Christopher Booker: Climate Scientists Are Just Another Pressure Group
The IPCC and its reports have been shaped by a close-knit group of scientists, all dedicated to the cause
Last weekend, something very odd happened. On Friday we were told that in Stockholm the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) had published a report saying that it was now “extremely likely” that the world faces disastrous man-made climate change. But this was merely a “summary” for politicians and the media of a scientific report that was not published until three days later.
We then learnt that this “Summary for Policymakers” had been argued over for days and sleepless nights by hundreds of politicians, officials and scientists, but, weirdly, that the scientific report it supposedly summarised had subsequently been amended to bring it into line with the summary. One obvious change from previous drafts was the marked downplaying of any reference to how, in recent years, global temperatures have so notably failed to rise as the IPCC’s computer models predicted.
This was an uncanny replay of the first scandal to hit the IPCC back in 1996, when again the “summary” thrashed over by politicians and a few key scientists was made more alarming than the report proper by inserting a claim that there was now “a discernible human influence” on the world’s climate.
Scientists who had approved the report protested that there was nothing in their text to justify this. But, to their amazement, they discovered that their agreed version had been amended to include this very phrase, citing as its authority two papers not yet published by Ben Santer, an American scientist who had also played a key part in drafting the summary.
All this, and the revelation that Santer had deleted 15 passages casting doubt on man-made warming from the agreed text, famously prompted Prof Frederick Seitz, a revered former president of the US National Academy of Sciences, to protest that never in 60 years as a scientist had he “witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process”. Last weekend Dr Santer was again playing a part in the events that led to a virtual repeat of what happened in 1995.
Some years back, when I was researching a detailed history of the alarm over global warming, few things surprised me more than to discover just how wildly misleading was the picture given to the world of the IPCC as a genuinely scientific body, dispassionately assessing current knowledge of all the factors shaping our climate. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by a small group of scientists who were already wholly convinced that rising CO2 levels were the prime factor in causing global temperatures to rise. They were led by Prof Bert Bolin, appointed as the IPCC’s first chairman, and Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office, who, for 14 years, remained head of its key Working Group 1, responsible for reporting on climate science.
Since then the IPCC and its five major reports have essentially been shaped by a surprisingly small, close-knit group of scientists, all similarly dedicated to the cause. They have been determined not just to assemble all the evidence they could find to support their theory, however dubious it might be (as in the case of that notorious “hockey stick” graph); but, as we saw from the Climategate emails, to deride or ignore any that contradicted it.
In years to come this will be looked back on as the most astonishing example in history of how the prestige of “science” can be used to promote a particular belief system, in this case with the aid of those skewed computer models that can be seen ever more clearly not to accord with the observed evidence.
All this would not be so serious if the IPCC had not been so successfully sold to the world as an objective scientific body rather than as just a political pressure group, because this has taken in no one more damagingly than all those credulous politicians who use the IPCC’s bogus prestige to justify landing us with some of the most disastrously misconceived policies the world has ever seen.
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