Climate Central is a respected Affirmer of Climate Change. This is how it describes the Science of Climate Science. It begins with the United Nations.
Established in 1988 by the United Nations, the IPCC does no original climate science research. Its role is to review current science from around the world, then synthesize and summarize that data within comprehensive reports meant for policymakers.
The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is entirely a creation of the United Nations. The UN in brief is a collection of representatives appointed by their national governments to participate with the UN and its units. And, of course, the United Nations has no constitutional power over any person or government in the world. It is the largest Non Government Organization (NGO) in the world.
Now. How does the UN’s IPCC do those Climate Science assessments?
Such assessments typically take five to seven years to complete in a slow, bureaucratic process: Thousands of scientists from around the globe, working as unpaid volunteers, first sift through the scientific literature, identifying trends and writing a draft report. That draft is reviewed and thoroughly revised by other scientists. Then a summary for policymakers, condensing the science even further, is written and subjected to a painstaking, line-by-line revision by representatives from more than 100 world governments — all of whom must approve the final summary document . . . IPCC’s four assessments — massive, multi-tome volumes released in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007 — are considered the gold standard in climate science.
As you consider the Climate Science of the UN’s IPCC please use the tension of Falling Apples and Fallen Apples as an interpretive standard. In other words, consider the difference between science and persuasion. Start with science.
As a trained, credentialed, and practicing scientist, I know of no scientific authority that has ever had the power of being the final word on an area of inquiry. That is, there is no duly elected or appointed group of people who work together, create a document, then present it as The Truth for an area of inquiry. That’s just not how science operates.
Climate Central presents an image of science that is wildly at odds with the reality. Science is a long, slow process where Truth largely wins out over the longer haul with critics, dissenters, and even deniers raising a howl of complaint as their numbers, arguments, and interest declines over time. Most often the reality of a new science overwhelms all the complaints and even the critics begin to feel foolish at their criticisms. Deniers become a Party Of One, and not in a good way.
Science simply does not operate through committees where the real experts determine the truth and explain it to their younger, slower little brothers and sisters. Scientists tend to go with Groucho Marx on this one: They’d belong to no such organization that would have them as members! Science is contrary to such kinds of cooperation and harmony.
As a small comparison to the IPCC, I’d point to the ridiculous Gang on Physical Activity at The Lancet. A small group of people who know and like each other enough have banded together under the brand name of The Lancet – one of the most widely read medical journals in the world – to issue proclamations of truth about physical activity. The folks, some of whom I’ve worked with, many of whom I’ve read and cited, are simply crazy by my scientific lights. Sure, it’s a self promoting persuasion play from all concerned, but the play is so obvious it is a joke. Nobody doing science would ever do such a thing (except maybe to get a grant, but that’s different).
The people of the IPCC are doing the same thing, just on a much larger scale as if quantity is a Strong Argument for anything other than frequency of sex. In science, size like this really doesn’t matter. With the IPCC, size is exaggeration, like totalitarian art that features massive slabs, big contrasting colors, and wildly oversimplified slogans. You see the folks at Climate Central falling for the revolutionary poster:
IPCC’s four assessments — massive, multi-tome volumes . . .
Massive? Multi-tomed? Voluminous? What kind of scientist finds this a Strong Argument worthy of the Long Conversation in the Head with complex webs of elaborated thoughts? It’s just silly. Adolescent. Worse still: It’s wrong. Science doesn’t work like this.
Worser more is this line describing the scientific process at the IPCC.
Then a summary for policymakers, condensing the science even further, is written and subjected to a painstaking, line-by-line revision by representatives from more than 100 world governments — all of whom must approve the final summary document.
What? I write the science then give it to politicians who revise it?!? And that revision becomes the gold standard of Climate Science?!? There’s no scientific publication process that operates like this, not even at The Lancet. Even with that persuasion play, at least scientists are still in control of the text and no politician gets a voice or a vote. Yet, the IPCC Climate Science requires the final statement to issue from people who are not scientists, merely unqualified people who think they can rewrite or revise science because they are representing . . . something or someone.
No wonder you can’t find any Falling Apples! But, you can find the Fallen Apples. Look at the obvious, recurring, and standard persuasion plays.
Thousands of scientists from around the globe . . . a Norm based Cue, the Consensus of Experts.
working as unpaid volunteers . . . look, Ma, no money, no bias!
massive, multi-tome volumes . . . Quantity is a quality all its own as if more is truer than less.
These Fallen Apples depend upon Low WATTage which makes Climate Scientists even funnier. They think no thinking is required whether doing science or persuasion. Just follow the bouncing Cue as it skips over the rising tide: Authority, Consensus, Norms, Size. You don’t have to think about science, we’ve done that for you. With Climate Science.
If you think simply about this, you see all the contradictions. Why would people who have the Falling Apples of science play these Low WATT games? Science does require heavy lifting and everyone knows that. If you want to make a science argument, you should be working on plays that increase Other Guys WATTage so that They can think about your Falling Apples. Instead, Climate Science does the opposite and insists upon ambling along the Peripheral Route with Gandalf the wizard by your side. Unfortunately they couldn’t cast a world class actor like Ian McKellen as the master and instead go with a literal cast of thousands like an old Biblical movie classic from Cecil B. deMille.
Now, I appreciate that the Other Guys here is not one large group of similar people and that any persuader would have different segments and different TACTs. Sure, for a lot of Other Guys, a pure Peripheral Route play is smart – just turn up or down the volume on Public Opinion as needed. But realize that Climate Science always operates on that Low WATT Cast of Thousands (whether of people or data!). That tactic led to the loss of the most important Other Guy of all, Barack Obama, certainly a Guy who is smart enough to go High WATT. And, of course, the tactic has produced a Public Opinion that literally turns on the weather vane, today for, tomorrow against, depending upon which way the wind blows, meaning that Climate Science has no control over it, always waiting for a Streetcar Named SuperStormSandy.
Let’s close with ancient persuasion advice.
He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap.
That from Ecclesiastes, 11:4, which suggests a reconsideration for both the Falling, and Fallen, Apples of Climate Science.