Anticipating the denialist attack on authors of the IPCC climate change assessment


We are witnessing the development of an unmistakable effort by the global warming denial machine and some of the contrarian scientists to create controversy in order to discredit the authors and findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in advance of publication starting in early 2007 of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. New Scientist news service reports on scientists’ concerns in a November 4 article, “Climate change special: State of denial.”  Climate Science Watch calls on policymakers and journalists to maintain critical perspective and not be diverted by spun-up controversy from focusing on this comprehensive and authoritative mainstream scientific assessment of climate change.

See “Climate change special: State of denial”
04 November 2006 news service
Fred Pearce
Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

The article quotes leading scientists Kevin Trenberth, Ben Santer, Michael Mann, and Richard Alley.  It quotes IPCC critics Pat Michaels, Chris Landsea, and political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr.  It leads with:

KEVIN TRENBERTH reckons he is a marked man. He has argued that last year’s devastating Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned hurricane Katrina, was linked to global warming. For the many politicians and minority of scientists who insist there is no evidence for any such link, Trenberth’s views are unacceptable and some have called for him step down from an international panel studying climate change. “The attacks on me are clearly designed to get me fired or to resign,” says Trenberth.

The attacks fit a familiar pattern. Sceptics have also set their sights on scientists who have spoken out about the accelerating meltdown of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thawing of the planet’s permafrost. These concerns will be addressed in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global organisation created by the UN in 1988 to assess the risks of human-induced climate change. Every time one of these assessments is released, about once every five years, some of the American scientists who have played a part in producing it become the targets of concerted attacks apparently designed to bring down their reputations and careers. At stake is the credibility of scientists who fear our planet is hurtling towards disaster and want to warn the public in the US and beyond.

So when the next IPCC report is released in February 2007, who will be the targets and why? When New Scientist spoke to researchers on both sides of the climate divide it became clear that they are ready for a showdown….

Read the full article.

A related note?—
During this past summer Steven Hayward, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, wrote to selected climate researchers offering them $10,000 if they would produce essays critical of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.  Calling the IPCC “resistant to reasonable criticism” and “prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported,” Hayward stated AEI’s intention to publish the reviews by authors recruited on the basis of this slant concurrently with the release of the IPCC assessment.  Participation by the authors in events in Washington and elsewhere designed to highlight the critique of the IPCC would earn additional honoraria.

How, you might ask, can authors write critiques of a report that won’t be published until next year? Hayward tells them they can use the embargoed, not for citation or distribution, drafts of the report posted for review by governments and experts earlier this year. 

Roger Pielke, Jr., of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is quoted in the article as accusing the IPCC leadership of “seeing their role as political advocates rather than honest brokers”.  We wonder what Susan Solomon, the eminent scientist at the NOAA Aeronomy Lab, also in Boulder, who co-chairs the IPCC Working Group I report on the science of the climate system, and her co-authors think of Pielke’s characterization. 

IPCC scientists who spoke to New Scientist insist they are not trying to turn science into politics or to shut down genuine debate. They do, however, worry that their conclusions might be drowned out by some politically motivated and industry-funded sceptics. “I’d hate to see hundreds of people putting years of their lives into producing a report that is then trashed by these people for political ends,” says Santer [of Lawrence Livermore National Lab]. “That is what happened in my case, and I felt very bad about it.”

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