Re: Environment-IPCC

Russ Maatman (
Wed, 26 Jun 1996 13:00:33 -0500 (CDT)

To the ASA group:

Ken Piers wrote
With respect to Maatman's comments regarding the difficulty of receiving
proper (scientific) information regarding environmental problems he
alludes to the summaries of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change 1995 report.


These summaries
were a condensation of over 2000 pages of three extensive reports
dealing with different areas: 1 The Science; 2. the Impacts; and 3.
Socio-Econmomics of climate change.
It seems slightly incredible to me that one could pick one
or two
sentences (out of context, likely) from the background reports and
on this basis, allege that the summaries do not correspond to the
material contained in the background reports themseleves. While I have
not read the background reports, I have perused the summaries to some
extent. I do not find these summaries to be on the flaming left-wing
fringe of the debate about climate change.


I have very much appreciated the comments of Ohlman, Sweitzer, and
Haarsma related to this thread. And I agree that the paper Maatman
refers to in Christianity Today by Tim Stafford is excellent.

Ken, you and I obviously agree on some of the matters at issue. But
I may have given a wrong impression of what Frederick Seitz said in
Wall Street Journal article. It is not a matter of picking out
a few statements from 2000 pages and comparing themn with the
summary. There were (1) the background scientific material (2000
pages, perhaps), (2) a summary draft approved by the scientific panel,
and (3) a published summary. The big problem is between (2) and (3).

To avoid further problems on what Seitz said, I include the entire
article here. I really don't have the time to do all this copying,
but the matter seems to me to be extremely important. Readers
should remember that Seitz is one of the most respected
living American physical scientists. Seitz said on June 12:

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations
organization regarded by many as the best source of scientific information
about the human impact on the earth's climate, released "The Science
Climate Change 1995," its first new report in five years. The report
surely be hailed as the latest and most authoritative statement on
global warming. Polcy makers and the press around the world will likely
view the report as the basis for critical decisions on energy policy
that would have an enormous impact on U.S. oil and gas prices and on
international economy.

This IPCC report, like all others, is held in such high regard largely
because it has been peer-reviewed. That is, it has been read, discussed,
modified and approved by an international body of experts. These
scientists have laid their reputations on the line. But this report
not what it appears to be--it is not the version that was approved
the contributing scientists listed on the title page. In my more than
60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including
service as president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the
American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing
corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to the
IPCC report.

A comparison between the report approved by the contributing scientists
and the published version reveals that key changes were made after
scientists had met and accepted what they thought was the final peer-
reviewed version. The scientists were assuming that the IPCC would
obey the IPCC Rules--a body of regulations that is supposed to govern
the panel's actions. Nothing in the IPCC Rules permits anyone to
change a scientific report after it has been accepted by the panel
scientific contributors and the full IPCC.

The participating scientists accepted "The Science of Climate Change"
in Madrid last November; the full IPCC accepted it the following month
in Rome. But more than 15 sections of Chapter 8 of the report--the
key chapter setting out the scientific evidence for and against a
human influence over climate--were changed or deleted after the
scientists charged with examining this question had accepted the
supposedly final text.

Few of these changes were merely cosmetic; nearly all worked to remove
hints of the skepticism with which many scientists regard claims
that human activities are having a major impact on climate in
general and on global warming in particular.

The following passages are examples of those included in the approved
report but deleted from the supposedly peer-reviewed published version:

*"None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we
attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of
increases in greenhouse gases."

*"No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate
change observed to date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes."

*"Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are
likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural
variability of the climate system are reduced."

The reviewing scientists used this original language to keep themselves
and the IPCC honest. I am in no position to know who made the changes
Chapter 8; but its lead author, Benjamin D. Santer, must presumably
take the major responsibility.

IPCC reports are often called the "consensus" view. If they lead to
carbon taxes and restraints on economic growth, they will have a major
and almost certainly destructive impact on the economies of the world.
Whatever the intent was of those who made these significant changes,
their effect is to deceive policy makers and the public into believing
that the scientific evidence shows human activities are causing
global warming.

If the IPCC is incapable of following its most basic procedures, it
would be best to abandon the entire IPCC process, or at least that
that is concerned with the scientific evidence on climate change,
and look for more reliable sources of advice to governments on this
important question.

(End of Seitz's article)
(Russ, now)

If this kind of breakdown between what scientists say and the popular
account of their research occurs often, the public will get a wrong
idea of what is going on. Is this the case with respect to the
relation between human activity and climate?



e-mail: Home address: Russell Maatman 401 Fifth Ave. SE Dordt College Sioux Center, Iowa 51250 Sioux Center, Iowa 51250 Home phone: (712) 722-0421