Why The IPCC Cannot Survive – Qui Fama Ferit Fama Perit

“Qui Fama Ferit Fama Perit” is Latin for  “He who lives by reputation, die by reputation

(the below has been inspired by “The Future is Another Country” on the “Marc Roberts cartoon” blog)

The number of big and little mistakes surfacing up day in and day out and known with various terms including “Gate du Jour” is fatally undermining the very idea of the IPCC, not necessarily for the most obvious reasons. You see, it’s a matter of square science pegs and round policy holes…

I am not interested in arguing how good the peer-reviewed literature contained in AR4 was. That becomes an irrelevant point once one realizes that until a couple of months ago any doubt of any sort about the IPCC was quickly dismissed as “denialism”. Now instead, it is clear to all that the whole IPCC process was not geared up for science, rather to provide policymakers with something of whatever (good, or bad) scientific value and quality.

Just last Friday Bob Ward has re-stated at the Royal Institution in London that the IPCC is there to provide advice to policymakers. In this respect, the presence of incorrect/exaggerated statements must be expected, since policymakers need advice also where science cannot (yet?) provide advice.

So the IPCC report has to (must!) be made of a great bulk of scientific literature review patched up with all missing-but-needed-by-policymakers (non-scientific) bits. Rather than being “a few cherry picked gaffes“, the mistakes that are now being exposed are therefore exactly the best evidence to make the ultimate goal of the IPCC process remarkably clear: policy, not science.

But that’s contrary to the IPCC’s own principles:

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Set up to “assess” the “information relevant to [the] understanding [of climate change]“, the IPCC has found itself tasked to “provide” the “information needed by policymakers“.

The claim that “IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy” is therefore almost meaningless, and the presence of thousands of scientifically strong peer-reviewed papers in AR4 borders on the inconsequential: what is important is that the policy hole is round so the IPCC peg has to be round as well, no matter how square a peg science is bound to produce. And this ultimately destroys the scientific reputation of the IPCC.

A possible way forward? In a later blog…