30 March 2023

IPCC: Separating the science from the politics?

The fact that the IPCC incorporates in its core business risks of failure to the Earth system and to human civilisation that we would not accept in our own lives raises fundamental questions about the efficacy of the whole IPCC project. If low risks of failure are taken as a starting point, “net zero 2050” becomes not a soundly based policy aim, but an appalling gamble with existential risk.

by David Spratt, first published at Pearls&Irritations

What credence should be given to the most recent summary report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)? To do that, you need to separate the science from the politics that pervades the IPCC processes.

The IPCC last week published a 36-page summary of its forthcoming AR6 Synthesis Report, which also comprises an 85-page longer summary, as well as a yet-to-be-published full volume prepared by physical and social scientists. All are based on the contents of the three main IPCC reports from 2021-22 — on the physical basis, impacts and adaptation, and mitigation — and three special reports on 1.5°C, on climate change and land, and the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate.

The short versions are known as a Summary for Policymakers (SPMs) and are subject to political vetting. In this most recent instance, amongst many examples, Saudi Arabia vetoed a proposal saying that burning fossil fuels was the main cause of human-caused climate warming, despite the overwhelming evidence. Truthfulness was no defence in a room of climate diplomats.