One of Holland’s quality newspapers, the Volkskrant, had some excellent coverage of the IAC’s review of the IPCC process. Below is my translation of (part of) an editorial column (discussed in Dutch in an earlier post):
In a way it was inevitable that the UN climate panel IPCC got cornered earlier this year when some mistakes were discovered in its reports. The IPCC, as a volunteer organization with a small staff, could no longer cope with the societal polarization which was the consequence of the unwelcome message of global warming and climate change. Thus, professionalization is required.
The mistakes and glitches which were discovered in the IPCC’s 2007 report were the result of clumsiness and sloppiness. They did not undermine the knowledge that the climate is changing.
I would add that most IPCC mistakes were minor or even imaginary, and most were in working group 2 about (regional) effects of climate change; they did not concern the physics of climate and why it is changing. (See e.g. my commentary on the 2035 – 2350 glacier mistake, which is the only serious mistake, even if it is in a relatively insignificant and hardly read portion of the whole report. The Dutch area-under-sea-level slip was mostly clumsy.)
In spite of this it caused a wave of distrust, which suggests that climate science and IPCC as its flag bearer had a problem with their public image.
With not a little help from large quarters of the media. And of course human psychology to rather not believe things that you don’t want to be true.
On the one hand climate scientists are expected to keep themselves to the facts only. At the same time their results and understanding are also arguments in the societal discussions about climate change. But as soon as they participate in this discussion accusations of bias come up.
A more professional IPCC should not only work on the internal weaknesses and make and present itself as scientifically solid as possible. It will also have to make clear that its work has political implications, but that that doesn’t mean that it’s engaged in doing politics.
The last portion (my bold) should be self-evident, but since in reality many people and media chose to paint it as the opposite, it is unfortunately necessary to point out the obvious.