London-based critic of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) David Henderson has made some suggestions for reform of the IPCC process in a mini-report titled ‘Challenging the IPCC Monopoly: The Way Ahead’, Download file (104 Kb).
Henderson acknowledges the enormousness of the challenges facing the IPCC and its considerable achievements including in bringing together 2,000 specialists to write and publish “three massive and agreed reports covering the range of issues relating to climate change”. In achieving this Henderson notes that, “the IPCC has established itself in the eyes of its member governments as their sole authoritative source of information, evidence, analysis, interpretation and advice on a whole range of issues relating to climate change.”
That was perhaps the situation in Australia, but since Tim Flannery published the Weather Makers, well according to our federal environment minister, it now informs government policy on climate change issues. 🙂
And this was perhaps the situation prior to the publication of the House of Lords Select Committee Report and the recent US Senate Select Committee Hearings (mentioned in this earlier post).
Building on the momentum from the House of Lords’ Report, Henderson wants the IPCC process to:
1.Include more economists including the central economic departments of participating governments and/or for the OECD to prepare an economic assessment in the context of the upcoming fourth assessment report (due out in November 2007).
Replace the ‘peer review’ process Further to the peer review process, establish a formal audit procedure to sit behind ‘the science’ in the fourth assessment report. Henderson makes mention of the American Economic Review policy which requires that data and computer code in sufficient detail to permit replication by others be submitted as a precondition for publication of articles based on the same.
3. Support the publication of “an alternative and rival overall assessment to that of the IPCC”. Henderson provides as an example,the establishment by the US government in the 1970s of an alternative assessment by a small group of experts of the Soviet strategic threat in addition to advice provided by the “authorised established source” which was the CIA. The group of experts, which became known as ‘Team B’, apparently provided a useful report. Given the number of critics of the IPCC process – what about giving them an official role?
There are indeed many credentialed scientists and economists who could be brought in to provide an official counterpoint. Henderson suggests this be through “an international consortium of think-tanks”.
I prefer the idea of a small group of well qualified expert critics forced to work within the United Nation’s IPCC framework and with full access to the drafts of the developing fourth assessment report.
I am reminded of a comment from Richard Epstein:
“When I’m confident I’m right, I want people to disagree with me out of hand. Otherwise, I run the risk of a kind of complacency which can lead to the loss of a cutting edge. I’m perfectly used to living in a world in which most people disagree.”
UPDATE No. 1
November 2nd, 1pm. I have received comment that David’s report (see link above) states that the audit process should ‘further’ rather than ‘replace’ the peer review process. I have modified the relevant paragraph accordingly.
UPDATE No. 2
November 2nd, 10.30pm.
Ian Castles has asked that I provide a link to the McKitrick paper title ‘Science and environmental policy-making: bias-proofing the assessment process’ TO DOWNLOAD FILE CLICK HERE (204KBS). Ian commented that, “As the initial postings on your site have immediately talked about the ‘hockey stick’ debate, and one of them has questioned whether David is ‘fair dinkum’ because he cites McKitrick, I think that it would be useful if you could provide a link to this paper by one of the two Canadians who initiated the debate. He provides a useful summary of the debate as it stood last April, and also gives some thoughts about improving the IPCC process.
Note that Ross quotes Australian Minister Ian Campbell (p. 287) & explains why Campbell (and the world’s governments) are wrong in assuming that the IPCC processes are rigorous.”
November 3rd, 9.30am
David Henderson has emailed the following issues with my summary of his report (report can be accessed at link in above post):
1. You say that I ‘want the IPCC process’ to ‘Support the publication of an overall and rival assessment’. I don’t say this: I suggest that governments should set up such a mechanism, outside and independently of the IPCC. This is a fundamental point: the suggestions I make go beyond your summary description of them as ‘suggestions for reform of the IPCC process’.
2. I do not suggest that ‘an international consortium of think-tanks’ ‘could be brought in to provide an official counterpoint’. Only governments can take official action, and the idea of a consortium comes under my last heading of ‘The unofficial critique’.
3. I didn’t suggest that ‘more economists’ should be brought in ‘to prepare an economic assessment in the context of [AR4}’. What I say about improving the treatment of economic issues is not closely linked to AR4.