things will be in the next WG1? Here’s hoping the Jacobson paper on black soot makes the cut.

    Having preventing a political victory for the trolls as the IPCC’s last defense belies the stated mission of the IPCC. Besides, your trolls will delight in any dimming of the IPCC and would spin your plan as proof that the IPCC stinks.

    [Yes, that is true. The anti-troll argument is a minor one though. I still think the IPCC is valuable, but it should write less -W]

  10. #10 cthulhu
    2010/09/07

    The IPCC reports tend to highlight effects of climate change that are somewhat certain and as such the entire public debate is framed in terms of “proving climate change is dangerous” rather than “proving it safe”. It should be a bit of both imo.

    As it stands today those who wish to downplay the risk of climate change find they can easily do so by overplaying the uncertainty in the science. That might be stopped if the IPCC reports reframed uncertainty to be imo more correct and that filtered through the media, etc.

  11. #11 Rajan Alexander
    2010/09/11

    Salute this man! Pachauri did what no climate sceptic is able to do. A Trojan Horse that destroyed the IPCC from the inside

    If Pachauri did not exist, we climate sceptics would have had to literally invent him. He is in fact every sceptic’s dream. How could we have asked for more when he embodies the UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in all completeness? Interestingly, he also strongly epitomizes the typical climate activist and their organizations that they are attached. Did he mould both in his image or its vice versa is however for history to judge.

    Next month 194 governments of the IPCC are scheduled to meet in Busan, South Korea. This is where a plot to ouster Pachuari could be unleashed. Pachuari remains defiant: “At the moment, my mandate is very clear. I have to complete the fifth assessment” The Indian Government who Pachuari is their candidate is equally defiant, backing him to the hilt. If Pachauri goes, we leave the IPCC! And if India leaves the IPCC, it can trigger an exodus.

    Read More: http://devconsultancygroup.blogspot.com/2010/09/salute-this-man-pachauri-did-what-no.html

    [Well, don't forget RKP was chosen by Bush, who was no friend to the IPCC -W]

  12. #12 George D
    2010/09/17

    Expand the timeframe the IPCC looks at. What happens in 2100? The world ends, if you believe the IPCC. 2100 is now within the lifetime of a very large number of people who will be born in the next decade. While I support reducing complexity and emphasising that which is certain, a separate report on long-term effects of climate change in the 100-500 year range might be appropriate.

    Nobody, absolutely nobody, I talk to seems to grasp thoroughly the implication that we are changing the climate _forever_.

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