IPCC as a knowledge monopoly

by Judith Curry

There have been numerous criticisms of the IPCC and proposals for change.  One of the most interesting anlayses of the issues surrounding the IPCC is this paper by Richard Tol entitled “Regulating Knowledge Monopolies: The Case of the IPCC.”

Richard Tol

From Tol’s Wikipedia bio:

Richard S. J. Tol  is a Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research InstituteDublinIreland, where he works in the research areas of energy and environment. He is the professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, an adjunct professor atTrinity College Dublin and an associate at Hamburg University and the Hamburg Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Science. He is a member of the Academia Europaea.

He regularly participates in studies of the Energy Modeling Forum and is an editor of Energy Economics, associate editor of Environmental and Resource Economics, and on the editorial board of Environmental Science and Policy, and Integrated Assessment. From 1998-2008 he was an Adjunct Professor atCarnegie Mellon University‘s Department of Engineering and Public Policy. IDEAS/RePEc ranks him among the top 250 economists in the world.

According to Tol “the impact of climate change is relatively small”. Tol characterises his position as arguing that the economic costs of climate policy should be kept in proportion to its benefits. In an interview with Der Spiegel in 2005, he argued that temperature rises between 2-4 °C would also have advantages. North of a line drawn from Paris toMunich, people would benefit, e.g., from reduced energy bills. However, south of it, people would be overall “losers” of climate change.

Tol has been an IPCC author since 1994.  He blogs at http://ipccar5wg2ch10.blogspot.com/, discussing IPCC issues and presenting the sections he is involved in for writing the IPCC AR4 for open comment.

Regulating Knowledge Monopolies: The Case of the IPCC

by Richard Tol

Abstract.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a monopoly on the provision of climate policy advice at the international level and a strong market position in national policy advice. This may have been the intention of the founders of the IPCC. I argue that the IPCC has a natural monopoly, as a new entrant would have to invest time and effort over a longer period to perhaps match the reputation, trust, goodwill, and network of the IPCC. The IPCC is a not-for-profit organization, and it is run by nominal volunteers; it therefore cannot engage in the price-gouging that is typical of monopolies. However, the IPCC has certainly taken up tasks outside its mandate; the IPCC has been accused of haughtiness; innovation is slow; quality may have declined; and the IPCC may have used its power to hinder competitors. There are all things that monopolies tend to do, against the public interest. The IPCC would perform better if it were regulated by an independent body which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance; if outside organizations would be allowed to bid for the production of reports and the provision of services under the IPCC brand; and if policy makers would encourage potential competitors to the IPCC.

The paper is in press at Climatic Change, the full paper can be linked to [here].

Some excerpts that I found to be particularly interesting, minus the references)

From the Introduction:

Note that there is no reason to assume that knowledge monopolies are desirable. The nature of the policy advice on acidification was in turn inspired by the ideal of social planning as advocated by such leading economists as  – whose ideas are now seen as naïve by some  and repugnant by others. Harry Truman’s wish for a one-handed economist is now understood to be mistaken . The notion of a dispassionate scientist passing objective advice to a benevolent policy maker has been thoroughly discredited . Few would argue that the IPCC is a secret world government in waiting. The IPCC has set itself the more modest goal of standardizing the academic knowledge on which climate policy is based across the world. This may be a mistaken goal. International negotiations succeed if all parties think they are better off . There is no reason to believe that negotiations are easier if all parties share the same knowledge – in fact, the opposite may be true.

From the section The IPCC as a Natural Monopoly:

Strictly speaking, a monopoly is natural if the costs of having multiple providers are larger than the benefits of competition. There is large fixed cost of setting up a global organization to assess the literature on climate change to inform national and international policy. This cost is neither physical nor financial, but rather in terms of reputation, trust and goodwill, and in terms of networks and institutional knowledge. It took the IPCC years to build up its current position. A new entrant in the market of climate policy advice would need a similar investment in quality and relationships before it can begin to compete with the IPCC.

The IPCC is also favoured by network economies. The IPCC relies on more-or-less voluntary contributions of the academics who serve as its authors. These authors are rewarded with prestige, networking opportunities, access to decision makers, and influence. As the incumbent, the IPCC offers plenty of each. A new entrant would offer little. 

From the section on Typical Problems of Monopolies:

The root of the problem is that monopolies act in the interest of the company only, and that they can get away with it. Competitive firms too only consider their own bottom line – but they have to deliver good value to their clients lest they walk away. Customers of monopolies cannot switch to a different supplier (by definition), and monopolies therefore do not need to heed their wishes to the same extent as a competitive firm does.

The IPCC is a knowledge monopoly, and it shares some of the characteristics of the behaviour of a typical monopolist. 

The IPCC has used its monopoly power to branch out into scenario building. The resulting scenarios have been severely criticized. As complaints by referees were ignored, this can only be characterized as a deliberate misrepresentation of the literature – a violation of the IPCC mandate. Arguably, the IPCC used its role as an assessor of the literature to protect its role as a builder of scenarios. . .  Therefore, the IPCC has used its monopoly position in the market for assessment to establish a dominant position in the market for scenarios.

The IPCC has not innovated much. An author of AR1 would instantly recognize the methods, procedures, and structure of AR4. Things have changed, of course, but at the margin. This is perhaps the strongest sign that the IPCC is a monopoly. . .  The IPCC has made little use of tools for online collaboration and communication, nor of transparency-enhancing software (e.g., automated versioning of documents).

From the section on Regulating Knowledge Monopolies:

The regulatory agency should audit the procedural aspects of the IPCC. However, it should also assess the performance of the IPCC, drawing on the experience with evaluating the performance of university departments. It could consider such issues as the selection of the IPCC authors. Are they really top experts in their fields (controlling for geographical representation)? It could randomly select (parts of) IPCC chapters and see whether they truly reflect the balance of the literature – e.g., by comparison with recent survey articles. It should compare the outlines of IPCC report to the issues discussed in the literature, checking whether the IPCC gives undue weight to certain topics while ignoring other ones. It could monitor the impact of IPCC reports, both on the academic literature and on national and international policies.

 The changing of the IPCC guard is done in backroom deals. In the future, there could be competitive bidding for the working group chairs and technical support units, as well as for the IPCC board. 

Competition for the market could be extended further. If someone feels that there is a product missing from the range on offer by the IPCC, then that person should be allowed to bid for the use of the IPCC brand on such a report.  There is no reason why the IPCC should not consider proposals for Special Reports from outside. In fact, allowing this would keep the authors and organizers of “regular” IPCC reports on their toes.

While it would be hard for a single organization to compete with the entirety of the IPCC, competition on specific aspects is much easier. The World Meteorological Organization could review atmospheric science, the World Health Organization the health impacts of climate change. The World Bank and the OECD could review the emission reduction policies and their costs, while national institutions could assess the impacts of climate change. While such activities are ongoing, they often draw on the same people as the IPCC and are frequently not even intended to be independent.

Self-organization is the third, potential new entrant that could threaten the IPCC’s monopoly. Wikipedia is the best known example, and it already covers all the topics that the IPCC does. Wikipedia, however, lacks focus and it does not have the credibility and legitimacy of the IPCC. . . Wikify AR4 and a few good textbooks. By way of experiment, this should be done by an IPCC-controlled wiki, a quality-controlled wiki (e.g., Scholarpedia), and an open wiki (e.g., Wikipedia).

From the Conclusions:

However, the IPCC has certainly extended its remit; many have accused the IPCC of haughtiness; innovation is slow; quality may have declined; and the IPCC may have used its power to hinder competitors – all things that monopolies tend to do, and none of which is in the public interest. The IPCC would perform better if it were regulated by an independent body which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance; if outside organizations would be allowed to bid for the production of IPCC reports and the provision of IPCC services; and if would-be competitors to the IPCC would be encouraged.

Ron Cram’s proposal

Similar in spirit, Ron Cram posted an essay at WUWT entitled “A modest proposal in lieu of abandoning the IPCC.”

Cram’s essay begins with a comprehensive review of recent critiques of the IPCC.  The essence of Cram’s proposal is this:

If policymakers want a less biased picture, there is only one way to achieve it. It is necessary for the IPCC AR5 to consist of a Majority Report and a Minority Report. Going into the process, no one will know which of the competing reports will be named the Majority Report and which the Minority Report. That decision will come after both reports are completed and voted on by the climate scientists involved.

JC’s comments:   I have been arguing for parallel evidence- based arguments in the IPCC, excerpt below:

The consilience of evidence argument is not convincing unless it includes parallel evidence-based analyses for competing hypotheses, for the simple reason that any system that is more inclined to admit one type of evidence or argument rather than another tends to accumulate variations in the direction towards which the system is biased. 

To be convincing, the arguments for climate change need to change from the burden of proof model to a model whereby a thesis is supported explicitly by addressing the issue of what the case would have to look like for the thesis to be false, in the mode of argument justification (e.g. Betz 2010). Argument justification invokes counterfactual reasoning to ask the question “What would have to be the case such that this thesis were false?” The general idea is that the fewer positions supporting the idea that the thesis is false, the higher its degree of justification. Argument justification provides an explicit and important role for skeptics, and a framework whereby scientists with a plurality of viewpoints participate in an assessment.  This strategy has the advantage of moving science forward in areas where there are competing schools of thought.  Disagreement then becomes the basis for focusing research in a certain area, and so moves the science forward.

The spirit of what I suggest is similar to what Ron Cram proposes.  I find Tol’s arguments convincing, and support his recommendations.  I am not convinced that the IPCC will survive as a natural knowledge monopoly for another decade if it remains on its current path.

94 responses to “IPCC as a knowledge monopoly

  1. Problem:

    If policymakers want a less biased picture …

    Why would they want that, if they can force the “convinient” bias?

    • Indeed, the IPCC is serving the policymakers, not misleading them. Dangerous AGW is official policy in many countries, including the US, and has been since 1992.

    • You are exactly right.

      Policymakers got the biased picture they paid for.

      Policymakers did not want to get caught. They haven’t been caught, . , , , yet.

      But government scientists who fudged the data were caught.

      Policymakers have tried, but failed to protect the “scientists”.

      The future will show if policymakers can protect themselves.

      Maybe they can learn from a Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme:

      All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
      Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

      PS – Good will come out of this disaster if we elect new policymakers and science leaders that value scientific integrity more than money and power.

  2. A serious problem with monopolies that should be noted is the lack of quality. When buyers have nowhere else to buy, the mononopoly producer has no incentive to maintain quality (much less improve).

    In the case of the IPCC, however, I think that it should be noted that the actual buyers of the knowledge product seem to be happy with what they get. The actual buyers are the governments which sponsor it. I would argue that the actual buyers regard the appalling lack of quality is a feature, not a buy.

    If one were genuinely interested in an effort to compile the best possible assessment of the science, the IPCC is certainly NOT the way anyone would procede. Starting right from the misguided definition of mission, it appears to have been deliberately set up to avoid a top quality result. If the world wants quality science, trash the IPCC and start over with a focus on genuine scientific inquiry. Keep the politics out as long as possible. There is plenty of time for the political debate when policies are proposed.

  3. This recommendation is fabulous, and easily done: “It should compare the outlines of IPCC report to the issues discussed in the literature, checking whether the IPCC gives undue weight to certain topics while ignoring other ones.” The scientometrics community can do this today.

    However, it does not address the deeper problem that AGW proponents control most of the research funding, in the US anyway via the USGCRP, so the research is biased as well as the IPCC.

  4. Latimer Alder

    Juts read the title and choked on my coffee.

    Says it all really.

  5. Maybe they could bring in Al Gore to sort this mess out.

  6. I can’t say I agree that the IPCC has a knowledge monopoly. That may once have been the case, but the market for climate information is no longer controlled by anyone. This blog being one fine example. Electoral results in the U.S., Canada and other countries being further examples of the demise of the former monopoly.

    “The IPCC would perform better if it were regulated by an independent body which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance.”

    In other words, the IPCC should be treated as a utility? This seems to me to completely miss what the real problem was with the IPCC. The IPCC itself was supposed to be the independent body, auditing climate research, to present the current state of climate science. The key question is, independent of whom?

    The concept behind utility regulation is that some services are better provided by a monopoly, but lack of competition harms the customers. So you allow a private (or quasi-private) entity to own the utility, and a governmental entity regulates the utility to account for the lack of market discipline usually provided by competitors. Their divergent interests check and balance one another (in theory).

    In the case of the IPCC, the organization has been led by those who share the political and policy goals of their patrons/would be regulators. There is no competition of interests between the IPCC and the UN, or virtually any of the progressive western governments who pay the UN’s bills. There is no check and balance because their goals are the same, the expansion of centralized government control.

    But the problem is essentially becoming moot, thanks to the free market. Technological innovation and free markets tend to make monopolies obsolete. In fact, in a modern free market economy, monopolies pretty much need the assistance of government to continue to exist after their initial establishment. Microsoft couldn’t raise barriers to entry high enough to keep out competitors. Even classic utilities like electricity and natural gas are being exposed to competition because of advances of technology that are inevitable in a free market system.

    The IPCC lost its knowledge monopoly some time ago. There is no need to reform it. There are already myriad competing sources of climate information. There is simply no need for a central, governmental, progressive clearinghouse for climate information. Don’t reform it, let it die.

    • “The IPCC lost its knowledge monopoly some time ago.”
      Yes, if you are the sort of person who frequents the climate blogs.
      Not really, if you get your climate news from the mainstream media.
      No, if you are a civil servant.

      • The death of Copenhagen, and cap and trade in the U.S., suggests that the monopoly is lost as to more than the blogatariat.

        “Civil servants” are not kept blind by the monopoly, they are overwhelmingly progressive and do not read beyond the NYTimesWashPostCNNABCCBSNBC. Their blindness is willful and ideological, not a failure of the “knowledge free market.”

      • Your hatred of “progressives” and far-right ideology are off topic and beside the point, yet you feel compelled to inveigh against “progressives” no matter the topic of the thread.

        This is needless and pointless.

      • John Carpenter

        You are over reacting here Robert… I do not read any ‘hatred’ in GaryM’s post. You are trolling for an emotional reaction here, which is ‘needless and pointless’.

      • randomengineer

        GaryM is correct. Read Charles Murray regarding the new elite class. Murray is hardly a right wing idealogue.

        Essentially GaryM is saying the same thing, that the new elite BY CHOICE are those electing to be “progressives” and/or consider themselves to be a different class than most Americans. The modern urban progressive has nothing in common whatsoever with the common folk who work in diners or factory floors or repair toilets. And it’s modern urban progressives who work the jobs in question.

        This conscious choice also informs their politics such that a truly “free” information market doesn’t exist at all for them. If Einstein were from a small town in Arkansas and felt to be redneck his ideas on physics would never be heard by the wannabe new elites. Information from unapproved sources can’t possibly be correct, after all.

        Rather than slapping GaryM, what you’re managing to do here is demonstrate the very real genius of one Charles Murray.

  7. If I remember correctly Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick proposed something similar in “Taken By Storm”. Such reform of the IPCC should be combined with Ross’ more recent proposal that scientific academies should follow those devoted to economics and no longer take sides in areas of controversy.

  8. Hank Zentgraf

    Judith, it is so exasperating to follow the behavior of the IPCC and not see progress on the changes they need to make to rid themselves of the monopoly . What are the major climate funding agencies saying about all this? Perhaps they are part of the problem!

    • It seems to be a chicken and egg issue. I have a draft post on the funding agencies, maybe its time to resurrect that one.

      • The funding agencies are really the heart of the problem. In the US the USGCRP agencies control about $2 billion a year in Climate research funding. This is estimated to be half the global total. The USGCRP reports are even worse that the IPCC when it comes to pro-AGW bias and argumentation. See http://www.globalchange.gov/.

        This is the real monopoly, the funding monopoly. Almost all the money goes to projects that are subsidiary to AGW — the carbon and water cycles, aerosols, and modeling. Natural variability gets almost nothing. They are simply paying to refine AGW, including pumping out disaster scenarios. Then the IPCC simply reports the cumulative results. The IPCC was set up in 1988, the USGCRP in 1990. They are both part of an informal system set up to promote AGW.

  9. a new entrant would have to invest time and effort over a longer period to perhaps match the reputation, trust, goodwill, and network of the IPCC. . . .

    I absolutely agree that those that yearn for an alternative to the IPCC would have to work very hard for a long time in order to “perhaps match the reputation, trust, goodwill, and network of the IPCC” (especially given the fraud-ridden start, and the paucity of trained scientists among their ranks) but the solution for that is for them to get on with it, not to, in effect, impersonate a credible actor by appropriating the reputation of the IPCC.

    • Without repression, blacklisting, spinning vague results and having willing political tools in the media and elsewhere how could this farce have gotten this far?

      Of course there is a willing political base to buy in. The IPCC in the end was a politcal creation not a natural science organization. Not that many science organizations can’t likewise become corrupted by politcal passions of the day. It’s the global scale and stakes that make the IPCC so especially evil.

  10. Willis Eschenbach

    We didn’t need the IPCC in the first place.

    We don’t need the IPCC now.

    There is no need for the IPCC in the future.

    Judith, perhaps you could point out a single benefit that we have gotten from the IPCC. How has it improved things? How has it made out lives better?

    My advice for the IPCC is to kill it several times until it is dead, and then burn the remains with all the fossil fuel we can find. It has never been a force for science, and it is an anti-science force now. I am astounded that anyone wants to keep it alive. What did it ever do for us, other than mangle the science, insult and ignore anyone who disagreed with the “consensus”, and lie through its teeth about every subject it has touched?

    Seriously, folks … what has the IPCC done for you, lately or otherwise?


    • “It has never been a force for science, and it is an anti-science force now.”

      That is a pretty bold card for you to be playing, my friend.

      “What did it ever do for us, other than mangle the science, insult and ignore anyone who disagreed with the “consensus”, and lie through its teeth about every subject it has touched?”

      And yet they still won’t hire you, not with all your accomplishments along those lines. It’s a mystery.

      The IPCC is, as Richard Tol points out, the most trusted voice on climate science, precisely because they accurately summarize the state of the science.

      Your problem is with the science, not with the IPCC.

      • This is delusional, where is there a predictive model, linear equation regarding c02 input and where is this “science” conclusion? Many who served with the working groups on the IPCC never agreed with the corrupt and political summary board. Many knew what the conclusion would be even before any of the research had begun.

        It was always an agenda with “science” as a political tool.

        Alamist have turned “science” into an Orwellian term.

    • You touch it with a needle.

      I wish Dr. Curry would cross the Rubicon and abandon what scant clinging to honesty existed when the topic is so obviously driven an overwhelming political need to tax and regulate the globe under the pretense of eco-green extremism and culture.

    • The IPCC has many problems and has lost much of its credibility, especially recently. But I do think the idea of a comprehensive assessment of the science of climate change is a good idea. I just think the IPCC has performed terribly in that capacity. The reins of the organization have been seized by alarmists with an agenda. The IPCC is not attempting an honest assessment of the science. The IPCC is acting like an attorney in the court room. They want to get their pets ideas entered into evidence (the assessment reports) while suppressing evidence which may tend to support the side of the skeptics. The way it is going AR5 is going to be just as one-sided and anti-science as AR4. The only way to achieve any proximity to a balanced assessment is to have a Majority Report and a Minority Report. See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/13/a-modest-proposal-in-lieu-of-disbanding-the-ipcc/

  11. Why have an IPCC at all? What’s wrong with national scientific bodies cooperating with each other at conferences etc and advising their own governments on the latest research? It may mean some countries arriving at different conclusions about the science but that is healthy and can be resolved through debate. The present situation seems to be an information monopoly where dissenting views are marginalized. Why does scientific cooperation have to be done under the single umbrella of the UN? It doesn’t unless it has already been decided that the policy response to the science has to be owned by a single political body and dictated worldwide.

    • I think if you honestly examine the reasons you are afraid of the IPCC and yearn to destroy it, you’ll see what it’s good for: it summarizes the matters of common (not universal) agreement among scientists; it synthesizes the relevant finds across disciplines; it highlights the information that is most relevant for policymakers and other decision makers. That, with about 50 full-time employees.

      Global warming is a global problem and there is a benefit to an organization examining it from a supranational perspective.

      • On the contrary, the IPCC reports read just like a legal brief, completely one sided. A true assessment lays out the alternatives and controversies. Reading the IPCC reports one would never know that many of these even exist. Those that are considered are summarily dismissed. Moreover, the expert reviewer comments point them out, but are ignored.

        As McIntyre points out, if this were a stock prospectus the authors would go to jail, yet the financial implications of the IPCC reports dwarf any stock offering.

      • Robert, science is supposed to be universal. Autonomy is healthier than control.

    • You can’t have a global regulated state without an empowered U.N. directive.

      co2 was always a pretense, historically an important one but just a card in the game. Of course a vast amount of trust in both science in general and government authority was wasted (a good thing really). When the failure point is overwhelming these force will split on new topics like “biodiversity” etc. The agenda will remain the same.

  12. Robert:

    “…… there is a benefit to an organization examining it from a supranational perspective.”

    Can you tell us what that benefit is please?

    • Perhaps Robert’s lack of response to this question is an indication of why he believes supranational bodies confer advantages. He just doesn’t want to admit that it’s all about politics and subverting national interests and democratic values. There are no particular advantages of supranational bodes from a scientific perspective unless you wish to control the conclusions for political purposes.

  13. Yes, the IPCC should be disbanded and destroyed as an organisation once and for all. It is responsible for everything that’s wrong with climate science and climate related politics and policies.

  14. I’d characterize it as more of an attempt to monopolize legitimacy rather than knowledge.

    • Fair enough.

    • Exactly! It is not knowledge at all. Legitimacy! Not earned but stolen and made up.

    • I don’t see that at all. The National Academic of Sciences has legitimacy. Britain’s Royal Society has legitimacy. The CIA and the US military have, in their own way, legitimacy. All have made their statements on their assessment of the consequences of climate science; all are saying much the same thing as the IPCC, in some cases more loudly and more insistently. And this is true of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual scientists around the world. I do not see any way in which the IPCC is threatened or diminished by their legitimacy or vice versa.

      Fringe beliefs at odds with the evidence and the considered opinion of the vast majority of competent experts will always struggle with legitimacy. This is not to say their critiques always lack merit or will never be accepted. But the legitimacy crisis among “skeptics” is not caused by the IPCC; it is a natural consequence of who they are, what they are arguing, and how they are choosing to make their case. Doing new science, getting more credible spokespeople and policing the crazies, and most of all finding some evidence in the natural world to support the critique are the key problems in developing legitimacy.

      Richard Tol says the IPCC is a brand. I’m not sure I agree with the analogy, but let’s go with it. The IPCC is Starbucks, and Richard Tol and friends have a coffeshop on the corner. Naturally they don’t like Starbucks. But if they want to successfully coexist, or even in the best case to expand and replace Starbucks, the place to start in not a plea to dismantle Starbucks, or sue for the right to call yourself “Starbucks” and sell your coffee with a mermaid on the cup. The first step is to MAKE SOME GOOD COFFEE THAT PEOPLE WANT TO DRINK (do some good science) and the second step is to make your shop the place people want to drink their coffee (get rid of the liars, the incompetents, and the ranting crazies). That’s how you turn a little coffeeshop into a brand.

      • Robert, you are really on to something. Tell us more.

      • People who are used to Starbucks coffee, do not appreciate finest espresso from the coffeshop on the corner. They need to develop a taste for quality.

      • all are saying much the same thing as the IPCC, in some cases more loudly and more insistently. And this is true of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual scientists around the world. I do not see any way in which the IPCC is threatened or diminished by their legitimacy or vice versa.

        That is the most profound statement I think I’ve ever seen. I am forced to agree that I don’t think I’ve ever seen an IPCC supporter try to de-legitimize another IPCC supporter. In other news, sun to rise in the east tomorrow.

      • If the IPCC were legitimate it would be focused on the best members and have no requirement that they be “supporters”. The opposite has happened of course. Dissent to the mission statement of linking man (co2 in particular) to warming is met with social and peer ostracization and ridicule.

        The IPCC is a political organization first and foremost.

      • “The National Academic of Sciences has legitimacy. Britain’s Royal Society has legitimacy. The CIA and the US military have, in their own way, legitimacy”

        Statism, expanding global authority, collectivism don’t stop or start with the IPCC or even this particular fetish regarding co2 regulations to “save the world”. It’s a chapter in a very long struggle that is far from concluded. There is conflict in all the organizations mentioned and the ability to coordinate the alarmist and eco-agenda messages on many fronts has been part of the story. The place of “science” in the larger general public has been reduced by the politiization and agenda science growth. Doctors, lawyers and many other professions have seen their social authority and respect depleted over generations as well.

        There are many factions but two great sides with many conflicts in the U.S.. Millions of active parties, the idea that an emotional, anti-industrial, anti-business movement could be spun from research and university channel is no great surprise.

        The burden of proof has always been on co2 alarmists to produce a rational and verifiable science transaction if wants a specific regulaton to be justified. Instead we only have abstract “theory” that is neither predictive or quantitative. Psychology or string theory have a place or respect in academic life but the idea it could mandate to industry policy without a shred of tangible and repeatable evidence and validity is absurd. The IPCC and much of climate science is a polemic for a political purpose. The shop that judges skeptics is self-appointed and funded by those with the greatest incentives to centralize political authority. It’s a form of corruption.

      • Very nicely put.

      • “Statism, expanding global authority, collectivism”

        These words signal entry into libertarian fantasyland — nothing to do with climate, not on topic, nothing to do with the practical politics of the matter (libertarians poll less than 1% in national elections.)

      • Robert –
        “Statism, expanding global authority, collectivism”
        These words signal entry into libertarian fantasyland — nothing to do with climate, not on topic, nothing to do with the practical politics of the matter

        No, the only fantasy is in your denialism of how climate alarmism is such a perfect servant for statism, expanding global authority, collectivism.

      • cwon,

        Regulating the use of coal and oil out of the economy, increasing redistributive taxes to a massive degree, centralizing control of the energy economy in the government, ceding additional sovereignty to unaccountable international organizations, and creating one additional layer of bureaucracy upon another is not political. Decarbonizing the economy back to the horse and buggy era is simply a matter of science. Just ask a progressive. Better yet, ask that great scientist Pol Pot.

    • Pooh, Dixie

      Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton (1887)

  15. National or international, it’s all the same monster. It’s a distraction.

    Humans need to find a way to reduce (not fight nor wage war against) corruption and hypocrisy. Our institutions have to be designd to be much less prone to corruption and hypocrisy. It shouldn’t be that difficult (negative feedbacks). Currently, they are full of positive feedbacks, amplifying any small disturbance.

    Maybe, we should try on smaller scales.

  16. The American military uses ‘red team’ testing to challenge their own consensus practices. Ironic, that it takes an institution commonly considered as fossilized (fighting the last war) to institutionalize ‘thinking outside the box.’ But of course, for the military, failure is truly catastrophic.

    So let’s imagine Bill Gates putting a few tens of millions of dollars on the table to put together a team of scientists to audit the work of the IPCC. Hire the hottest young researcherer – post-docs and junior faculty – and S. McIntyre – and reward them for taking apart the IPCC reports line by line. Tell them they could make their careers by legitimately overcoming the consensus. And then set them against the consensus – just like the U.S. Army does. Now that would be an interesting project.

  17. I always like to have a look at the problem definition, as it is always easy to come up with great ideas, especially if they will affect someone other than yourself, if you are not paying or you stand to benefit. The problem definition I found for the IPCC is as follows:

    “..establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide internationally co-ordinated scientific assessments of the magnitude, timing and potential environmemental and socio-economic impact of climate change and realistic response strategies..” (from UN General Assembly 43rd Session).

    This definition pre-supposes a problem. It is not seeking to identify whether man is impacting on the climate and via what mechanisms. If you read through the UN notes they were already convinced that changes in climate were having an impact on development. So I am not surprised by what they do. They can’t really be unbiased in their approach. The very reason for their being must create a self-selection problem, which will be self reinforcing. I am not sure you could even introduce a majority/minority view approach as this is likely to end up being about the magnitude of an impact rather than the existence of an impact.

    Much of what many of us seek could only be addressed by a change in the reason the IPCC exists. It would need a broader scope, such as improving the understanding and research on the global climate, including researching the relative impacts of natural drivers and cycles and human development.

    Even this would not guarantee an unbiased outcome but it would potentially balance the emphasis of the research and analysis.

    • Well, one of the “impact magnitudes” to be considered would be zero. If they were honest, it would come out as the best approximation and hence “projection-prediction”.

  18. I agree that the IPCC is no longer a monopoly in the way it once was, though that doesn’t mean they can’t continue to cause much mayhem..

    Still, things are changing. These days whenever I read some fawning, insipid article that usually begins something like,” According to the Nobel Prize winning IPCC which operates under the inspiring leadership of the brilliant Dr. Rajendra Pachauri…,” I still want to lose my lunch. But the nausea is now mixed with profound incredulity that the writer could really be so utterly clueless. It’s hard to be that clueless these days, yet many still manage it.

  19. I find Richard Tol’s assertions puzzling, since the claim that the IPPC is a “knowledge monopoly” is clearly untrue – indeed, it would be an irresponsible individual whose interest in climatology was pursued only or even mainly through the IPCC, given the rich published literature, not to mention some blog sources that provide abundant content. Perhaps if he had termed it a “policy advice monopoly”, the argument would have more merit, but it is still not a monopoly in that realm, because there is no dearth of competitors willing to offer conflicting advice, no dearth of politicians willing to give more credence to the competitors than to the IPCC, and no dearth of media sources willing to communicate these views to the lay public. Perhaps that is not true in Ireland, but it is clearly the case in the U.S.

    This is not to say that IPCC reforms are unnecessary – these have been discussed at length in this blog and elsewhere. From my perspective, however, I have the impression that many of the fiercest criticisms of the IPCC stem not from what it does wrong but from what it does that would be considered right in the eyes of many knowledgeable observers, but to the displeasure of individuals and groups unhappy with the implications of its findings. I don’t want to be unfair to Tol, but if he believes a 2 C to 4 C rise in global temperature will be beneficial, I would place him among those whose displeasure with the predictions of net harm is misguided.

    Some of Tol’s proposal for internal review and reform of the IPCC deserve serious consideration, but I believe outside regulation or externally imposed standards of “two-sidedness” would be a step backwards (in saying this, I’m presuming that the prominent competing voices are not similarly to be constrained). It seems to me the IPCC has an obligation to weigh all arguments, but not an obligation to give them equal weight. The success in recent years of the competitors in impugning the credibility of the IPCC when it was deserved, and when it was not, testifies to the adequacy of competition. Some might argue that the competition has monopolized the political arena in some societies, but that is the nature of democracy.

    My perception is that significant IPCC reform is now inevitable. Based on my sense that the institution performs a valuable service, I hope that will lead to an IPCC that is much improved, but also stronger and more credible rather than weaker than the one of recent years.

    • Semantics are important here. The IPCC cannot give “policy advice” and it does not do “research”. The IPCC does not provide “data”,not does it provide “information” (=structured data). That’s why I settled on “knowledge”, that is information structured to support a narrative — as in “we KNOW that climate change is caused by humans and dangerous”.
      Semantics do not travel well, though. Please substitute the words that you are more comfortable with.
      The IPCC is, by law, the sole provider of knowledge to the UN, and a lot of that is transmitted through the UNFCCC to national legislation.
      With a few exceptions, politicians in power follow the IPCC line. Ditto for civil servants. Even the USEPA, with its substantial analytical capacity and its wide network of deep expertise, often copies IPCC material. Comparable bodies in other jurisdictions slavishly follow the IPCC.

      • Brandon Shollenberger

        On a personal note, I didn’t have trouble understanding the distinction, even prior to your explanation. Apparently “clearly untrue” means “clearly untrue if you think the way I do.”

    • Alexander Harvey


      I doubt that it matters much. Personally I find such characterisations of the IPCC tend over emphasise its importance. It is a primary resource for the little people, both small nations and the chattering public. The handful of players that really matter all have their own information systems.

      In UN terms, it breaks along familiar lines, those that truly matter, the permanent members, US, China, Russia, UK & France (as parts of the EU), and the rest. The main blocs, US, EU, China, plus the likes of Russia and Japan, all possess their own national climate groups. For them the IPCC may be useful, but not decisive.

      The major players have national perspectives that are at odds with that of the IPCC membership. They must carve up global resources and reach accomodations which will be informed by their analysis of climatic consequences amongst many other factors. It is but part of the great game where they seek advancement of narrow national interests and their position on, and the nature of, the global playing field.

      In terms of nation states, there are only two significant players, the US & China, both these and inicidently but very specifically the EU, have federal issues that need to be squared away. The presidencies of the US and China seem to have the best structured hands to play and whereas the inadequacies of the UN process may be irritating, in the sense that it fails to provide a covering set of internationally agreed goals, I doubt this does much to influence their perceived national interests.

      There are a lot of hard decisions to be made and whereas I think that the major players would prefer to make use of the cover of that the UN process could give to tough and unpopular choices on energy provision and consumption, I doubt that this will prove but a minor delay in the process of enacting the inevitable, and that the minor players will get what they are given, the crumbs.


      • If only. The EPA explicitly deferred to the IPCC in lieu of doing its own research. For the obvious reason that the IPCC provided exact justification for the policy it wanted to follow: suppression of CO2 production as a control mechanism for the entire economy.

  20. Tol says he can’t prove the IPCC is a natural monopoly, but he thinks it’s akin to one, ant therefore should be regulated.

  21. According to Tol “the impact of climate change is relatively small”. Tol characterises his position as arguing that the economic costs of climate policy should be kept in proportion to its benefits. In an interview with Der Spiegel in 2005, he argued that temperature rises between 2-4 °C would also have advantages.

    I wonder if this still accurately characterizes Dr. Tol’s thinking in 2011. I’ve been reading his blog — very interesting stuff — and he seems to at least acknowledge the possibility of very substantial harms:

    In a statistical analysis, (Dell et al., 2009) find that one degree of warming would reduce income by 1.2% in the short run, and by 0.5% in the long run. The difference is due to adaptation. (Horowitz, 2009) finds a much larger effect: a 3.8% drop in income in the long run for one degree of warming. In a yet-unpublished study, (Dell et al., 2008) find that climate (change) has no effect on economic growth in countries with an income above the global median ($PPP,20003170) but a large impact on countries below the median. If adaptation can be completed within 10 years, economic growth in the 21st century would be 0.6% slower if climate changes according to the A2 scenario than in the case without climate change. If economic growth is 2.6% per year without climate change, and 2.0% with, then a century of climate change would reduce income by 44%.

    In sum, the literature on the impact of climate and climate change on economic growth and development has yet to reach firm conclusions. There is agreement that climate change would moderate the rate of economic growth, by a little according to some studies and by a lot according to other studies. There is disagreement whether climate change would affect the process of climate change, with some studies suggesting that more people may be trapped in poverty and fewer people enjoying exponential growth.

    Maybe Dr. Tol could elucidate how (if at all) his thinking has changed in the six years since that interview with Der Spiegel.

    • Robert: My research has not shifted much. However, you cite a draft for the IPCC. It reflects what the literature says. I think that Dell is wrong, but I can’t put my finger on it, and she is a candidate for the Nobel Prize, so I report what she finds.

      • Thank you.

      • NOt agreeing with someone but reporting their findings anyway. I’ve only just stumbled across your work Dr Tol (thanks to our host), but i’m certainly liking your methodology.

  22. Like Fred above, I cannot see IPCC as knowledge monopoly, but Richard Tol gets closer to what I agree upon, when he specifies that he is discussing IPCC as supplier of policy advice. IPCC has an obvious special status in this arena.

    Based on this observation my proposal is that IPCC could continue its role in collecting and organizing scientific knowledge related to climate change, but it’s role as policy adviser should be modified. This is actually, what I have proposed before. When the range of knowledge is restricted to that, where scientific research has been done widely enough to compare results and reviews supported by such comparisons are possible, it’s possible to reach and document a sufficient level of objectivity (this would leave out much of WG2 and WG3). The procedures should be improved and the should probably be changed from writing books every 6 years or so to a continuous process that maintains an appropriately structured data base available through Internet. The auditing of the results would be an unavoidable consequence of the open availability of the information.

    Having this source of data is, however, not enough. Using the data as basis for policy decisions is demanding and requires support by groups of experts, but this is a place where breaking the monopoly is not a problem. Several highly qualified groups could be formed, and they could be allowed to have differing views. They would be in competition trying to gain influence through well justified and formulated analysis and advice based on this analysis. My idea is that at least some of these bodies would try to find stature by analysis that would not be too directly connected to specific political parties, but could find support across party lines. They might follow the idea of an honest broker, but in a way that extends to the analysis and comparison of alternative policies.

  23. It would seem this post at Bishop Hill blog would be relevant:

    “As everybody now knows, the headlines from IPCC WGIII report on renewable energy appear to have been written by Greenpeace. When the Summary for Policy Makers was published last month, I was one of many who noted the role of Greenpeace, and the extent to which the SPM’s authors were involved in the renewable energy industry. Steve McIntyre’s discovery has caused further criticism of the IPCC’s letting such overt agendas near its evidence-making for policy-makers, even from the green camp, albeit only because it is such bad PR. But there is yet more to this story.

    The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), who co-authored the report with Greenpeace, claims to be an ‘umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations’ of the renewable sectors. ‘EREC represents an industry with an annual turnover of EUR 70 billion and providing over 550.000 jobs’. They consist of a number of partner organisations, each representing one technology sector within renewable energy, such as wind, geothermal and solar, and each of these has as many as hundreds of members. As Mark Lynas points out, then, it is no surprise that the EREC ‘are of course enthusiasts for renewable energy’s prospects because they make money from selling wind turbines and solar panels, so hardly count as an unbiased source’.

    Do the EREC only make money by selling renewable energy technology? Well, it’s member organisations, and the hundreds of companies they each represent certainly do, especially given the subsidies available to renewable energy companies, thanks to EU policy. But Gawain Towler, press officer at UKIP, suggests on his blog that there may also be ‘public money floating around this august organisation’. I decided to look more closely at EREC’s funding. The EREC, and its eleven member organisations all share an address: Renewable Energy House, Rue d’Arlon, Brussels — a moment’s walk away from the European Parliament. But the EREC are much closer to the political institutions in Brussels than this.”


    • Thanks, Jim.

      Collapse of the AGW scam will go down in history as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – victory for the survival of mankind, science and constitutional government!

      Figuratively speaking, collapse of the AGW scam exposed Earth’s real heat source – an unstable neutron star over which world leaders, pompous scientists and other shysters have absolutely no control.

      More importantly, collapse of the AGW scam exposed a government monopoly that manipulated and hid experimental data since the time of the 1969 Apollo Mission to the Moon to promote the SSM (standard solar model) – the illusion that Earth’s heat source is the hydrogen-rich ball of waste products that accumulated around the neutron star.

      The SSM (standard solar model) does not explain solar flares, sunspots, coronal mass ejections, solar cycles or changes in Earth’s climate that arise from these solar events.

      The sordid history of the SSM story are shown in “Neutron repulsion” [The APEIRON Journal, in press (2011), 19 pages]:



  24. In related but OT news, the American Lung Association has released it’s 2011 Clean Air Survey.


  25. Judith Curry cited a paragraph from Tol’s conclusion:

    However, the IPCC has certainly extended its remit; many have accused the IPCC of haughtiness; innovation is slow; quality may have declined; and the IPCC may have used its power to hinder competitors – all things that monopolies tend to do, and none of which is in the public interest. The IPCC would perform better if it were regulated by an independent body which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance; if outside organizations would be allowed to bid for the production of IPCC reports and the provision of IPCC services; and if would-be competitors to the IPCC would be encouraged.

    This all makes sense. The IPCC certainly is a monopoly, just like the OPEC is a monopoly. One controls the world price and availability of petroleum for its own selfish benefit. The other does the same for “climate science”.

    It is clear that the IPCC process, itself, became corrupt. How else could the “hockeystick” have been accepted so eagerly without first doing “due diligence” to make sure it was based on good science? The corruption of the IPCC process may have been helped along by a handful of highly influential climate scientists who had their own hidden agenda and were acting in collusion (as was exposed by Climategate). But the basic underlying problem was the IPCC’s position as a monopoly (Tol’s observation), which resulted in an inherently corrupt process, which required the creation of alarming projections by the scientists.

    Tol calls for an outside “independent body, which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance”. Who should this be?

    I believe it will be difficult to find such a body, which will truly be objective (as we have seen with the many post-Climategate whitewashes by venerable societies).

    The best candidates for such a panel would probably be rational skeptics who are “outsiders” (like Steve McIntyre) or climate scientists (like Judith Curry or John Christy) who are part of the climate science community, but have distanced themselves from the so-called “mainstream consensus”, rather than the political leaders of the venerable scientific organizations, such as NAS or RS (these guys are unfortunately part of the problem).

    But in addition to an oversight committee it would be good to:

    – break up the monopoly into smaller groups (simple “trust busting”), encouraging “outsourcing” for reports, etc. (as suggested by Tol)

    – change its brief and focus away from simply investigating human-induced climate change and its impact, consequences plus possible mitigation and adaptation measures to truly researching all aspects of our planet’s climate and

    – remove it from political control of the UN, which has its own political agenda

    Will it happen?

    Or is there already too great a collusion of interests of individuals and groups, who stand to benefit from this multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded big business (and hence want to keep things as they are)?

    I think the proposal by Ron Cram has a better chance of really happening: future “Majority and Minority” reports, where all sides of the story are presented objectively, rather than overt “sales pitches” for only one side of the story, as we have now in the IPCC summary reports (especially the “Summary for Policymakers” reports).

    But even that will require a totally revised IPCC process and a fairly radical change of personnel to succeed.

    The patient is seriously ill and can only be saved (if at all) by radical surgery.


  26. Matt Skaggs

    Willis Eschenbach wrote:
    “We didn’t need the IPCC in the first place.”

    I disagree. Using your metaphor, a convincing case was made over twenty years ago that the earth’s “thermostat” might be broken. Failure requires a root cause analysis, what the climate world calls “attribution.” The UN was quite right in forming a panel to conduct this analysis, since no single entity at the time could do anything of the sort. I agree with everything else you have written about the IPCC in your many excellent essays. They failed miserably on the very first step of the root cause analysis, which is “verify that a failure has occurred.” They failed on the most important aspect of any entity doing root cause analysis, which is objectivity (not expertise. Expertise you can find, objectivity you have to start with.). From there it has become a circus.

  27. Path 1: a crisis exists, and greater power and funding must be allocated to the UN and its agencies to deal with it.

    Path 2: there is no crisis, and minimal funding and responsibility to keep a watch to warn if one begins to arise is all that is needed.

    Was there ever, and could there ever be, any doubt about which path the UN and its daughter branches would choose?

  28. Some people are missing one of Richard Tol’s main points, even though he has made it several times. It is all very well for us climate blog regulars with time on our hands to say that there are many alternative views out there.
    But the vast majority of policy makers, politicians, journalists, and even scientists, are just not aware of these. How many members of Congress are aware of Judith’s blog? For these ill-informed people, the IPCC presents the case and that’s the end of the story – they may be aware of one or two very minor errors but that’s all.

    Having said that, I don’t think his idea of some kind of ‘independent’ regulating body would work (remember the ‘independent’ review of the climategate emails?) The regulating body would be nobbled in the same way that the IPCC has been. Perhaps Geoffrey Boulton or Lord Oxburgh could serve on it.

    • PaulM

      You make an excellent point.

      The “mainstream” scientists, politicians and regulating bodies are in a bubble (caused by the “knowledge monopoly”).

      But we are also operating in another “bubble” on this blog, Climate Audit, and the others.

      As admirable as the work of our host here is, it is largely operating inside this bubble, as well (I am not counting any congressional testimonies and other more visible statements she has made).

      The key is to get the “non-monopoly” message across to those that need to become aware of it..

      This will not be easy, in view of the financial clout of the monopoly and the powerful network of colluding interests (mind you, I do not believe that this is a “conspiracy”, just a powerful “collusion of interests” and a multi-billion dollar climate business)..

      How many people, for example, are aware of the compilation of errors, distortions and exaggerations in the last IPCC report (mostly WG1), which you have put together?

      I personally believe this awareness can only occur with a complete discreditation of IPCC, its corrupt process and its biased and exaggerated projections.plus the flawed “science” supporting these.

      It has to be such that anyone predicting dangerous man-made global warming is automatically laughed at with rolling eyes.

      This will require an all-out attack, in my estimation.

      And this attack must occur in a highly visible medium – not just hidden on blogsites.

      Just as the “mainstream” have skillfully used the media to get the message of impending doom across with a continuous barrage of ever-increasing disaster predictions, a similar media blitz in the other direction will be needed.

      Polls across the world show that the general public has already started to “smell a rat” regarding the “dangerous AGW” hysteria, but the bureaucrats, politicians and regulating bodies are still in the dark.

      It will not be easy to get them out of their “bubble” (and some of them may actually be part of the “collusion of interests”).


    • I asked Richard Tol above a question on this very point, and did not get an answer.

      If this knowledge monopoly exists for everyone outside the blogosphere, how can you account for the abject failure of cap and trade and carbon taxes in the U.S. (so far) and the collapse of Copenhagen? Particularly when every western government at the time, including the U.S., was headed by progressives fully on the CAGW bandwagon?

      Copenhagen failed because the political tide had turned against the consensus, and is continuing to, in the U.S. at least. Obama desperately wanted the centralization of economic authority that a genuine Copenhagen accord would have given the government. But that centralized power wouldn’t do the progressives much good if they all got voted out of office the next year.

      Manacker notes that “the general public has already started to “smell a rat” regarding the ‘dangerous AGW’ hysteria, but the bureaucrats, politicians and regulating bodies are still in the dark.” Indeed, but the willful blindness of progressive politicians in the face of readily available skeptical information, does not equate to a monopoly.

      Just because every progressive pol chooses to shop at the same state run store does not mean it’s the only store in town.

  29. Richard Tol’s idea of competition with the IPCC is very similar to my own. Either the IPCC has to choose to produce a Majority and Minority Report (which I don’t see happening) or some other entity or group of researchers has to create a more objective assessment of current science.

    I have exchanged emails with Roger Pielke Sr. on this idea and he believes it would only be possible if the competitive effort was funded or endorsed by one or more government agencies. Funding always makes tasks easier but in today’s world international climate meetings in Cancun are not really necessary. We have cloud computing, video conferencing and many other tools which allow researchers to collaborate on a work product without leaving their office. It is my understanding that the editors and other authors of AR4 were not paid for their time.

    I am not certain funding is really the big issue in Dr. Pielke’s mind. I think it is probably more an issue of some body of decision-makers who have requested a competitive assessment to AR5. I am not very political and would prefer politics to stay out of science assessments but perhaps Dr. Pielke is correct. Perhaps the only government entity which would be interested in a competitive assessment would be the US House of Representatives. It is currently led by the opposition party. Perhaps there is another political body in the UK or Australia which might join in the request for a competitive assessment?

  30. Robert

    You stated:

    According to Tol “the impact of climate change is relatively small”. Tol characterises his position as arguing that the economic costs of climate policy should be kept in proportion to its benefits

    You seem to take issue with this position (or even doubt that it reflects Tol’s real thinking on the matter by citing an earlier quote by Richard Tol in “Der Spiegel”.

    But I think you will see that this is the case, even in the eyes of the IPCC.

    In its AR4 WG1 SPM report IPCC lists the various radiative forcing components in Figure SPM.2. This listing shows that (since pre-industrial 1750) CO2 has had an estimated radiative forcing of 1.66 W/m^2, while the “total net anthropogenic” forcing was 1.6 W/m^2. This is convenient, since it tells us that all other anthropogenic forcing components (aerosols, other GHGs, land use changes, albedo changes, etc.) cancel one another out and can be ignored.

    On this basis we can estimate the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity, based on IPCC’s ice core estimated of pre-industrial CO2 levels and current Mauna Loa CO2 measurements plus the 161-year HadCRUT surface temperature record. Making this calculation, using the logarithmic CO2/temperature relationship, we arrive at a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 1.4°C.

    The same IPCC list gives total natural forcing (i.e. limited to direct solar irradiance) a very low value (around 8% of the impact of CO2), although IPCC does concede that its “level of scientific understanding” of these factors is “low”. So one should look elsewhere for this information.

    Many solar studies tell us that roughly half of the 20th century warming can be attributed to the unusually high level of solar activity (highest in several thousand years), with much of this occurring in the first half of the century.

    Taking these data into account, we arrive at a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 0.7°C.

    But, let’s ignore this for now, and go back to IPCC.

    At the end of the SPM report, IPCC gives a listing of “The Emission Scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES)”.

    A closer look at “Scenario B1” shows that it represents the case where atmospheric CO2 continues to increase exponentially at the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) we have seen since Mauna Loa readings started in 1958 (also the same CAGR we have seen over the past 5 years), from the value measured in 2005 of 379 ppmv to a projected 580 ppmv in 2100.

    This exponential growth rate is projected to continue, despite the fact that population growth has decreased from it’s 1960-2000 rate of 1.7% per year to around 1% today, and is expected by the UN to decrease to 0.3% CAGR over the 21st century, leveling off at around 9 billion sometime near the end of the century.

    IPCC has also shown other scenarios and storylines with “very rapid economic growth” and/or “continuously increasing global population” plus higher projections of CO2 increase, but these appear much less likely to actually occur. The two top “scenarios” assume more CO2 increase than is contained in all the optimistically estimated fossil fuel reserves of our planet, so these can be discarded.

    So it appears that “scenario B1” represents an upper end of the realistic range to be expected.

    Table SPM.2 gives estimates of “projected global average surface warming… at the end of the 21st century”

    These are based on the IPCC model-derived 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3.2°C, so let’s stick with that estimate for now.

    It shows that scenario B1 will result in warming of 1.8°C.

    So what could we do to avert this warming?

    In the same table, IPCC states that with ”constant year 2000 concentrations” (IOW shutting down the world’s carbon economy completely in 2000) we would have warming of 0.6°C by the end of the 21st century.

    So the most extreme mitigation case imaginable would have given us a net reduction in year 2100 warming of 1.2°C.

    Using these data supplied by IPCC, we can now back-calculate the amount of warming we could theoretically avert with other mitigation actions, again using the IPCC climate sensitivity of 3.2°C.

    Let’s “shut down” the USA carbon-based economy completely.

    USA CO2 emissions represent 17.8% of global CO2 emissions, so the net reduction in added CO2 would be roughly 0.178 * (580 – 390) = 33.8 ppmv. Using the logarithmic CO2/temperature relationship, this gives us a net reduction in year 2100 global temperature of 0.26°C.

    Shutting down the USA economy is obviously not a realistic option, as it would cost many trillions of dollars and cause immense turmoil and grief.

    The calculated impact, based on IPCC assumptions, is likely to be on the high side, in view of the very high climate sensitivity assumed for the calculation (the actual temperature/CO2 record shows us it is high by a factor of 2 to 4).

    But even the IPCC numbers confirm that we are unable to change our planet’s climate, no matter how much money we throw at it.

    So let’s switch to following the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared”.

    This means preparing to adapt locally and regionally to any climate changes that may occur if and when they do actually occur with cost-effective, practical solutions.

    At the same time (following Judith Curry’s logic) develop a better understanding of all the many huge uncertainties related to both natural and anthropogenic climate change of our planet, so that we can arrive at better forecasts of what we should expect and prepare for.

    That would be my idea of the best “Precautionary Principle”.

    And it appears that Richard Tol agrees.


    • Robert

      Forgot to cite reference to soar studies.

      These are (among others): Shapiro et al. 2011, Scafetta + West 2006, Solanki et al. 2004, Shaviv + Veizer 2003, Lockwood + Stamper 1999, Geerts + Linacre 1997, Gerard + Hauglustaine 1991.


  31. Science by poll numbers and political culture? I think you are fairly well revealed as is the ipcc and its minions.

  32. Richard Tol is an itinerant without a fixed base and a rather good opinion of himself. Others, not Eli to be sure, might ask why.

    And, of course, his contributions to the various IPCC reports were not to WGI, but to WGII and WG III. You know, the ones youse are always complaining about.

    Fundamentally Tol’s position is not that the IPCC is an information monopoly, but that they have not adopted his POV and he wants someone to tell them to do so right quick.

    Now Eli might think that the IPCC had an information monopoly if he had not read many other reports from such as the US Global Change Research Program and he might think that the IPCC was unique, if he were not aware of such as the WMO/UNEP Science Assessment Panel on Stratospheric Ozone.

    But there is another problem dears. There is a fairly clear consensus position on climate change among those who know something about climate, and that is summarized by the IPCC, which, contrary to our host’s bluster, does list and evaluate outlying positions, but you cannot define a minority position. You can define a minority cacophony. Is it the iron sun, the cosmic rays, gravity, natural cycles, whatever?

    • Is it the iron sun, the cosmic rays, gravity, natural cycles, whatever?

      It’s all of the above until proved false – and that hasn’t been done. Hand waving, assumptions and argumentum ad populum don’t work anymore.. :-)

      • Ah yes, the ‘it’s-gotta-be-something-else’ position. Anything. Gotta be.

        And our science genius demands they all must be proven false.

        I guess it it could be the space tea-pot causing it too. Has anyone proven that it isn’t?

        Others might suggest that the inability to present a shread of evidence, or suggest a plausible mechanism, might deflate iron sun and space tea-pot hypotheses.

        Now imagine if there was already a known mechanism of IR scattering that reduced IR loss to space resulting in a heating effect , and that the particulars of the mechanism were well understood, and that the substances responsible for this mechanism were very well known, and that we were increasing the concentration of this substance quite dramatically, and that we we seeing temperature rises as had had been hypothesized almost a century ago, and that some signs indicative of this particular mechanism for warming had been observed. Just imagine.

        Wouldn’t look good for the iron sun or the space tea-pot, would it?

      • Michael –
        Ah yes, the ‘it’s-gotta-be-something-else’ position. Anything. Gotta be.

        Don’t know much about science, do you? Nor, apparently, do you have much in the way of curiosity. But you certainly have an unshakable religious faith in the dogma.

        The “science” you quote may be part of the process, but it’s uncertain, incomplete and inadequate to provide complete explanation – therefore other mechanisms need investigation. Until that is done, then science is not satisfied. That it satisfies you is irrelevant and unimportant.

    • Eli Rabett

      But there is another problem dears. There is a fairly clear consensus position on climate change among those who know something about climate, and that is summarized by the IPCC, which, contrary to our host’s bluster, does list and evaluate outlying positions, but you cannot define a minority position.

      Sorry, Eli, but this is double-talk, starting with an illogical “argument from authority”.

      The “host’s bluster” is in your head, Eli. Take a deep breath and clear out the clutter in your brain. Our “host” here is showing reason, not “bluster”. How ’bout you?

      The “minority position” may be that the “majority position” is so full of holes that it can be discarded as scientific rubbish.

      Or it may simply take issue with one or another specific flaw in the “majority position”.

      By definition, there will not be a unified “minority position”, which marches in goose-step.

      Got it?


    • If Joe were to go around the boozers and lowlife dens of his native city that he frequents and continued referring to himself in the third person all the time Joe would be carted off to the psychiatrist. About ten minutes after he left A&E having had his bloody nose fixed up.

  33. Rattus Norvegicus


    Iron sun is nuts. Cosmic rays is running out of time. Gravity? Natural cycles is about all that’s left, yet the paleo evidence shows that they are a weak hook to hang your hat on.

    Just admit it is real and get on to where the real scientific debate is, impacts and mitigation vs. adaptation.

    • RN

      You opine:

      Cosmic rays is running out of time.

      I’d suggest you wait until the results of the CLOUD experiment at CERN are published before you make any proclamations.

      Natural cycles is about all that’s left, yet the paleo evidence shows that they are a weak hook to hang your hat on.

      “paleo evidence”? Fuggidaboudit, RN. The very subjective interpretations of reconstructed (and rather doubtful) data from cherry-picked paleo-climate periods tell us very little.

      Then there are the observed 60-year cycles in the record since 1850, which bear no relation to CO2.

      RN, you may be a “believer” , and maybe I should not shatter your “faith”, but there is no empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of past warming and. hence, that it represents a serious potential threat for humanity or our environment.


    • RN

      To your last point:

      Just admit it is real and get on to where the real scientific debate is, impacts and mitigation vs. adaptation.

      “IT” is real – if you mean the GH effect, the fact that CO2 is a GHG and the fact that human activities emit CO2.

      “Impacts” is part of the “real scientific debate”. Absolutely agree, RN. We have a range of climate sensitivities out there from 0.7C to 4.5C.

      As are debates on ” mitigation vs. adaptation”. Again, no disagreement from me, RN. I have seen no specific mitigation proposals that make any sense so far, but everyone generally agrees that adaptation will continue to play a role as it has in the past.


  34. McIntyre reports that Pachauri has stated that there will be no conflict of interest policy for AR5 authors

    • I’m sure he will be surprised and offended by any criticism of that stance…absolutely tone deaf.

    • Surprise!

      Guess who has the biggest “conflict of interests”?

      Who said..”the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance” ?

  35. Richard Tol : Few would argue that the IPCC is a secret world government in waiting.

    Yes there is no secret about it. Few would doubt that the UN is a would-be world-government-in-waiing, and of course the IPCC is part of the UN.

    The basic problem is we need to stop thinking of the IPCC as a source of information, and recognize that it is actually just a political pressure group, dedicated to increasing the level of govenment in the world. Being politically financed and politically motivated, it’s conclusions should be given no more weight than other activist groups such as Greenpeace.

  36. Pachie doesn’t seem to realize that his brush-off of conflict policy for AR5 dooms it to disreputable irrelevance in advance. The man is simply unconscious.