by Judith Curry
I suspect that many readers of this blog have already seen Steve McIntyre’s post “IPCC and the Greenpeace Karaoke” that identified Greenpeace as the source of a key recommendation on renewable energy in the recently released IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation.
Such IPCC transgressions are becoming sufficiently regular that they barely seem like news anymore. The reaction of Mark Lynas to McIntyre’s analysis, however, is indeed news IMO.
From his Wikipedia bio:
Mark Lynas (is a British author, journalist and environmental activist who focuses on climate change. He is a contributor to New Statesman, Ecologist, Granta and Geographical magazines, and The Guardian and The Observer newspapers in the UK; he also worked on the film The Age of Stupid. He holds a degree in history and politics from the University of Edinburgh.
In 2004, Lynas’ High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis was published by Macmillan Publishers. He has also contributed to a book entitled Fragile Earth: Views of a Changing World, which presents before-and-after images of some of the natural changes which have happened to the world in recent years, including the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, alongside a bleak look at the effects of mankind’s actions on the planet.
In January 2007 Lynas published Gem Carbon Counter, containing instruction to calculate people’s personal carbon emissions and recommendations about how to reduce their impact on the atmosphere.
In 2007 he published Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, a book detailing the progressive effect of global warming in several planetary ecosystems, from 1 degree to 6 degrees and further of average temperature rise of the planet. Special coverage is given to the positive feedback mechanisms that could dramatically accelerate the climate change, possibly putting the climate on a runaway path. As a possible end scenario the release of methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans could replicate the end-Permian extinction event.
In 2008 National Geographic released a documentary film based on Lynas’s book, entitled Six Degrees Could Change the World.
So far, Lynas reflects stellar “warm” credentials. Circa 2010, things started to change.
In 2010, Lynas published an article in the New Statesman entitled “Why we Greens Keep Getting it Wrong” and the same year was the main contributor to a UKChannel 4 Television programme called “What the Green Movement Got Wrong.” In these he took a line similar to other right wing critics of environmentalism such as Patrick Moore, Bjorn Lomborg and Richard D. North, explaining that he now felt that several of his previous strongly held beliefs were wrong. For example, he suggested that opposition by environmentalists, such as himself, to the development of nuclear energy had speeded up climate change, that proscription of DDT had led to millions of deaths and that GM crops were necessary to ‘feed the world’.
This latter position was attacked as patronising and naive by some developing world commentators, including one featured in a Channel Four debate after the programme aired. A number of experts also criticised Lynas’s factual errors in contributing to the film. British environmentalist George Monbiot wrote in theGuardian that ‘Brand and Lynas present themselves as heretics. But their convenient fictions chime with the thinking of the new establishment: corporations, thinktanks, neoliberal politicians. The true heretics are those who remind us that neither social nor environmental progress are possible unless power is confronted.’
Reaction to McIntyre’s essay
Lynas has a blog, whose current post is entitled “New IPCC error: renewables report conclusion was dictated by Greenpeace.” Some excerpts:
That release of the full report happened yesterday. And a close reading of it shows that the IPCC has made an error much more serious than the so-called Himalayagate and associated non-scandals last year – it has allowed its headline conclusion to be dictated by a campaigning NGO. Moreover, the error was spotted initially by none other than Steve McIntyre, who has been a thorn in the side of the IPCC and climate science generally for a long time. Yet this time McIntyre has got it right.
So what to conclude? My view is that the IPCC renewables report has told us nothing – except that Greenpeace thinks we can solve the climate change problem entirely with renewable energy, which of course we already knew. But whilst I still hold the hard-science Working Group 1 of the IPCC in very high regard, I have lost a lot of confidence in Working Group 3. That it allowed its headline conclusion to be dictated by a campaigning NGO is an extraordinary failure, and one which cannot simply be forgotten.
The IPCC must urgently review its policies for hiring lead authors – and I would have thought that not only should biased ‘grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work. There is even a commercial conflict of interest here given that the renewables industry stands to be the main beneficiary of any change in government policies based on the IPCC report’s conclusions. Had it been an oil industry intervention which led the IPCC to a particular conclusion, Greenpeace et al would have course have been screaming blue murder.
One last thing: McIntyre points out that the Greenpace propaganda report which has regrettably destroyed the credibility of the IPCC’s effort on renewables contains a preface – written by none other than R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC itself. I have great respect for Dr Pachauri, as for the IPCC as an institution. I only wish he – and it – would be more careful.
The comments are even more interesting. Some of the Climate Etc. Denizens and other skeptics showed up to comment on Lynas’ blog, presumably steered there by BishopHill. Bob Ward also showed up to criticize Lynas. In the comments, Lynas recommends nofrakkingconsensus. Barry Woods recommends that he read Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion and Climate Etc.(!) Lynas responds:
I haven’t read the Hockey Stick Illusion, but I will if you send me a free copy! Same with Judith Curry – I have seen her being vilified, but I haven’t gone deeply into it.
I posted a link to my latest attribution post, Lynas replied:
Thanks Judith – it’s a long post, but I’ll have a go!
Another of Lynas’ comments:
Hmm, yes, I sort of agree with you. In principle, anyone can call anyone else they disagree with a ‘denier’ and shut down the argument, like you say. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the term, though I have used it admittedly. I did side with Mike Mann on the Hockey Stick thing, without personally having the expertise to really go in and check the argument about statistical methodology. But I have to admit that McIntyre is right about this, and that I and others should have spotted the problem earlier. There should be no campaigners or anyone else with a vested interest on the ‘lead author’ team for any IPCC publication – ever.
JC’s message to Mark Lynas
I’ve been engaging with skeptics since 2006 (before starting Climate Etc., I engaged mainly at ClimateAudit). People were suspicious and wondered what I was up to, but the vilification didn’t start until I recommended that people read The Hockey Stick Illusion. The book itself, plus more significantly my vilification simply for recommending that people read the book, has pushed me over the ledge and into a mode of aggressively challenging the IPCC consensus. That you are willing at this point to read the book speaks volumes to me. It is my sad conclusion that opening your mind on this subject sends you down the slippery slope of challenging many aspects of the IPCC consensus.
Shortly after I started Climate Etc., I received this email message from a colleague:
A few years ago, I started interacting with a skeptic who somehow passed through my “ignore skeptics” filter. He has an engineering degree and is quite knowledgable. My rationale that “all skeptics are troglodytes” has been tattered, and my view of the climate debate has irreversibly changed.
Opening your mind on this subject is a slippery slope into listening to what skeptics have to say. Sure there are alot of crazies out there, but there is some very serious skepticism at ClimateAudit and other technical skeptic and lukewarmer blogs. I look forward to a growing climate heretics club, where people that generally support the IPCC consensus (either currently or in the past) dare to question aspects of it.
I predict that your actually reading the Hockey Stick Illusion and mentioning it on your blog will get you removed from RealClimate’s blogroll.