Yesterday, a distinguished committee of scientists released a 113-page review of the processes and procedures of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body that has provided the most comprehensive reports on the reality and danger of human-caused global warming. The UN had asked the InterAcademy Council (IAC), a multinational organization of the world's science academies, to assess the IPCC and make recommendations in order to "strengthen the IPCC's capacity to respond to future challenges and ensure the ongoing quality of its reports."
Unsurprisingly, the right-wing media are seizing on the IAC report, suggesting that it undermines the scientific consensus on climate change. Nothing could be further from the truth.
An August 31 report by the U.K.'s Express blares the headline "CLIMATE CHANGE LIES ARE EXPOSED," and reports:
A high-level inquiry into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found there was "little evidence" for its claims about global warming.
It also said the panel had emphasised the negative impacts of climate change and made "substantive findings" based on little proof.
Matt Drudge promptly picked up Express' article. Under the headline "Climate change a con?," Las Vegas Review-Journalpublisher Sherman Frederick claimed that "A damming new report says shoddy research practices and conclusions based on little evidence produce plenty of questions over the credibility of the world's leading climate change body."
Reading these reports, you'd think that the IAC was saying that climate change was, well, "a con." In fact, while recommending changes to IPCC's structure and procedures in order to "enhance the quality and authoritative nature of future assessments," the review board and its chairman, Princeton professor Harold Shapiro, also praised the IPCC and its work.
The Associated Press reported that the IAC "didn't study the quality of the science itself, although Shapiro said the key recommendations in the climate report 'are well supported by the scientific evidence.'" Likewise, in his opening statement at the press conference releasing the IAC report, Shapiro said:
Overall, IPCC's assessment process has been a success and served society well. The assessments have put IPCC on the world stage, raised public awareness of climate change, and driven policymakers to consider options for responding to climate change.
The report itself confirms the IPCC's central findings, stating that "Climate change is a long-term challenge that will require every nation to make decisions about how to respond," and that "The Committee found that the IPCC assessment process has been successful overall."
The Washington Post's editorial board wrote that the report further shows the right-wing's critique of climate science has been "overblown":
Also on Monday, an international review panel from the independent InterAcademy Council released a report on the IPCC's procedures for producing "assessments" of climate science, which are supposed to provide policymakers with a rigorous guide to the evidence and its interpretation. Though Fox News claimed it "slams" the IPCC, the study doesn't show that the much-maligned assessment process was rigged or even fundamentally flawed. In fact, much of what the review panel suggests involves enhancing and making more transparent the procedures already in place, and the report's authors underscore how valuable the IPCC's work has been.
So the overblown critique of climate science that emerged early this year continues to underwhelm.
Conservatives' "overblown" critique is further exposed by the fact that the IPCC error they mention most often in their reports on the e IAC review is one that doesn't significantly undermine the science behind global warming.
But as we've noted, following reports of the error, the IPCC issued a statement that said it "regret[s] the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance," but that the broad conclusion about glacier loss in the report "is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment." Indeed, experts on glaciers have pointed out that despite the flaw in the IPCC's specific claim, glaciers have been melting.
In purporting to list various flaws in the 2007 report, FoxNews.com also falsely claimed that the report "erroneously forecast... dwindling Amazon rainforests." In fact, the claim that IPCC was wrong about the Amazon was originally made by the U.K.'s Sunday Times, and has since been corrected to acknowledge that "the conclusion about the Amazon was supported by peer-reviewed evidence."