CFACT’s Factless Attack On The IPCC

cfactThis time I can thank Wotts for making me notice some content that was being pushed on social media by one of the usual misinformers. It was a tweet sent from the official CFACT twitter account stating “Politics always “manages” science at the IPCC“.

CFACT, short for Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, is a conservative organisation that spreads the usual incorrect claims about environmental issues and global warming. Though they claim to infuse “the environmental debate with a balanced perspective on environmental stewardship”. According to their about page (archived here) they to do this with the help of “an influential and impressive scientific advisory board” which contains Christopher Monckton (archived here).

A lot of familiar names like Sallie Baliunas, Craig T. Idso, Patrick J. Michaels, and Willie Soon advice CFACT on environmental issues and policy matters. Which doesn’t bode well for the accuracy of the materials spread by CFACT.

But I digress, lets return to the link they shared in the tweet about the IPCC. It’s a blog post from their website with the title ‘Politics always “manages” science at the IPCC‘ (archived here). It’s written by Larry Bell who interviewed Vincent Gray (a chemist) about the IPCC. I’ll dive into the segments that I thought were the most problematic:

Vincent, as a climate scientist and long-standing IPCC expert reviewer, what is your opinion regarding the science offered behind the “greenhouse delusion” in this latest report?

Larry, they have found that the public will believe almost anything that is represented as being agreed by “scientists,” provided that you have enough of them and they are backed up by the requisite number of celebrities and public figures.

Unfortunately for their message, there is no evidence that human-emitted greenhouse gases have a harmful influence on the climate. So it becomes necessary to use spin, distortion, deception, and even fabrication to cover up this absence of evidence with a collective assertion of belief in their cause to an increased level of certainty. In the end they must rely merely upon collective opinions within their selected ranks, of which they once again claim high levels of certainty. However, they run into the problem of imposing such severe discipline on so many people, most whom have been trained to think independently.

My initial problem with this blog post was with the “greenhouse delusion” part in this opening question, as I wasn’t familiar with the book with the same title I was wondering if CFACT now was proposing that there was no such thing as the greenhouse effect. Which I asked them on twitter and luckily they said that this wasn’t what they meant and that this is territory of “ignorant cranks”.

They did also say that “The greenhouse effect is responsible for earth having a temp warmer than space” yet in a later tweet they said that “the climate isn’t sensitive enough for anthropogenic global warming to occur.” These two statements contradict each other.

The detail is that you cannot have a greenhouse effect that warms our planet to current temperatures and have a low climate sensitivity. You would get a different equilibrium temperature that’s lower than what we’re currently measuring. It also ignores all the evidence we have that shows climate sensitivity isn’t “low”.

So how do they attempt to impose discipline like this?

All the reports have to have a “Summary for Policymakers,” which is really a Summary BY Policymakers because it is agreed to line-by-line by the anonymous international government representatives who control the IPCC.

From public records I know that Rob van Dorland, Bert Mertz, and Arthur Petersen are part of the Dutch IPCC delegation or have represented The Netherlands previously. This is information you’ll find with a simple Google search. The IPCC also keeps public records of who was present at IPCC meetings.

However I couldn’t find any documents on the IPCC’s website with information on who represented my country (The Netherlands) during the IPCC’s most recent meeting on the Summary for Policymakers. This doesn’t seem to be available yet on their website. But here’s a novel thought: why not ask the parties involved who represented a country?

I contacted the KNMI and within a couple of hours I received the answer that The Netherlands was represented by Bram Bregman (KNMI), Arthur Petersen (PBL), and Ronald Flipphi (IenM). This is hardly anonymous, and two of the three people who were mentioned are researchers/scientists (Flipphi works as a beleidsambtenaar for a ministry, which translates to policy officer if I’m not mistaken).

This is just Dr. Gray trying to depict the IPCC as a scary and shadowy organization.

Have they succeeded in accomplishing such agreements in previous reports?

Not always. It changes from report to report.

In their first report, in 1990, they admitted that the “warming” that they thought they had identified could just as easily be explained by “natural variability.”  Then in their second 1995 report, similar opinions were expressed several times, so they got one of their reliable scientists to change the final draft in order to eliminate such lack of preordained messaging discipline.

That is just flat-out wrong. This is a point I talked about extensively in my project ‘Climate Changes, But Facts Don’t: Debunking Monckton‘. To be precise I dealt with it in segment 6 ‘The 1995 IPCC Report Was Written By One Man‘. The above claim started when the Wall Street Journal accused Ben Santer (the scientist Gray is referring to) of changing the language in the report. But this isn’t what happened and the scientists involved spoke out that this was a bogus accusation.

He also raised two other examples, but I’m not familiar with the genesis of those claims. Considering the first example he gave I suspect these other two also have no basis in reality.

How did a “skeptic” like you ever manage to become an expert reviewer for all, or even any, of the IPCC reports? After all, this is hardly an organization that welcomes viewpoints that challenge the global warming doom and gloom orthodoxy.

Larry, I got involved with making comments on the supplement to the first report when I was in China in 1990, and I stuck it out ever since because it is an invaluable insight into the nature of the claims for national and international control of “greenhouse gases” which I have slowly come to realize are completely spurious.

It is true that from the time of the first report, IPCC has made it plain that constructive critics are unwelcome, and as a result, few have participated. I believe I am the only one who has commented on every report. Believe me, it has taken a lot of persistence on my part to be allowed to participate.

It required persistence and very hard, unpaid work. Despite the fact that they didn’t answer my comments, I felt, and still feel, that it was very important to persist. I have regarded it to be my professional and ethical responsibility to attempt to provide constructive inputs in hopes of positively influencing the scientific integrity of the process and conclusions.

Anyone can become an expert reviewer for the IPCC. You just have to fill in a form and sign a non-disclosure agreement and there’s a good chance you’ll see the draft of the report; that’s it. So it doesn’t take a lot of “persistence” to be allowed to participate. A lot of the so-called sceptics have registered themselves as an expert reviewer and basically use this to bolster their credentials. With them doing this I have half a mind to register as an expert reviewer for the next report just to show how easy it is to become an expert reviewer.

Also the IPCC does respond to constructive criticism. But criticism has to actually be constructive and the raised point has to have some sort of merit before they will incorporate the feedback in the report. Of course they are going to ignore statements that contradict what’s in the scientific literature.

The rest of the interview continues on in the same way with long since refuted claims. Most of which you can find on the Skeptical Science ‘Global Warming & Climate Change Myths‘ page. One of them being that global warming has stopped, which it simply hasn’t.

It gets a bit tiresome to deal with the same factless claims over and over.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.