Amidst all the brouhaha about how the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report submitted to the UN has proven that global warming is man-made (or more accurately, there is a 90% likelihood that human activity is behind global warming), comes a refreshing voice of scepticism in the form of Ross McKitrick.
Ross is not a head-in-the-sand, oil-guzzling, live-like-no-tomorrow consumer of fossil fuels but a respected Professor of Economics and one of the Expert Reviewers who contributed to the report.
The article hints at data and research that may have been ignored or overlooked while making the case for global warming and climate change. If that is really the case, at the very least, it is shameful and doesn’t help us understand (or deal with) climate change at all…
At worst, it risks creating a “monster” out of a problem which in reality may actually be more manageable and tractable.
I am no fan of burning coal – at the same time, I find it hard to reconcile the pressing need for development and the inevitable rise in energy consumption as India and China develop apace…
To deny them the fruits of development will be counter-productive…and creating a bogeyman would not help either.
I thought that Ross was a lone voice in the climate change wilderness but apparently not.
On Pg 16 of their latest issue (19th Feb ’07), BusinessWeek asked three experts for their response to the IPCC findings. Here is what they said:
“The report had nothing to lead me to change my view that global warming cannot, at this stage be distinguished from natural, unforced internal variability. These ‘certainties’ are bogus” – Richard Lindzen, Alfred P Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Saying that humans have a significant role in the warming is like saying there’s gambling in Las Vegas. What can you do about it? A lot of politically possible solutions will do less than nothing” – Patrick Michaels, Environmental Sciences Professor, University of Virginia
“Yes, humans have caused the earth to be slightly warmer, but much less that the report says. Many natural forces are not accounted for. I’d make a big bet that in the next 5 to 10 years the globe will start to cool” – William Gray, Emeritus Professor, Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University.
As for me, I will keep my faith in human ingenuity rather than worrying about the glaciers melting tomorrow.
Isn’t it time to focus on some real issues such as sanitation, clean water, malnutrition? (See Is the sky really going to fall tomorrow?)
Below are some excerpts from Ross McKitrick’s article in Newsweek (emphasis mine):
“…The IPCC Web site claims an impressive number of participants: 450 lead authors, 800 contributors and 2,500 expert reviewers (of which I was one). But it would be a mistake to assume all these experts endorse everything in summary, including its bottom-line assessment: “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”
Many disagree with the conclusion itself or the claimed level of certainty, but the fact is, we were never asked.
Nor can readers check how well the summary reflects the underlying science….
…This is a curious and disconcerting aspect of IPCC procedures: it needs a couple of months to revise a detailed report prepared by hundreds of scientists, to ensure it agrees with a brief summary drafted by a few dozen scientists and edited by hundreds of bureaucrats and politicians.
To be sure, the IPCC does an impressive job of mobilizing experts to produce a report it hopes will be of service to the world. No one should trivialize this achievement. But let’s not make the error of allowing a glossy summary to trivialize the complexities and uncertainties in climate change…
After all, if the issues were so simple, you wouldn’t need 3,700 experts to write the report. It is a paradox that some of the strongest claims of unanimity in science are made on a subject involving some of the deepest intellectual disagreements and uncertainties.
…scientists use computer models to approximate how the countless processes affecting the climate might behave over time. The IPCC report explains many important limitations of these models: the summary ignores them.
The report fails to achieve balance in other places. For instance, in its 2001 report, the IPCC effectively denied the view that the Earth’s climate had cycled through warming and cooling for 10 centuries prior to today’s warming.
…I am skeptical of this claim, based on a lot of research—including some high-level expert reviews last year—that showed the data did not support the IPCC claim. The 2007 report admits problems in this earlier view, but goes on to claim that climate is likely the warmest in 1300 years—precisely what the data don’t support.
The IPCC also denies that its estimate of rising temperatures, based on weather data collected in ground-level stations around the world, is affected by warming biases due to land-use change, urbanization and the sudden closure of half the world’s monitoring stations in the early 1990s. I am skeptical of their position, based on work I and others have done showing correlations between these influences and temperature trends.
The IPCC leaders have a point of view. Think of their report as the case for the prosecution. Maybe this time the district attorney is right. Maybe not: that is why we need to hear from the defense as well.”