Saturday, August 04, 2007


David Henderson, in Volume 8, Number 2, World Economics (April-June 2007) (abstract only):
Governments, and in particular the governments of the OECD member countries, are mishandling climate change issues. Both the basis and the content of official policies are open to serious question. Too much reliance is placed on the established process of review and inquiry which is conducted through the agency of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This process, which is wrongly taken to be objective and authoritative, has been made the point of departure for over-presumptive conclusions which are biased towards alarm, in the mistaken belief that ‘the science’ is ‘settled’. Rather than pursuing as a matter of urgency ambitious and costly targets for drastic further curbing of CO2 emissions, governments should take prompt steps to ensure that they and their citizens are more fully and more objectively informed and advised. This implies both improving the IPCC process and going beyond it. As to the content of policy, it is not the case that the choice now lies between two extremes, of no action and the immediate adoption of much stronger measures to curb emissions. The orientation of policies should be made more evolutionary and less presumptive, with actual policy measures focusing more on carbon taxes rather than the present and prospective array of costly and intrusive regulatory initiatives.
In the August 2nd Financial Times, Clive Crook says Henderson's up against the IPCC "steamroller":
Mr Henderson, a distinguished academic economist and former head of economics at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has been tangling with the IPCC for some time. Five years ago, he and Ian Castles (a former chief of the Australian Bureau of Statistics) first drew attention to a straightforward error in the way emissions scenarios were being calculated. The projections had used long-range cross-country projections of gross domestic product that were based on exchange rates unadjusted for purchasing power. This mistake yielded projections for individual countries that were in some cases patently absurd. Far from acknowledging the point and correcting the projections, the IPCC treated these eminent former civil servants as uncredentialed troublemakers. Its head, Rajendra Pachauri, issued a prickly statement complaining about the spread of disinformation.

As Mr Henderson's new article makes clear, the episode was symptomatic of a wider pattern of error (often, in the case of economics, elementary error) and failure to correct it. How can this be possible? The IPCC prides itself on the extent of its network of scientific contributors and on its rigorous peer review. The problem is, although the contributors and peers are impressively numerous, they are drawn from a narrow professional circle. Expertise in economics and statistics is not to the fore; sympathetic clusters of co-authorship and pre-commitment to the urgency of the climate cause, on the other hand, are.

Add to this a sustained reluctance - and sometimes a refusal - to disclose data and methods that would allow results to be replicated. (Disclosure of that sort is common practice these days in leading scholarly journals). As a result, arresting but subsequently discredited findings - such as the notorious "hockey stick" chart showing the 1990s as the northern hemisphere's hottest decade of the millennium - are left to be challenged by troublesome outsiders.

Underlying it all is a pervasive bias. From the outset the IPCC network was fully invested in the idea that climate change is the most pressing challenge confronting mankind and that urgent action far beyond what is already in prospect will be needed to confront it. In the minds of the panel's leaders and spokesmen, this conviction justifies public pronouncements that often go beyond the analysis which the IPCC's own scientists have presented.
Say it ain't so, Clive!

(via JunkScience)

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