Skeptics Challenge IPCC Global Warming Findings

February 25, 2002

A group of distinguished American and British Scientists has taken issue with the widely publicized findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concerning the effect of man’s activities, principally the production of “greenhouse gases,” on the world’s climate.

They challenge the central assumption, embodied in the protocols adopted at the Kyoto Conference, that greatly increased industrial activity over the past 100 years has had deleterious effects on weather patterns, notably by causing a general overall rise in temperatures known as “global warming.”

The group, which includes former CIA Director and Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at M.I.T. and Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London claim that the IPCC has ignored “underlying uncertainties” in the creation of its climate projections.

According to a report by the BBC they specifically challenged the findings in three areas:

–Projections of climate change based on models and assumptions which ‘are not only unknown, but unknowable within ranges relevant for policy-making;’
–Models which ‘do not adequately characterise clouds, water vapour, aerosols, ocean currents and solar effects,’ and’
–A failure ‘to reproduce the difference in trends between the lower troposphere and surface temperatures over the past 20 years.’

They conclude that, “The IPCC simulation of surface temperature appears to be little more than a fortuitous bit of curve-fitting rather than any genuine demonstration of human influence on global climate.”

In a BBC interview, Prof. Stott was even more outspoken, pointing out a basic “contradiction” of the Kyoto Protocol , i.e. “that climate is one of the most complex systems known, yet that we can manage it by trying to control a small set of factors, namely greenhouse gas emissions. Scientifically, this is not mere uncertainty: it is a lie.”

“The problem with a chaotic coupled non-linear system as complex as climate is that you can no more predict successfully the outcome of doing something as of not doing something. Kyoto will not halt climate change. Full stop,” Stott continued.

The BBC reported the opposing views of Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, who helped to shape US climate policy when she was with State Department. “This report dismisses the findings of the IPCC as alarmist, yet they are widely accepted as representative of the current state of scientific knowledge,” Claussen stated. She also told the BBC that, “A panel of the US’s own National Academy of Sciences (which included Richard Lindzen) expressed general agreement with the IPCC’s finding that warming is occurring, and that it is at least partly caused by humans,” and noted that “Uncertainty cuts both ways. Some of the IPCC’s scenarios have been criticized as unduly pessimistic, others as unduly optimistic.”

While the discussion may seem highly academic, it has real importance for the insurance community, which has been faced with the increasing costs of ever more violent natural disasters, as well as rising losses from floods, fires, droughts and other weather related phenomena. If the rise in temperature is at least partially driven by man-made pollutants, and these can be controlled, then it would theoretically at least have a beneficial effect on the climate, and might modify the weather to some extent. The skeptics, perhaps correctly, point out that the “If” is either an unknowable calculation, or that the entire system is so complex that altering one or two components won’t affect it.

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