Feb. 5 2010;
Global warming update: In its 2007 report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that 40% of the Amazonian rain forest could be gone in a short time because of climate change. The source cited is not peer-reviewed. Its authors are a public policy analyst, that is, an advocate, and a journalist at the Guardian of London. Neither is a scientist. The main thing is that they did not even try to get their piece published in a real, scholarly, and therefore peer-reviewed journal.
Reliance on sources that are not peer-reviewed is forbidden by the UN Panel’s own rules. The fact that the IGPCC violated its own rules does not imply an evil intent but carelessness or zealots’ quasi religious enthusiasm. ( I keep telling you that climate change is a religion) I ask myself: How long would I continue to patronize a car mechanic who told this level of untruths?
The story was in the Telegraph, a UK left-wing newspaper, on January 25th. This came up after the 300+ mistake I talked about before about the time it will take for Himalayas glaciers to melt down. (It’s 300 years longer than announced by he Panel, according to the correction given by the Panel itself!)
You can find everything including linked to references in the “ Watt’s Up With That” site, linked to this blog under “Climate change.”
[-----Long development on peer review in the post entitled: “What's Peer Review and Why It Matters” ---------------------------------]
That’s why it matters whether any policy-making or policy-influencing body such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change relies on peer-reviewed studies or on someone’s agenda, religious belief, or pseudo-scientific nightmare.
The essay in which these few comments on climate change were encompassed was reproduced in NotesOnLiberty circa August 4. My comments on global warming/climate change garnered the reader response below. Right after the readers’ comments is my own long response, my current position on climate change as a social movement.
August 8th 2012
Travis, a climate scientist at UC Berkeley, writes the following:
(full disclosure: I am a [rather junior] climate scientist)
I usually enjoy Delacroix’s posts, but this one is absurd, and I think that it suffers from the same sort of cognitive bias that he’s accusing the ‘climate priests’ of the IPCC of using (I use the phrase with full irony here).
Here’s the logic I think I’m seeing: (1) The IPCC used a non peer-reviewed source; (2) peer review is important; (3) therefore the IPCC is untrustworthy. (I recognize that the article basically ends on point 2–I’m extrapolating point 3 from his accusation that climate science is a religion, and from his rhetorical question in the beginning “How long would I continue to patronize a car mechanic who told this level of untruths?”). I agree completely that peer-review is critical, and that policy-influencing entities should only refer to peer-reviewed literature when dealing with scientific questions.
However, one of the major problems with Delacroix’s logic is that it ignores that the IPCC reports are compilations peer-reviewed literature; with few notable exceptions (which Delacroix rightly criticizes), the information in an IPCC report reflects the state of peer-reviewed science related to climate change. The other major problem with this logic is that it ignores the fact that IPCC reports are created in a federated process, in which different chapters are organized and written by different groups of people. I can see Delacroix’s point that a few un-peer-reviewed sources make one question what other sources are also un-reviewed, but it seems absurd to me to throw out all the information in all of the chapters of the IPCC report because it contains one un-peer-reviewed source. The chapter-leads who ultimately allowed the un-reviewed source to enter the IPCC report are not in charge of other chapters, which are essentially independent manuscripts, so why arbitrarily distrust them as well?
At some point, I would also like to dig into your conception that climate science is a religion. If you truly think that the perspective that ‘climate is changing due to human influence’ is not a reflection of our best understanding of the way that atmospheric-oceanic physics works, and of our records of the state of the Earth, then you really ought to abandon all the Sociology-related points of view that you hold that you have derived from peer-reviewed literature. Because our physical understanding (by ‘our’ in this sentence, I specifically mean myself and all of the Earth scientists that I personally know) was built on the same foundation as your understanding of sociological phenomena: peer-reviewed studies.
August 10th 2012 My response:
Travis, a modestly self-described “junior” climate scientists at U. of California at Berkeley with a flair for subtle flattery takes me to task for the throw-away lines about climate change in my essay otherwise dedicated to explaining scholarly reviewing. I am glad that Travis gives me a chance to save him from a career shaped to any extent by religious fanaticism. I should have done long ago what I do below about climate change. By the way, I use the masculine gender when referring to or addressing Tracy in deference to the fact that for 500 years, the masculine included the feminine in English. No insult is intended if Travis happens to be a woman. Some men are OK, really!
There are thee parts to my response to Travis. (I am afraid I am giving Travis about 500% of the reply he expects.)
1 Climate changists propose or demand that we alter radically our current system of economic production. This current global system of production has saved almost every human being from the misery that used to be the rule for millenia.
2 The findings on which this change proposal is based lack the high level of credibility the dimensions of the changists’ proposal must entail.
3 Climate changism is a religious movement. Like Christianity before it, it is able to incorporate rational and empirically based beliefs.
The fact is that our current, global way of doing things has improved radically in a short time the lives of nearly everyone in the world. Our “current way of doing things” is roughly industrial, greatly energy-centered capitalism (not capitalist enough for me, but that’s another story). Nothing else has ever worked since the agricultural revolution of about 10,000 years ago. Climate change believers want us to transform our ways of doing things quickly in major ways that are sure to cause much misery, including among the poorest of the poor of this world.
How do I know? I was born in 1942. I was well aware of how poor the world was like even in the fifties, even the rich countries. (Please, read my memoirs: I Used to Be French….) Well into the seventies, there was widespread misery. (I was then a specialist in the sociology of economic development.) Climate alarmists simply want us to turn back the clock, I believe. They contemplate different rates of negative growth, more or less thorough transformations, implemented in diverse ways, but I have not heard any of them come up with anything but turning back the clock that is even half-way reasonable. (And yes, I too like windmills.) The group’s general unreasonableness with respect to alternative forms of economic systems stands out when you begin to think of what its members do not (NOT) promote: The obvious, simplest, cheapest solution to the putative problem of excess emissions of CO2, one that does not undermine thoroughly our capacity to provide for the many, is nuclear energy (NUCLEAR). Hardly one of them ever mentions this simple fact. It’s not that they are too stupid to see the obvious. The problem is that those who see the obvious are too afraid of excommunication to open their mouths.(Yes, the use of a religious term here is deliberate.)
Climate changists thus demand something very grave, serious, absolutely dangerous. Therefore, their assertions must be held to a high standard. If they simply fought for internal combustion engines that would be 10% more efficient, for example, the standard could be lower. Let me repeat myself and say the same thing in a different way: If the climate changists’ worst predictions are correct then, the prospect of deliberately bringing misery to millions becomes ethically justified. This simple fact requires that we be demanding about determining the truth or falsity of the alarmists’ predictions.
Climate changists know full well that very few in the public are able to assess the quality of the climate scientists’ pronouncements under their own power. I am no exception. So, I use the normal, reasonable shortcuts: First I assess the processes that produced the pronouncements and then, I assess the honesty of the gate-keepers, of those who implement the processes. Simple enough, right?
Of course, I agree with Travis that a few contributions that are not peer-reviewed in the reports of IPCC do not invalidate the findings (FINDINGS) of many more studies that are peer-reviewed and that contribute to the same reports. But the kind of sickening falsehoods I cite force me to ask: To what extent were those other statements proceeding from real peer-review? How many studies were peer-reviewed for real? How thoroughly? What percentage? Which? A real figure that 40% of the Amazon forest will disappear shortly if nothing is done sure would motivate even me to demand change now. An overestimate mistake of 300 years (in the climate changists’ favor, N.S.!) sure makes the possible/ maybe look like the real emergency changists’ hearts most fervently desire. The fact that those in charge of the report could make such gross, stinking mistakes as they did, leads me to suspect that the gate-keepers, are negligent, stupid, or simply moved by fanaticism.
What would Tracy have us do when confronted with failings of this magnitude? Does he really expect us to give the gate-keepers, the guard dogs, the benefit of the doubt after they let the fox into the hen-house? How long? How many times?I think that, like my second girlfriend Marie, after they betray me, they have to work at regaining my trust. It’s now up to them to persuade me that they are not the sluts I suspect they are. Incidentally, the fact that Tracy blames the “federated” process by which IPCC gathers findings for the inclusion mistakes may be a valid explanation. It’s not an excuse. It’s rather an admission of carelessness, at best. And does Tracy know whether this federated process includes a safeguard to ensure that contrarian findings are not systematically excluded? And if he does not know, why? And will he try to find out from those better informed than he? And, if not, why? I only ask because my limited personal observation tells me there is a strong anti-contrarian bias even in good scholarly journals. Unless someone is specifically in charge for preventing it, or except if there is a mechanism to prevent this, I suspect that findings of good scientific studies that show no climate change, or no objectionable change, or change not caused by human activity, will be kept out of the reports. Such findings will not, I suspect be allowed to contribute to the general assessment of the situation
Note that my last possible interpretation of the source of the gatekeepers’ misbehavior, that they were impelled by intelelctual dishonesty instead of mere incompetence, could easily be nullified. One would merely have to point out in any IPCC report a few equally serious mistakes of inclusion that would undermine (UNDERMINE) the global warmist cause. Perhaps Travis has access to free grad student labor he could put to work on this proposal. I hope the results of such effort will appear on my blog soon. You can be completely sure that neither my blog nor NotesOnLiberty shelter an anti-contrarian bias.
The fact that IPCC, the most accessible voice for the climate change research, is affiliated with the UN does not help its credibility among skeptics, of course. That is, after all, an organization whose committee or commission on human rights included both Kadaffi’s Lybia and Assad ‘s Syria in the past five years. A long time ago, the UN even had a cannibal’s government represented. (Another story I will tell on request. And watch the spelling: I wrote “a cannibal’s,” and not “cannibals’ .”)
Global warmists who, claim scientific objectivity and who possess scientific credentials could improve their collective credibility if they would once in a while do the obvious in terms of engaging those not of their church. And I don’t mean adversaries like me. That’s too hard and they are mostly too dogmatic even to try it, I think. It’s easier to dismiss reasoning skeptics like me as cranks. I mean relevant voices that do their cause harm without opposing it. Two kinds come to mind. I describe those below.
1 Anyone who reads a little, or who watches television, or who listens to the radio frequently encounters statements of absurd pseudo-facts pronounced in the name of global warming. My current favorite I read in the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde. Recently it had a big an article to the effect that the sea level is rising faster – because of global warming – in the Central Pacific than in France, for example. This should thus lead to the following kind of statements: “Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level in Hong Kong and in Le Havre but only 29,017 feet above sea level in the Tuamotu islands.” No one protested, no comment! Of course, it’s the stupid French. One could not find anything of the kind in the world’s English language press, right! I know climate changist scientists can’t be everywhere. I just think that if theirs were an intellectually scrupulous enterprise, once in a while, one or two of them would feel obligated to smack on the heads some of the morons who contend to speak for them. I think it never happens (NEVER)! This last statement should be easy to contest, of course.
2 The prolific, statistically trained Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and of Cool It! keeps assuring everyone that he believes that there is man-made global warming that is worth worrying about. However, all of his policy proposals undermine and tend to destroy the credibility of the mainstream changists’ own ideas about what to do next. It seems to me that writing-bulky Mr Lomborg is hard to miss in the general panorama of discourse on the subject. Yet, the main changist church scientists practically never address his views. I believe they ignore him on purpose. Likewise, in medieval times, the Catholic Church pretended that rival Christian movements they could not suppress just did not exist.
Of course, some would object that the global warming movement includes many intelligent, cultured, rational people. Intelligent, cultured, rational medieval intellectuals never countenanced, for example, the burning to death of deviants who stubbornly insisted that during the Eucharist ritual, it is not really the real blood and flesh of Christ that appears on the altar. Or am I confused again? Were the intellectuals actually in charge of convicting and delivering heretics to the pyre?
Of course, climate changism is a religious movement. Specifically, it’s an offshoot of Christianity. It’s has a doctrine of the Fall (“Original Sin”) the main component of which is hubris ( as in eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). It has an apocalyptic scenario. It developed a hierarchy of sins, very big ones, little ones. It advocates collective guilt, as one finds in the Bible with God’s decision to destroy the world with the Deluge. It is forever elaborating small and big dogmas many of which are too difficult for ordinary people to understand… “mysteries,” of course. Its priesthood is still ill-defined and struggling against itself much as happened in the first century of Christianity. The religious movement holds periodic councils to advance itself, to define doctrine and thus to reject divergent ideas, as the early Church did. (There were such councils in Rio, in Copenhagen; where was the recent one again?)
Those who think they are important members of the Climatechange church hierarchy do not hesitate to plot and to misrepresent the truth on behalf of the greater good (as show in the leaked emails- affair). They merely imitate in this connection what the Jesuit Order did for centuries with no qualms at all. The religious movement’s central weakness is that its most visible and audible prophet, Al Gore, is both downright grotesque and sinister, as often happens in new cults. Nevertheless, the true believers who know better, those who are technically and intellectually equipped to do so don’t find it in themselves to denounce his ridiculous exaggerations and his many big lies (let alone his small lies). Personally, I fear the day when rational climate changists do just this, when they actually denounce Al Gore for what he is: a rich but pathetic Daddy’s boy reared in a Washington DC luxury hotel who could not even carry his own state when he ran for president. And when ten climate “scientists” sign even a discrete manifesto denouncing Al Gore’s half of that Nobel Peace Prize as a farce, when that day arrives, it will become more difficult to denounce climate changism as an overgrown middle-class cult. Of course, as in the historical precedent I keep invoking, intellectually sophisticated priests are embarrassed by miracles but not quite embarrassed enough to oppose the movement’s reliance on them to gain adherents and financial contributions from the unwashed masses.
(In all of the above, about the religious nature of climate changism, I realize, I am probably plagiarizing others, smarter observers, people who described the obvious before me and whose names I forgot, I am afraid. I regret that I cannot give them proper credit.)
Thanks again, Travis. I suspect you are personally not guilty of any atrocity, yet. Just watch your steps. Don’t believe everything. In fact, don’t believe anything. The majority is not always right; it’s usually wrong at first. The truth is never somewhere in the middle. And keep in mind that the European intellectual class as a whole, and many American intellectuals as well, actively helped murder millions between 1930 and 1955 in the name of the obvious and of the obviously necessary.
And what if I turn out to be completely wrong about climate change? Let someone ask that question. But, for a start, I can’t be all that wrong because I am not sure whether there is significant climate change that is man-made and worth worrying about right now. Based on the holes in the information those argue that there is present, I would think the answer is: No, no and no. I could easily turn around if they filled the holes. I don’t have a dog in that fight.
Late addition on 8/10/12 P.M. and a direct question to critic Travis:
I reread your paragraph, Travis:
“I can see Delacroix’s point that a few un-peer-reviewed sources make one question what other sources are also un-reviewed, but it seems absurd to me to throw out all the information in all of the chapters of the IPCC report because it contains one un-peer-reviewed source. The chapter-leads who ultimately allowed the un-reviewed source to enter the IPCC report are not in charge of other chapters, which are essentially independent manuscripts, so why arbitrarily distrust them as well?”
You seem to say that the process by which papers (peer-reviewed papers, another issue discussed above) are compiled within each chapter of the IPCC reports is like Wikipedia’s process for each of its entries.
Would you say that IPCC is as open to revision as Wikipedia is? I mean only revision by means of serious peer-reviewed papers. Suppose someone produced a study using good methods and trustworthy data and had it peer-reviewed (say on Mars). Suppose further the study concluded that there has been no real appreciable global warming since 1780. Do you think that there is a likelihood that the new study would be incorporated into the next IPCC report? What likelihood: 100%, 75%, 50%, 5%?
This is a real question for Travis . I don’t know if Travis is listening so, anyone besides Travis should feel free to answer it.