When I read this, I initially thought it was a joke – but sadly, that’s not the case. While the IPCC and virtually the entire scientific community is worried about climate change, warning about droughts and heat waves which will cause famine and water shortages, the GOP held a meeting where they decided that the IPCC is, in fact, a global conspiracy to control our lives and “redistribute wealth among nations.”

The GOP war on Science

C’mon Andrei, surely you’re overreacting and just trying to present the GOP in a bad light! Well, don’t take it from me, just take it from the hearing:

“Both the IPCC and the White House’s documents appear to be designed to spread fear and alarm and provide cover for previously determined government policies. The reports give the Obama Administration an excuse to control more of the lives of the American people.

The IPCC’s goal is an international climate treaty that redistributes wealth among nations. The Administration’s goal is to impose greenhouse gas regulations, which will stifle economic growth and lead to hundreds of thousands of fewer jobs each year.”

This is absurd on so many levels, I’m not even sure I want to get into it. But just to get one thing straight – the IPCC couldn’t “redistribute wealth” even if they wanted to. What they do is, in principle, simple to grasp: they analyze all the studies on climate change, and emit reports. They don’t do their own hands-on studies, they just analyze everybody else’s studies and sum everything up (simple in principle, extremely hard to do in practice).

“The Obama administration should stop trying to scare Americans and then impose costly, unnecessary
regulations on them.”, the document continued

What I’m guessing they are mainly aiming at is the proposed reduction of subsidies for oil companies. Big oil companies pay good money to eliminate environmental laws, and recently, the Obama administration announced they want to cut tax breaks on oil companies and instead, focus more on renewable energy. Exxon Mobil makes over $30 billion / year in profits, but they need tax cuts? Sheesh – who’s more biased here?

A war on science, and on scientists

But why this hate towards the IPCC? It all becomes a little clearer if we take a look at the 4 experts from the heart. 3 of them are climate change deniers (information via io9):

1. Roger Pielke, Jr.

Pielke doesn’t think that there’s a linkage between climate change and extreme weather and is one of the most vocal critics of the idea that the polar ice caps are melting. He made headlines a few months back when he posted an article—”Disasters Cost More Than Ever, But Not Because of Climate Change“— on Nate Silver’s newly-launched website, FiveThirtyEight [sorry, I’m not linking to it]. The real disaster was for Nate Silver, when the nation’s top climate scientists questioned why he chose to publish an article that used “flawed data” to produce a “deeply misleading” result.

2. Richard Tol

One of the 70 authors of a draft UN report on climate change said he had pulled out of the writing team because it was “alarmist” about the threat. He said the report played down possible economic benefits of low levels of warming. Global warming creates benefits as well as harms, he explains, and in the short term, the benefits are especially pronounced. Less cold winters may mean fewer deaths among the elderly, and crops may grow better in some regions. [what?]

Tol has been criticized by other scientists who have raised questions about his methodology and who have noted that he has a history of making contradictory statements. For instance, in a widely cited 2009 paper, he wrote of “considerable uncertainty about the economic impact of climate change … negative surprises are more likely than positive ones. … The policy implication is that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should err on the ambitious side.”

3. Daniel Botkin

He has long argued that life has had to deal with environmental change, especially climate change, since the beginning of its existence on Earth—and that we underestimate the ability of species, including humans, to find ways to adapt to the problem.

Botkin wrote a controversial editorial for the Wall Street Journal (Oct 17, 2007) arguing that global warming will not have much impact on life on Earth, and noted that: “the reality is that almost none of the millions of species have disappeared during the past 2.5 million years — with all of its various warming and cooling periods.”

OK, but…

What’s the problem with climate change denial?

Climate change deniers have very scientific little credibility, and for good reason. In 2012, out of 13.950 peer reviewed studies, just 24 rejected global warming. But that’s not the half of it – if there is a conspiracy, it’s more likely the other way around: 70% climate change denial books have verifiable links to political conservative think tanks, and 9 out of 10 climate change deniers are linked with Exxon Mobil, the biggest private oil company in the world.

From a scientific point of view, there’s no debate. It’s just like smoking – some researchers still claim it’s not bad for you, though they’re not neaerly as vocal as climate change deniers. Just because you see the two sides get equal time on the news doesn’t mean that they both have equal arguments – don’t be fooled by that.

The IPCC has done its job well. They’ve worked overtime – literally. The problem is (and this is what bugs some people), that they’ve done their job too well, much faster than they were expected to.

As Spencer Weart, the former director of the Center for History of Physics puts it:

The IPCC’s constitution should have been (and perhaps was intended to be) a recipe for paralysis. Instead, the panel turned its procedural restraints into a virtue: whatever it did manage to say would have unimpeachable authority.

Experts contributed their time as volunteers, writing working papers that drew on the latest studies. These were debated at length in correspondence and workshops. The IPCC scientists, initially 170 of them in a dozen workshops, worked hard and long to craft statements that nobody could fault on scientific grounds. The draft reports next went through a process of peer review, gathering comments from virtually every climate expert in the world. It was much like the process of reviewing articles submitted to a scientific journal, although with far more reviewers. All this followed the long-established practices, norms and traditions of science. The scientists found it easier than they had expected to reach a consensus. This undertaking was the first of its kind in terms of breadth, and the exhaustive level of review and revision.