Energy and Climate Change committee: new inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Review

So, da UK Energy and Climate Change committee is having an “inquiry” into IPCC 5th Assessment Review. I’m not sure why. This will be a review of a review, which could itself be reviewed, which will end in endless regress? More likely it will fizzle away into nothing. Myles Allen appears to be suggesting that the ctte are bozos (not in so many words, of course. That would be unparliamentary. Instead, he says things like the thrust of the committee’s questions does raise concerns that the committee has allowed itself to be misled in this regard or As an aside, it seems strange to ask about the economic implications of a report that is explicitly and exclusively focused on Physical Science or This question is so broad that almost any answer is possible), which may well be correct. Myles has several other rather sensible things to say, many of which reflect my concerns. For example:

The problem with IPCC’s response to criticisms of previous assessments is that the focus has been entirely on formalizing procedures, whereas the reports ultimately depend on the collective scientific judgment of IPCC authors and reviewers.

This chimes with things I’ve said – or perhaps just thought – before; and not just about the IPCC, but about life in general.

One shouldn’t take this “inquiry” too seriously. This is the sort of things pols do as part of living and breathing. For example, they’re having an inquiry into the Outcomes of Warsaw COP 19, an event so pointless that I didn’t even bother to mock it.

You can read the written submissions. Aaaaaanndd the result is: everyone has said exactly what you’d expect them to say. Some usual nutters say the usual things – bonus points for the Star Trek analogy though. Its always helpful for a committee like this, with lots of stuff to wade through, for people to write “yes, I really am a nutter” in bold type right up front, so they can ignore you more conveniently.

I can’t say I read much of it. There are fewer responses than might be expected – I suspect that many people didn’t take it seriously. I did read one of the less usual folk – Professor (aside: prof? According to the EPS he is a humble Dr, and is retired. Which wouldn’t be odd, because he’s 85 years old) Pierre Darriulat – who said (when he isn’t saying A good guide to make such a critical review is the NIPCC report; fortunately, he’s not dumb enough to say that twice):

To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? While it is easy to find a vast majority of scientists who consider that evaluating the potential danger of an excessive (whatever it means) emission of C02 is of utmost importance, they will usually recognize that our current knowledge prevents making reliable predictions and they will not see it as urgent to take decisions. However, in most cases, on the basis of their relying on the precautionary principle, they would mostly be for considering seriously ways to limit in the long term, our C02 emissions. They will agree that no decision should be taken under pressure, but should take due consideration for economic, financial, social and geopolitical considerations for which they do not claim particular competence (other than as ordinary citizens).

I’ve pulled this out not because its interesting in itself, but because it does the usual: fails to answer the question, and instead veers off into the responders pet obsession: in this case, not science, but policy.

But enough fluff. What of reality?

I’m glad you asked. All this chatter reflecting the blogospheric world doesn’t reflect the real world. In which we get responses like:

* The fundamental consensus on climate change science has not changed, and there is overwhelming evidence that supports the causal link between human activity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change.
* Climate change is a global issue, and so international collective action will be critical in driving an efficient and equitable response on the scale required to meet our climate challenges.
* EDF Energy agrees with the statement made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the IPCC launch event on 1st October 2013 that the Fifth Assessment Report “…should be a catalyst to renew efforts and meet the challenge head on.”

(Written evidence submitted by EDF Energy (IPC0043)).


* How robust are the conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report? The Government considers that the conclusions of the AR5 Physical Science Basis report are robust. The report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists, all leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). The report took over 2 years to produce and underwent multiple rounds of expert review. It was also reviewed by the 194 governments which form the IPCC. They have all accepted the findings.
* To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? The Government understands that the IPCC Working Group I Report assessed all relevant peer-reviewed climate research and modelling undertaken since 2007. As already noted the report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists from all over the world, many being leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). Then the author teams considered the comments of 1000 reviewers. The report reflects any lack of consensus through the use of confidence levels throughout. Thus, the Government is confident that the assessment takes into account the full range of the wealth of recent research and the conclusions of its authors, plus the full range of views of climate scientists, because of the thorough and open review process.

(Written evidence submitted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (IPC0025)). Note, BTW, that the govt is intelligent enough to actually answer the question.

Or, put another way, “Piss off pygmies”.

Meanwhile, at the Keeling Curve

You’ll note the button for “support the Keeling Curve”. This, too, I haven’t investigated in detail (can the US Govt really be not continuing this stuff? That would be mad. Even Bush didn’t do that) but Eli assures me its a good thing.

13 thoughts on “Energy and Climate Change committee: new inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Review”

  1. I do hope the committee has enough common sense to disregard submissions that contain such obviously incorrect assertions such as:

    (d) What is the net human contribution to rising CO2?
    The IPCC assert that all the rise is human. Prof Murry Salby9 has shown this assertion is false and that at least in part the change must be natural. And at a local level it is known naturally CO2 levels increase in warmer period in S. America due to ENSO.

    The NIPCC report tries to make similar claims (instead based on the work of Prof. Essenhigh), even though (rather ironically) its lead author published an article in “American Thinker” pointing out that this is one of the canards used by “deniers” (his term) that is giving the skeptics a bad name.

    This issue provides a touchstone of genuine skepticism; there are some who just cannot accept any element of AGW, and those that cannot accept that the post-industrial rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to anthropogenic emissions are simply ignoring what the data says quite clearly and unequivocally, which is not skepticism, but something else altogether.


  2. not for the first time I note the underlying influence of the GWPF, which is powerful because it works from within the system. Though underlying are the same denials and misinformation as ever, they seem to be attacking the policy angle at the perceived weak point – ie, the cost of action in the face of uncertainty is not justified.

    Someone needs to get onto their case urgently, as their influence is visible in energy policy as well as attitudes to carbon.


  3. One shouldn’t take this “inquiry” too seriously.

    You may be underestimating the forces of darkness.

    OK, so the sceptic submissions are laughable, but a quick look at the terms of reference strongly suggests a sceptic angle.

    Then look at the membership, not just Peter Lilley but also even on the Labour side, Graham Stringer.

    Now consider recent politics on energy bills and the use of the “green” costs in that to push an agenda.

    Then fracking, tax breaks given to it and it being pushed by Osborne as an energy panacea.

    Next recent announcements on the withdrawal from large offshore wind projects.

    And – surprise surprise, even Judith Curry has been invited to submit her views. Well I never did.

    Climate denial is threatening to, if not already, a touchstone of British right wing ideology in the same way as anti EU sentiment is. It’s even driven by the same few media owners. This is an opportunity for sceptics to push a very clear political agenda by presenting AR5 as controversial rather than factual. And the theatre of a select committee is a perfect place to do that. The mere fact of a public debate is a win, it matters not what the content is.


  4. While the attempt to shake the cup for the Keeling curve program is a sadly necessary thing. The shrinking support for science in the US is NOT a good thing.

    But the bunnies thank you very much for your help.


  5. @ Fergus Brown #2 and VTG #3

    That’s my sense too. Co-ordinated, savvy and with the GWPF smack in the middle. Deeply troubling and suggestive that the GWPF is a dangerous and pernicious influence on public policy in the UK.


  6. #3 VeryTallGuy. The terms of reference are truly scary. The British political establishment seems to be moving more towards climate change denial, which is worse than the previous stance of acknowledging the problem while doing virtually nothing to address it

    (the 2008 climate change act was perhaps a good first step but it was very weak – I think it left it possible to set carbon budgets to allow business as usual to carry on for the time being, and the 80% cut by 2050 may be unachievable by the time any government bothers to start taking it seriously. I also doubt whether the 2008 act dealt properly with outsourced emissions – see e.g. ).


  7. Susan Anderson #9, I’d love to hear any suggestions too. Unfortunately my only suggestion is an old one: mass education of the public about the science, and the need for large cuts in GHG emissions if we want to avoid very serious consequences. I don’t think politicians will be deterred from lining the pockets of their powerful friends in the fossil fuel industry unless there is a lot of political pressure from the people. I don’t expect our leaders to be wise enough to do the right thing unless there’s an awful lot of votes to be won by doing so. Climate change denial is presumably fairly attractive because it reduces the discomfort which arises from saying there’s a big problem but doing nothing about it.


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