by Judith Curry
I’ve been invited to write a paper on the topic of consensus in climate change.
The journal is a review journal, outside the field of climate science. I am not sure exactly what the commissioning editor had in mind, but I have put together a draft (appended below). I hope to submit the paper sometime next week.
I look forward to your constructive comments. I am especially hoping for suggestions for the last section “Ways forward.”
Tentative title: Climate Change: No Consensus on Consensus (note: No consensus on consensus was the title of one of my first posts at Climate Etc.)
“Consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually” – Abba Eban
With the objective of providing a robust scientific basis for climate policy, the United Nations initiated a scientific consensus building process under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). The concept of consensus regarding climate change was introduced in the context of the IPCC in this statement by John Houghton in the Foreword to the IPCC First Assessment Report (FAR): (REF)
“Although, as in any developing scientific topic, there is a minority of opinions which we have not been able to accommodate, the peer review has helped to ensure a high degree of consensus among authors and reviewers regarding the results presented. Thus the Assessment is an authoritative statement of the views of the international scientific community at this time….”
Subsequent to the FAR, consensus became codified in the IPCC’s procedures: “in taking decisions, drawing conclusions, and adopting reports, the IPCC Plenary and Working Groups shall use all best endeavours to reach consensus.” REF
The IPCC consensus findings have been echoed by many scientific organizations, including the following that explicitly use the word “consensus” in their statements:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (2006)
- U.S. National Academies of Sciences (2008)
- Joint Science Academies statement (2005)
- American Meteorological Society (2003):
Wiengart (1999) states that the IPCC’s consensus approach has been largely driven by the desire to communicate climate science coherently to a wide spectrum of policy users. In this context, Goodwin (2011) argues that the IPCC consensus has been used as an appeal to authority in the representation of scientific results as the basis for urgent policy making.
The idea of a scientific consensus surrounding climate change has been rejected by a number of people, including both scientists and politicians. Notably, the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has written a report entitled Climate Change Reconsidered (Idso and Singer, 2009, 2011), that relatives or contradicts the main conclusions of the IPCC; Van der Sluijs (2012) argues that this report should be understood as a form of counter-expertise. The NIPCC report Appendix contains a list of over 30,000 scientists that do not support the IPCC consensus. While the NIPCC is nowhere near as well known as the IPCC, much effort has been undertaken by those that support the IPCC consensus to discredit skeptical voices including the NIPCC.
Apart from the issue of the relative merits of the IPCC versus the NIPCC reports, the mere existence the NIPCC report and the list of 30,000 scientists disputing the findings of the IPCC raises the issue of whether a scientific consensus on climate change makes sense, given the disagreement, uncertainties and areas of ignorance. As students of science, we are taught to reject ad populam or ‘bandwagon’ appeals; this sentiment is articulated by the motto of the UK Royal Society: ‘nullius in verba’, which is roughly translated as ‘take nobody’s word for it’.
Amidst the increasingly intense public debate on the issue of climate change and the recent challenges to the credibility of the IPCC (e.g. Grundman 2012; Beck 2012), the topic of consensus itself has become a topic of debate, in context of the science as well as it role in policy making. This essay seeks to shed light on these issues by providing context from the philosophy of science, psychology of cognitive biases, and decision making. This essay argues that the claim of consensus is the ultimate source of controversy surrounding the IPCC, and that a scientific consensus on controversial and complex topic is not needed for policy makers to act on the issue.
Consensus and the philosophy of science
“The areas of consensus shift unbelievably fast; the bubbles of certainty are constantly exploding.” – Rem Koolhaas
The debate surrounding the consensus on climate change is complicated by the complexity of both the scientific and the associated sociopolitical issues. Underlying this debate is a fundamental tension between two competing conceptions of scientific inquiry: the consensual view of science versus the dissension view (e.g. Laudan, 1984). Under the consensual approach, “the goal of science is a consensus of rational opinion over the widest possible field” (Ziman, 1967). According to Ziman, scientific consensus consists of a general body of scientific knowledge comprised of facts and principles that are firmly established and accepted without serious doubt, by an overwhelming majority of competent, well-informed scientists. Based upon this view, science is strictly cumulative (Laudan, 1984).
The opposing view of science is that of dissension. According to Laudan (1984), there are four arguments that undermine the consensus perspective: scientific research is controversy-laden; incommensurability of theories; underdetermination of theories; and successful counternormal behavior. The importance of controversy is evident in Kuhn’s (1977) arguments, whereby the emergence of new scientific ideas requires a process that permits rational men to disagree, with advocates of different paradigms often subscribing to different methodological standards and cognitive values. Underdetermination implies that inadequate data and understanding does not allow one theory to be selected unambiguously to the exclusion of all its competitors. Feyerabend (1978) has argued that there are many noteworthy instances of scientific progress whereby scientists have apparently violated the norms or canons usually called scientific.
Lehrer (1975) raises the following question: When is it reasonable for a person to conform to a consensus and when is it reasonable to dissent? His response:
“We shall answer the question in terms of an intellectual concern of science and rational inquiry. Succintly stated, the concern is to obtain truth and avoid error. We shall argue that consensus among a reference group of experts thus concerned is relevant only if agreement is not sought. If a consensus arises unsought in the search for truth and the avoidance of error, such consensus provides grounds which, though they may be overridden, suffice for concluding that conformity is reasonable and dissent is not. If, however, consensus is aimed at by the members of the reference group and arrived at by intent, it becomes conspiratorial and irrelevant to our intellectual concern.”
With genuinely well-established scientific theories, ‘consensus’ is not discussed and the concept of consensus is arguably irrelevant. For example, there is no point to discussing a consensus that the Earth orbits the sun, or that the helium molecule is lighter than the nitrogen molecule. While a consensus may arise surrounding a specific scientific hypothesis or theory, the existence of a consensus is not itself the evidence.
Yearly (2009) characterizes the IPCC consensus building process as “an exercise in collective judgment about subjective Bayesian likelihoods in areas of uncertain knowledge.” Goodwin (2011) argues that the IPCC consensus is a manufactured consensus, resulting from an intentional consensus building process. Judging the manufactured consensus of the IPCC by Lehrer’s standards implies that the IPCC consensus is not intellectually meaningful. This argument does not imply that the IPCC’s conclusions are necessarily incorrect, but leads to the conclusion that the consensus building process employed by the IPCC does not lend intellectual substance to their arguments.
Consensus and bias
“A long time ago a bunch of people reached a general consensus as to what’s real and what’s not and most of us have been going along with it ever since.” – Charles de Lint
If the objective of scientific research is to obtain truth and avoid error, how might a consensus seeking process introduce bias into the science and increase the chances for error? Confirmation bias is a well-known psychological principle (e.g. Nickerson 1998) that “connotes the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.” Confirmation bias usually refers to unwitting selectivity in the acquisition and interpretation of evidence.
Kelly (2008) provides some insight into confirmation bias, arguing that “a belief held at earlier times can skew the total evidence that is available at later times, via characteristic biasing mechanisms, in a direction that is favorable to itself.” Kelly (2008) also finds that “All else being equal, individuals tend to be significantly better at detecting fallacies when the fallacy occurs in an argument for a conclusion which they disbelieve, than when the same fallacy occurs in an argument for a conclusion which they believe.”
An individual’s assessment of a scientific issue and the associated levels of uncertainty can be influenced by the group dynamic in a consensus building process. In its recent review of the IPCC, the InterAcademy Committee (IAC) REF states that “Studies suggest that informal elicitation measures, especially those designed to reach consensus, lead to different assessments of probabilities than formal measures. Informal procedures often result in probability distributions that place less weight in the tails of the distribution than formal elicitation methods, possibly understating the uncertainty associated with a given outcome.” An example is provided by Morgan et al. (2006), who elicited subjective probability distributions from 24 leading atmospheric scientists that reflect their individual judgments about radiative forcing from anthropogenic aerosols. Consensus was strongest in their assessments of the direct aerosol effect. However, the range of uncertainty that a number of experts associated with their estimates for indirect aerosol forcing was substantially larger than that suggested by either the IPCC 3rd or 4th Assessment Reports.
Recent research by Koriat (2012) provides insight into the group dynamics of consensual judgments by examining how well a confidence-based strategy works in groups. When most people did not know the correct answers, confidence-based group decisions were worse than those of even the worst-performing individual, because group decisions are dominated by the more confident member. An implication of Koriat’s research is that in uncertain environments, groups might make better decisions by relying on the guidance of those who express the most doubt.
Kelly (2005) describes an additional source of confirmation bias in the consensus building process: “As more and more peers weigh in on a given issue, the proportion of the total evidence which consists of higher order psychological evidence [of what other people believe] increases, and the proportion of the total evidence which consists of first order evidence decreases . . . At some point, when the number of peers grows large enough, the higher order psychological evidence will swamp the first order evidence into virtual insignificance.” Kelly (2005) concludes: “Over time, this invisible hand process tends to bestow a certain competitive advantage to our prior beliefs with respect to confirmation and disconfirmation.”
With regards to the IPCC, cognitive biases in the context of an institutionalized consensus building process have arguably resulted in the consensus becoming increasingly confirmed in a self-reinforcing way. This ‘invisible hand’ that marginalizes skeptics is operating to the substantial detriment of climate science, as well as biasing policies that are informed by climate science.
Role of consensus in decision making
“To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.” – Margaret Thatcher
The mandate of the IPCC is to provide policy‐relevant information to policy makers involved in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Based upon the precautionary principle, the UNFCCC established a qualitative climate goal for the long term: avoiding dangerous climate change by stabilization of the concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases. The IPCC’s scientific assessments play a primary role in the legitimation of national and international policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The main practical objective of the IPCC has been to assess whether there is sufficient certainty in the science so as to trigger political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This objective has led to IPCC assessments being framed around identifying anthropogenic influences on climate, environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and stabilization of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
The role of consensus in this decision making is described by Oreskes (2004): “If we feel that a policy question deserves to be informed by scientific knowledge, then we have no choice but to ask, what is the consensus of experts on this matter? If there is no consensus of experts—as was the case among earth scientists about moving continents before the late 1960s—then we have a case for more research. If there is a consensus of experts—as there is today over the reality of anthropogenic climate change —then we have a case for moving forward with relevant action.”
Oreskes’ statement is based on the linear model of expertise (e.g. Beck 2011), or ‘speaking truth to power’, whereby first science has to ‘get it right’ and then policy comes into play. The influence of science on policy is assumed to be deterministic: if the scientific facts are ‘sound,’ or then they have a direct impact on policy. In the linear model, the key question is whether existing scientific knowledge is certain enough to compel action; Oreskes (2004) argues that we should not expect logically indisputable proof, but rather a robust consensus of experts. The linear model of expertise continues to dominate perceptions among climate scientists and policy makers to some extent (Beck 2011; Pielke 2007; Sarewitz 2010).
Van der Sluijs (2012) argues that the IPCC has adopted a ‘speaking consensus to power’ approach that sees uncertainty and dissent as problematic, and attempts to mediate these into a consensus. The ‘speaking consensus to power’ strategy acknowledges that available knowledge is inconclusive, and uses consensus as a proxy for truth through a negotiated interpretation of the inconclusive body of scientific evidence. The ‘consensus to power’ strategy reflects a specific vision of how politics deals with scientific uncertainties (Van der Sluijs, 2012) and creates a clear knowledge base for decision making following the linear model of expertise.
Van der Sluijs et al. (2005, 2008) characterizes scientific assessments of climate change as based on a mixture of knowledge, assumptions, models, scenarios, extrapolations, and known and unknown unknowns. Because of the limited knowledge base, climate change assessments unavoidably use expert judgments and subjective probability judgments based upon information ranging from well-established knowledge to judgments, educated guesses, tentative assumptions, and even crude speculation.
Classical decision making under the linear model involves reducing the uncertainties before acting. In the face of irreducible uncertainties and substantial ignorance, reducing the uncertainty is not viable, but not acting could be associated with catastrophic impacts. Under conditions of deep uncertainty or ignorance, optimal decisions based upon a scientific consensus can carry a considerable risk. Weitzmann (2009) characterizes the decision making environment surrounding climate change in the follow way: “Much more unsettling for an application of expected utility analysis is deep structural uncertainty in the science of global warming coupled with an economic inability to place a meaningful upper bound on catastrophic losses from disastrous temperature changes. The climate science seems to be saying that the probability of a system-wide disastrous collapse is non-negligible even while this tiny probability is not known precisely and necessarily involves subjective judgments.”
Obersteiner et al. (2001) describe the uncertainty surrounding the climate change science is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways: what is considered to be a serious problem could turn out to be less of a threat, whereas unanticipated and unforeseen surprises could be catastrophic. Obersteiner et al. argue that the strategy of assuming that climate models can predict the future of climate change accurately enough to choose a clear strategic direction might be at best marginally helpful and at worst downright dangerous: underestimating uncertainty can lead to strategies that do not defend the world against unexpected and sometimes even catastrophic threats. Obersteiner et al. note that another danger lies on the other side of the sword if uncertainties are too large and analytic planning processes are abandoned. While a higher level of confidence and a consensus can make decision makers more willing to act, overestimating the confidence can result in discounting the value of information in the decision making process if the confidence later proves to be unwarranted.
The linear model of expertise works well for ‘tame’ problems (e.g. Holt, 2004), where everybody pretty much agrees on both the problem and the solution. Successes in managing tame problems are evident in the domains of engineering and regulatory science. Beck (2012) argues that climate change has been framed as a relatively ‘tame’ problem that requires a straightforward solution, namely the top-down creation of a global carbon market. However, climate change is better characterized as wicked problem or a mess (e.g. Horn and Weber, 2007; Lazarus 2009). Holt (2004) argues that the general difficulty for consensus-building arises when problems which initially appear tame become ‘messes’, ‘wicked problems’ or even ‘wicked messes’ – where there are multiple problem definitions, the methods are open to contention and the solutions are variable and disputed, and ‘unknown unknowns’ suggest chronic conditions of ignorance and lack of capacity to imagine future eventualities of both the problem and the proposed solutions.
Consensus can play a constructive role in legitimizing policy based upon scientific research. The problems with a ‘speaking consensus to power’ approach are described by van der Sluijs (2012): it underexposes scientific uncertainties and dissent, making the chosen policy vulnerable to scientific errors; and it limits the political playing field in which players can present different policy perspectives.
Unintended consequences of the IPCC consensus
“Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.” – Michael Crichton
The consensus approach used by the IPCC has received a number of criticisms. Oppenheimer et al. (2007) warn of the need to guard against overconfidence and argue that the IPCC consensus emphasizes expected outcomes, whereas it is equally important that policy makers understand the more extreme possibilities that consensus may exclude or downplay. Gruebler and Nakicenovic (2001) opine that “there is a danger that the IPCC consensus position might lead to a dismissal of uncertainty in favor of spuriously constructed expert opinion.” Curry (2011) finds that the consensus approach being used by the IPCC has failed to produce a thorough portrayal of the complexities of the problem and the associated uncertainties in our understanding.
Goodwin (2011) argues the consensus claim created opportunities to claim that the IPCC’s emphasis on consensus was distorting the science itself. “Once the consensus claim was made, scientists involved in the ongoing IPCC process had reasons not just to consider the scientific evidence, but to consider the possible effect of their statements on their ability to defend the consensus claim.” (Goodwin, 2011) We have personally encountered this effect numerous times in our interaction with colleagues that support the IPCC consensus.
While the IPCC’s consensus approach acknowledges uncertainties, defenders of the IPCC consensus have expended considerable efforts in the “boundary work” of distinguishing those qualified to contribute to the climate change consensus from those who are not (Goodwin, 2011). These efforts have characterized skeptics as quantitatively small (e.g. Oreskes), extreme (Hassleman), and scientifically suspect (e.g Anderegg et al.) These efforts create temptations to make illegitimate attacks on scientists whose views do not align with the consensus, and to dismiss any disagreement as politically motivated ‘denialism.’ ( e.g. Trenberth, other REFS). Goodwin (2011) argues that this boundary drawing produces the strong appearance that the boundary between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ is based on political views.
There are broad consequences to this boundary work. McKitrick (20xx) argues that consensus statements by scientific organizations put words in peoples’ mouths, imposing groupthink and conformity. Consensus statements 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.” This marginalization acts to degrade the intellectual climate in the field, and the declaration of consensus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The scientists who disagree with some or all aspects of the IPCC consensus include not only scientists from within the field of climate science (however that might be defined), but an increasingly broad community of technical educated people from a range of science and engineering disciplines that have educated themselves on climate science. Some of these individuals are quite vocal and are frequently quoted by the mainstream media. This has led to increasingly vociferous attacks on these dissenting scientists by supporters of the IPCC consensus, and to the labeling of anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the consensus as a ‘denier.’ (e.g Hasselman, etc.) The use of ‘denier’ to label anyone who disagrees with the IPCC consensus leads to concerns about the IPCC being enforced as dogma, which is tied to how dissent is dealt with.
The linear model of expertise places science at the center of political debate. Scientific controversies surrounding evidence of climate change have thus become a proxy for political battles over whether and how to react to climate change (Pielke 2007). Therefore, winning a scientific debate means attaining a privileged position in political battle, hence providing motivation for defending the consensus. As a result, it has become difficult to disentangle political arguments about climate policies from scientific arguments about the evidence for human-induced climate change. The quality of both political debate and scientific practice suffers as a consequence (Hulme 2009c).
The linear model of expertise ‘speaking consensus to power’ tends to stifle discussion of alternative policy approaches. The IPCC has framed its assessment around the UNFCCC policy of stabilizing greenhouse emissions, focusing its assessment on the attribution of climate change and the sensitivity of climate change to greenhouse gases. Demeritt (2001) argues that the narrow focus on issues of attribution masks major political implications, marginalizes issues around adaptation and development, and fails to engage with alternative approaches and to generate ideas to inform its ‘solutions.’ Pielke (2012) argues that this narrow focus and ignoring our ignorance diverts attention away from options that do not depend on scientific certainties about climate change, such as accelerating decarbonization through expanding energy access, improving security, and improving resilience to extreme weather events.
While the public may not understand the complexity of the science or be culturally predisposed to accept the consensus, they can certainly understand the vociferous arguments over the science portrayed by the media. Further, they can judge the social facts surrounding the consensus building process, including those revealed by the so-called “Climategate” episode (e.g. Grundman 2012, Maibach et al. 2012; Beck 2012), and decide whether to trust the experts whose opinion comprises the consensus. Beck (2012) argues that “in a public debate, the social practices of knowledge-making matter as much as the substance of the knowledge itself.”
In summary, the manufactured consensus of the IPCC has had the unintended consequences of distorting the science, elevating the voices of scientists that dispute the consensus, and motivating actions by the consensus scientists and their supporters that have diminished the public’s trust in the IPCC and the consensus building process.
“Science is belief in the ignorance of experts” – Richard Feynman
Problems with a consensus seeking approach for the climate change problem have been described in the previous sections. In particular, the linear model of expertise is a significantly flawed approach for the climate change problem. Uncertainties, ambiguities, dissent and ignorance should not be concealed behind a scientific consensus. At the same time, these uncertainties should not be regarded as a restriction on decision making. The challenge is to open up the decision making processes in a way that renders their primary nature more honestly political and economic, while giving proper weight to scientific reason and evidence (Wynne 2010). Science should be a tool for policy action rather than a tool for political advocacy (Dessai et al. 2009).
The single most important thing that is needed with regards to the science – particularly in context of the IPCC assessment reports – is explicit reflection on uncertainties, ambiguities and areas of ignorance (both known and unknown unknowns) and more openness for dissent in the IPCC processes (e.g. Curry and Webster 2011; Curry 2011). Greater openness about scientific uncertainties and ignorance, and more transparency about dissent and disagreement, would provide policymakers with a more complete picture of climate science and its limitations. With regards to dissent, Van der Sluijs (2012) argues that it is important not to reject diverging opinions but to actually pay specific attention to them. Climate skeptics and other scientists who think differently than the mainstream (both that the problem is less severe and more severe) on certain points can fulfill a counter-expertise function in the debate about climate change. Solow (2011) argues that the IPCC must help the policymaker understand the current incompleteness of earth systems science and the full range of possible outcomes, with disagreements among experts revealed.
Along these lines, some specific recommendations for the IPCC have been made. Oppenheimer et al. (2007) state: “Increased transparency, including a thorough narrative report on the range of views expressed by panel members, emphasizing areas of disagreement that arose during the assessment, would provide a more robust evaluation of risk.” Van der Sluijs (2012) suggest including a dissent chapter in the synthesis report of the IPCC, which contains a sketch of minority scientific views and points of ongoing scientific dispute. Solow (2011) recommends that the IPCC provide a perspective of earth systems science as an evolving human enterprise, explaining how recent research has altered perspectives. In the context of iterative risk management, policy makers need insight into the rate of learning, as well as what is known and unknown. Curry (2011) argues for a concerted effort by the IPCC is needed to identify better ways of framing the climate change problem, explore and characterize uncertainty, reason about uncertainty in the context of evidence-based logical hierarchies, and eliminate bias from the consensus building process itself.
Moving forward requires a reassessment of the ‘consensus to power’ approach for the science-policy interface that has evolved in the context of the IPCC and UNFCCC. Given the discomfort associated with scientific uncertainty and ignorance in the linear model of expertise, Solow (2011) makes the point that “It will take courage to disclose lack of consensus.” He further states that coexistence of contending views (‘low agreement’) is normal in science, not a cause for embarrassment, and users of the IPCC reports need this information. Pielke (2012) cites an example of decision making described by Gross (2010): “The limited knowledge and predictive capacities of science were not seen to be signs of poor science. Instead, the actors agreed on what was not known and took it into account for future planning.” Pielke argues that awareness of ignorance actually opens up possibilities for political compromise and policies that proceed incrementally based on the feedback of practical experience: agreement on facts as a prerequisite to action is not necessary, so long there is an agreement to learn based on experience.
Holt (2004) argues that messes and wicked problems require organizations to abandon the desire to design a solitary strategy determined from within a specific ‘culture’. Holt views risk management for messes and wicked problems as the resolution between alternative solutions and the dissolution of confusions, more so than the pursuit of optimal solutions.
There are frameworks for decision making under deep uncertainty and ignorance that accept uncertainty and dissent as key elements of the decision making process (e.g. Lempert 2002; Smithson 2008; Van der Sluijs 2012). Rather than choosing an optimal policy based on a scientific consensus, decision makers can design robust and flexible policy strategies that account for uncertainty, ignorance and dissent. Robust strategies formally consider uncertainty, whereby decision makers seek to reduce the range of possible scenarios over which the strategy performs poorly. Flexible strategies are adaptive, and can be quickly adjusted to advancing scientific insights. These approaches have a drawback (e.g. van der Sluijs 2012): an overexposure of dissent and uncertainty, which in practice may undermine the basis for political policymaking. For these strategies to work, politicians need to take political responsibility and not hide endlessly behind scientific uncertainties. When working with policy makers and communicators, it is important that scientists not to fall into the trap of acceding to inappropriate demands for certainty from decision makers.
The perspective of Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993) on post normal science – characterized by conflicting values and deep uncertainties – is useful in moving forward on wicked problems and messes. When the stakes are high and uncertainties are large, Funtowicz and Ravetz point out that there is a public demand to participate and assess quality, which they refer to as the extended peer community. The extended peer community consists not only of those with traditional institutional accreditation that are creating the technical work, but also those with much broader expertise that are capable of doing quality assessment and control on that work. New information technology and the open knowledge movement is facilitating the rapid diffusion of information and sharing of expertise, giving hitherto unrealized power to the peer communities. This newfound power has challenged the politics of expertise, and the “radical implications of the blogosphere” (Ravetz 2011) are just beginning to be understood. Arguing from consensus to enforce their conclusions doesn’t work with the extended peer community; what is needed is serious attempts to engage the extended peer community with the modes of expert reasoning used to reach those conclusions (Beck 2012).
• [Political failure of international negotiations on climate treaties, which relied on consensus to power strategy (need refs)] INCOMPLETE
•[Rise of the bottom-up approaches e.g. adaptive governance, which requires a different interface between climate science and policy (regional, uncertainties, no regrets policies, learn as you go; no consensus needed (need refs)] INCOMPLETE
The climate community has worked for more than 20 years to establish a consensus. The IPCC consensus building process arguably played a useful role in the early synthesis of the scientific knowledge and in building political will to act. The impact of the IPCC consensus probably peaked in 2006-2007, at the time of publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Since then, the implications of the messy wickedness of the climate change problem have become increasingly apparent. Courtesy of the CRU emails, we have a better understanding of the sausage making that went into creating the IPCC consensus (e.g Ryghaug and Skjolsvold 2010). Manufacturing a consensus in the context of the IPCC has acted to hyper-politicize the scientific and policy debate, to the detriment of both. It is time to abandon the concept of consensus in favor of open debate of the arguments themselves and discussion of a broad range of policy options that include bottom up approaches to decreasing vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events and developing technologies to expand energy access.
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