IPCC Chooses Option No. 3

Global Science Report is a weekly feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is nearing the final stages of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)—the latest, greatest version of its assessment of the science of climate change. Information is leaking out, with some regularity, as to what the final report will contain (why it is secretive in the first place is beyond us).

A few weeks ago, The Economist reported on some of the information from the new IPCC report that was leaked. The key piece of information concerned the IPCC’s assessment of the equilibrium climate sensitivity—how much the earth’s average surface temperature increases as a result of a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. As we have been reporting, the research now dominating the scientific literature indicates that the equilibrium climate sensitivity is around 2.0°C.  This value is about 40% lower than the average climate sensitivity value of the climate models used by the IPCC to make their future projections of climate change, including among other projections, those for temperature and sea level rise.  The Economist suggested that the IPCC was going to lower their assessed value for the equilibrium climate change based on the mountain of evidence from the literature, but gave no indication whether the IPCC was also going to, accordingly, lower all the projections made throughout their report.

In a Cato@Liberty article last month, we pointed out that the IPCC had three options as to how to proceed.  Quoting ourselves:

The IPCC has three options:

1. Round-file the entire AR5 as it now stands and start again.

2. Release the current AR5 with a statement that indicates that all the climate change and impacts described within are likely overestimated by around 50%, or

3. Do nothing and mislead policymakers and the rest of the world.

We’re betting on door number 3.

In its article earlier this week reporting on its own acquired leaked information from the IPCC AR5 report, the New York Times basically proved us right.

The Times article, written by global warming enthusiast Justin Gillis, was spun to play up the perceived horrors from the AR5—that humans have caused the majority of the temperature rise since 1950 (failing to mention that the observed rise is only about 75 percent the value that it was supposed to be according to the IPCC, that the warming rate has been declining, or new studies which suggest that decreased aerosol emissions have played a significant role in the observed warming), that the sea level rise was possibly going to be large, dramatic, and dangerous (despite a plethora of new scientific findings to the contrary, see our latest Current Wisdom for example), that climate change was leading to more and more extreme weather (ignoring that climate change was probably averting more extreme weather than it was creating),  and that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions were going to push temperatures rapidly upwards (brushing aside the plethora of new scientific evidence that the future temperature rise will continue to be less than expected, just as it has been for the past 50 years).

[As an aside, you can tell right from the start that an article about anthropogenic climate change resulting from human emissions of carbon dioxide is going to alarmist if it is accompanied by a picture of a smokestack spewing out water vapor (or anything else for that matter—after all, carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas). You know that it is going to be completely over the top if the picture of the smokestack spewing water vapor is backlit by the sun, a geometry which makes the water vapor emissions appear black and thus dirty and foreboding. The Times article includes both tricks.]

So if Justin Gillis’s New York Times article is any indication of the actual contents of the upcoming Fifth Assessment Report from the IPCC, or how its contents are going to be spun, it should be plainly obvious that our Option #3 is going to be the chosen course—“ Do nothing and mislead policymakers and the rest of the world.”

We can’t say we are surprised.

But neither can we say that that the IPCC’s new results will be published without a huge groundswell of pushback from those who won’t be fooled by the IPCC’s misassessment of the current state of climate science.

Stay tuned for the fallout from this mushroom.