by Judith Curry
Prior to the Lisbon Workshop, the participants were asked to write a 2 page essay with their thoughts on the topic of the Workshop. There were some very interesting and provocative statements. Ross McKitrick has published his statement here (h/t Bishop Hill). The section headings are:
- The Key to Intellectual Freedom in Economics: No Society Statements
- The Unintended Consequences of the IPCC
Economists believe that freedom of discussion requires a prohibition on our major societies issuing position statements. There is wisdom in this! Individual experts can speak for themselves if they desire. Official “society” statements put words in peoples’ mouths, imposing groupthink and conformity and fostering bitterness on the part of those who find themselves with no voice. They silence and marginalize members who disagree with some or all of the statement, demoting them to second-class citizens in their own profession, regardless of their numbers or credibility as scientists.
Suppose the International Monetary Fund (IMF) created an economics version of the IPCC, which proceeded to issue an Assessment Report and Summary for Policymakers every five years that was promoted as the consensus view of what “every mainstream economist believes.” Suppose further that the IMF was committed to one particular school of economic thought, such as New Keynesianism, that they ensured that all the lead authors of the IMF report were dedicated New Keynesians, and that the report inevitably concluded the New Keynesians are right and their critics are wrong (or do not even exist). And finally, suppose that the IMF report was sponsored and endorsed by government departments who benefited by promotion of New Keynesian ideas, and that major funding agencies and university oversight agencies also began to endorse, support and promulgate the views in the IMF report.
It should be obvious that all of this would, over time, degrade the intellectual climate in the economics profession. It would do so even if New Keynesianism is true—and moreso otherwise. Members of the research community would be forced to respond to the warped incentives created by such a dominant institution by embracing, or at least paying lip service to, New Keynesianism. Over time it would be costlier and costlier to be publicly identified as a critic of New Keynesianism, and as critics became marginalized by political forces the IMF’s declaration of a “consensus” would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Those who were disposed to support the IMF view would find it easier to get funding and academic posts, and journals would be more receptive to their papers since they would gain prominence by being cited in the IMF Report. Likewise journals would be increasingly reluctant to publish critics since their papers would be marginalized and subject to official denigration. Over time, people who had serious doubts about New Keynesianism would learn to suppress them and leave the field, or accept marginalization and negative career consequences.
All these things are playing out in climatology as the IPCC exerts its force over the profession. For those who find the IPCC unreceptive or hostile to their research the result is bitterness and alienation. When the Inter-Academy Council was asked to review IPCC procedures they found a “near-universal” demand by those they interviewed was for Reviewers to have more authority, especially in ensuring that alternative or dissenting views receive proper consideration (pp. 22-23). The IPCC appears to have ignored this suggestion and others like it. In light of the distortions the IPCC is creating, and its apparent unwillingness to undertake reform, I do not know how this situation can be resolved without shutting down the IPCC altogether.
While I have raised these issues previously (albeid more tepidly), McKitrick makes some very strong arguments that I find difficult to refute.
With regards to his last statement “I do not know how this situation can be resolved without shutting down the IPCC altogether. ” I recall seeing a statement like this: “If the IPCC didn’t exist, we would need to invent it.” Well that statement is true if you view the cause and the solution to global warming to be irreducibly global. Its a view I no longer hold.