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IPCC's ex-"Political" Scientist
IPCC's ex-"Political" Scientist
Georgia Op-Ed in Tech Central Station
April 22, 2002
Environmental activists are attacking the Bush administration for orchestrating the ouster of an American scientist, Robert Watson, as chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the supposed ultimate scientific authority on global warming. They've picked the wrong culprit. Watson orchestrated his own demise. As Friday's vote for IPCC chairman showed, the administration was hardly alone in its opposition to him.. Seventy-five other nations also voted for Indian challenger, Rajendra Pachauri, an engineer and an economist . Only 49 nations supported Watson. Why? The New York Times characterized Watson as an "outspoken advocate of the idea that human actions - mainly burning coal and oil - are contributing to global warming and must be changed to avert environmental upheavals." And that was the problem. Watson's "advocacy" of the environmentalist agenda clouds his scientific objectivity, it has cast doubt upon the IPCC's scientific authority. What did Watson do wrong? A whole list of things. Watson presided over the IPCC's Third Assessment Report (TAR), published last year. The assessment reports are supposed to be a comprehensive review of the state of climate science in support of the international climate negotiations. What they have become under Watson's guidance is a political bludgeon to enforce global warming orthodoxy. The first inkling that Watson was manipulating the panel's work for political ends was two weeks before the 2000 presidential election. A draft of the report's Summary for Policymakers was leaked toThe New York Times, which reported that the IPCC "has now concluded that mankind's contribution to the problem is greater than originally believed," and that, "Its worst-case scenario calls for a truly unnerving rise of 11 degrees Fahrenheit over 1990 levels." The leak was clearly calculated to aid Al Gore's campaign. In January 2001, Watson publicly released the final draft of the summary, even though the report itself was still under revision, producing another media circus. Watson chimed in that, "This adds impetus for governments of the world to find ways to live up to their commitments … to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases." The Summary for Policymakers, written by U.N. politicos rather than scientists, is used by Watson to misrepresent the science. IPCC lead author Dr. Richard Lindzen noted that the 35-page chapter that he worked on was summarized in one sentence, and avoided any mention of the many problems with how the models misrepresent key climate processes. By releasing the Summary for Policymakers before the report itself, Watson assured that its alarmist message was well ingrained in the public psyche before the real science could get a fair public hearing. Watson's unorthodox strategy has achieved the desired political impact as the report itself has been largely ignored. Unfortunately, the report itself wasn't free of Watson's meddling. The new report estimates that the Earth's average temperature would rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius -- or 10.44 degrees Fahrenheit, which The New York Times rounded up to 11 -- over the next century, a big change from its earlier estimate of 1 to 3.5 degrees C. The higher prediction is not based on new evidence or on a new understanding of the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change, but on an unwarranted change in the assumptions about future population growth, economic growth and fossil fuel use. Stephen Schneider, a professor at Stanford University and staunch proponent of the global warming agenda, expressed reservations in Nature magazine about the new assumptions. According to Schneider, "This sweeping revision depends on two factors that were not the handiwork of the modelers: smaller projected emissions of climate cooling aerosols; and a few predictions containing particularly large CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions." To come up with the outlandish CO2 projections, for instance, Watson formed a group of academic scientists, environmental organizations, industrial scientists, engineers, economists, and systems analysts that decided to "create 'storylines' about future worlds from which population, affluence and technology drivers could be inferred. These storylines "gave rise to radically different families of emission profiles up to 2100 -- from below current CO2 emissions to five times current emissions," according to Schneider. To get the final "dramatic revision upward in the IPCC's third assessment," he wrote, it combined the climate sensitivities of seven general circulation models (GCMs) with the "six illustrative scenarios from the special report" within a simple model to get 40 climate scenarios. To add insult to injury, these storylines were not subjected to peer review. In fact, they were added to the IPCC report during a "government review" after the scientific peer review was concluded. Watson's actions proved that he was not fit to continue as the head of a scientific review process. The product of his tenure was not science but advocacy. The IPCC's new chairman faces the difficult task of getting the IPCC to promote sound science rather than political advocacy masquerading as science.