by Judith Curry
UK Energy and Climate Change Committee report on IPCC AR5 – another pointless exercise in circular reasoning, confirmation bias and division? – Paul Matthews
The UK House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee haspublished its report following their review into IPCC AR5 WG1.
A blog post by Paul Matthews provides the following context for the report:
A brief recap with links to earlier posts: the Committee is chaired by Tim Yeo (Con) who has been criticised for his green energy interests, was caught in a lobbying sting and has been de-selected by his local party. There are two openly climate-sceptical members, Peter Lilley (Con) and Graham Stringer (Lab). The inquiry was announced last November with a call for written submissions by December. The remit covered robustness, range of views, climate models, the pause, and policy. Over 50 written submissions were sent in, IPCC-supportive ones from institutions such as the Met Office and Royal Society and many critical ones from individuals (the allegedly influential GWPF did not make a submission). From January – March, three oral evidence sessions were held, the first of which featured three mainstream climate scientists followed by three sceptics. The second session had some interesting clashes between Yeo and Lilley. The third session included science advisors and members of DECC.
The full 64 page report can be downloaded [here]. Excerpts from the Summary:
AR5 provides the best available summary of the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change currently available to policy-makers. Its conclusions have been reached with high statistical confidence by a working group made up of many of the world’s leading climate scientists drawing on areas of well-understood science. The overall thrust and conclusions of the report are widely supported in the scientific community and its summaries are presented in a way that is persuasive to the lay reader. As in all areas of science that involve highly complex dynamic systems, there are uncertainties. But these uncertainties do not blur the overwhelmingly clear picture of a climate system changing as a result of human influence.
The IPCC has responded extremely well to constructive criticism in the last few years and has tightened its review processes to make AR5 the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised Assessment Report to-date. We believe that the IPCC would benefit from increasing the level of transparency by recruiting a small team of non-climate scientists to observe the review process from start to finish including during the plenary meetings to agree the Summary for Policymakers. However, the authority of the reports comes not from the process and procedure per se, but from the evidence itself: the thousands of peer-reviewed academic papers that together form a clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised.
Of course there are those who will continue to be critical of the conclusions and the process through which the IPCC produces its Assessment Reports. But our conclusion here is clear. There is no scientific basis for downgrading the UK’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Government and the international community must heed the IPCC’s warning and work to agree a binding global deal in 2015 to limit climate change to manageable levels.
BBC has an article on the bickering of the MPs, and the existence of a minority report MPs bicker over IPCC report on causes of climate change. Excerpts:
But two members of the committee, Peter Lilley (Conservative) and Graham Stringer (Labour), disagreed with the other nine. They accused their fellow MPs of not holding the IPCC critically to account.
“As scientists by training, we do not dispute the science of the greenhouse effect – nor did any of our witnesses,” they said in a statement.
“However, there remain great uncertainties about how much warming a given increase in greenhouse gases will cause, how much damage any temperature increase will cause and the best balance between adaptation to versus prevention of global warming.”
The two MPs say that the underlying technical report of the IPCC acknowledges many uncertainties, but these have been omitted from the critical Summary for Policymakers, presented to politicians.
Among a number of issues they highlight the so-called “pause” in global warming since 1997.
“About one third of all the CO2 omitted by mankind since the industrial revolution has been put into the atmosphere since 1997; yet there has been no statistically significant increase in the mean global temperature since then.
“By definition, a period with record emissions but no warming cannot provide evidence that emissions are the dominant cause of warming!”
JC comments: I am not a fan of the IPCC [link] and disagree with the high confidence of many of its statements. This statement from the Summary concerns me in particular: Its conclusions have been reached with high statistical confidence. Rather, it should be stated that Its highly confident conclusions have been reached by expert judgment, in an explicit consensus building environment that is prone to groupthink.
The summary gives a nod to uncertainty: As in all areas of science that involve highly complex dynamic systems, there are uncertainties. But these uncertainties do not blur the overwhelmingly clear picture of a climate system changing as a result of human influence. They seem to have swallowed the IPCC’s waffling about the ‘pause’.
From the BBC article:
The Energy and Climate Change Committee, in their report, took a different view. They said that periods of hiatus are consistent with earlier assessments and forced climate change takes place against a background of natural variability.
“The current period of hiatus does not undermine the core conclusions of the WGI (working group 1) contribution to the fifth assessment report when put in the context of the overall, long-term global energy budget.
“Despite the hiatus, the first decade of the 2000s was the warmest in the instrumental record and overall warming is expected to continue in the coming decades.”
We don’t need no stinkin’ science
Peter Lilley and Graham Stringer stated that the Report is ‘more like cheerleading than objective analysis.’ Well, I give the Committee credit for holding much more substantive Hearings on climate change than in the U.S. Senate and House. But the outcome was predictably pre-ordained to be dominated by politics.
With regards to climate and energy policy, politicians in the U.S. and elsewhere are increasingly bypassing science altogether. Other agendas have taken over, and the policies are still muddled by ostensibly justifying them to prevent climate change.
As an example, CNSNews reports in an article about EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s Congressional testimony last week:
“And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It’s about increased efficiency at our plants…It’s about investments in renewables and clean energy. It’s about investments in people’s ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units,” McCarthy told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Sen. John Barroso (R-Wyo.) said the proposed regulation may cause Americans pain by raising electricity prices, but it “can’t make a dent” in terms of global pollution.
“Sir, what I know about this rule is that I know it will leave the United States in 2030 with a more efficient and cleaner energy supply system — and more jobs in clean energy, which are the jobs of the future,” McCarthy responded.
In the global debate about climate change and energy policy, science is increasingly becoming a side show, and used when it is convenient to justify a politically desirable policy. Well, that is politics. I have two concerns:
1. ‘Using’ climate science in this way has a very unfortunate impact on climate science itself: ‘inconvenient’ questions don’t get asked and inconvenient science doesn’t get funded.
2. If people are concerned about the adverse impacts of extreme weather events, reducing CO2 emissions are not going to have any impact on policy relevant time scales, even if you accept the IPCC analyses. Resources expended on energy policy are in direct conflict with reducing vulnerability to extreme events.