This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is releasing its latest report, the “Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report.” Like its past reports, this one predicts apocalyptic consequences if mankind fails to give the UN the power to tax and regulate fossil fuels and subsidize and mandate the use of alternative fuels.
But happily, an international group of scientists I have been privileged to work with has conducted an independent review of IPCC’s past and new reports, along with the climate science they deliberately exclude or misrepresent.
Our group, called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), was founded in 2003 by a distinguished atmospheric physicist, S. Fred Singer, and has produced five hefty reports to date, the latest released on March 31.
So how do the IPCC and NIPCC reports differ? The final draft of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers identifies eight “reasons for concern” which media reports say will remain the focus of the final report. The NIPCC reports address each point too, also summarizing their authors’ positions in Summaries for Policymakers. This provides a convenient way to compare and contrast the reports’ findings.
Here’s what the reports say:
IPCC: “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”
NIPCC: “Flood frequency and severity in many areas of the world were higher historically during the Little Ice Age and other cool eras than during the twentieth century. Climate change ranks well below other contributors, such as dikes and levee construction, to increased flooding.”
IPCC: “Risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations.”
NIPCC: “There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.
IPCC: “Risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding.”
NIPCC: “No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. What changes have been observed tend to be beneficial.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.”
NIPCC: “Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations benefit plant growth-promoting microorganisms that help land plants overcome drought conditions, a potentially negative aspect of future climate change. Continued atmospheric CO2 enrichment should prove to be a huge benefit to plants by directly enhancing their growth rates and water use efficiencies.”
IPCC: “Systemic risks due to extreme [weather] events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services.”
NIPCC: “There is no support for the model-based projection that precipitation in a warming world becomes more variable and intense. In fact, some observational data suggest just the opposite, and provide support for the proposition that precipitation responds more to cyclical variations in solar activity.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of marine ecosystems and the services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.”
NIPCC: “Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life. Many aquatic species have shown considerable tolerance to temperatures and CO2 values predicted for the next few centuries, and many have demonstrated a likelihood of positive responses in empirical studies. Any projected adverse impacts of rising temperatures or declining seawater and freshwater pH levels (“acidification”) will be largely mitigated through phenotypic adaptation or evolution during the many decades to centuries it is expected to take for pH levels to fall.”
IPCC: “Risk of loss of terrestrial ecosystems and the services they provide for terrestrial livelihoods.”
NIPCC: “Terrestrial ecosystems have thrived throughout the world as a result of warming temperatures and rising levels of atmospheric CO2. Empirical data pertaining to numerous animal species, including amphibians, birds, butterflies, other insects, reptiles, and mammals, indicate global warming and its myriad ecological effects tend to foster the expansion and proliferation of animal habitats, ranges, and populations, or otherwise have no observable impacts one way or the other. Multiple lines of evidence indicate animal species are adapting, and in some cases evolving, to cope with climate change of the modern era.”
IPCC: “Risk of mortality, morbidity, and other harms during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations.”
NIPCC: “A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events. More lives are saved by global warming via the amelioration of cold-related deaths than those lost under excessive heat. Global warming will have a negligible influence on human morbidity and the spread of infectious diseases, a phenomenon observed in virtually all parts of the world.”
How could two teams of scientists come to such obviously contradictory conclusions on seemingly every point that matters in the debate over global warming? There are many reasons why scientists disagree, the subject, by the way, of an excellent book a couple years ago titled Wrong by David H. Freedman. A big reason is IPCC is producing what academics call “post-normal science” while NIPCC is producing old-fashioned “real science.”
What is a non-scientist to make of these dueling reports? Indeed, what is a scientist to make of this? Very few scientists are familiar with biology, geology, physics, oceanography, engineering, medicine, economics, and scores of other more specialized disciplines that were the basis for the claims summarized above.
It is frequently said of the global warming debate that it comes down to who you believe rather than what you know. Many climate scientists say they “believe in man-made global warming” even though their own research contradicts key points in the arguments advanced in support of that hypothesis. They say this because they believe the IPCC is telling the truth about findings outside their areas of expertise. Ditto influential science journals such as Nature and Science, which claim to speak on behalf of “climate science.”
The NIPCC reports were conceived and written to offer a way out of this conundrum. They are written in a style that laymen without special training can understand, provide explanations of how research was conducted and summarizing the actual findings, often quoting at length from original scholarly sources. Chapters often present research chronologically, in the order in which the studies were published, so readers can understand how the debate has changed over time.
The NIPCC reports are hefty – the first volume in the Climate Change Reconsidered series was 850 pages long, and the latest volume is more than 1,000 pages – but executive summaries and “key findings” at the beginning of each chapter make them easy to navigate and fascinating to browse. They are all available for free online at ClimateChangeReconsidered.org.
How credible are the NIPCC reports? Endorsements by prominent scientists, reviews, and citations in peer-reviewed journals appear at the Web site mentioned above. NIPCC reports are produced by scores of scientists from around the world (some 20 countries so far), cite thousands of peer-reviewed studies, and are themselves peer-reviewed. In June 2013, a division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a Chinese translation and condensed edition of the 2009 and 2011 volumes.
We know the authors of the IPCC’s reports have financial conflicts of interest, since the government bureaucracies that select them and the UN that oversees and edits the final reports stand to profit from public alarm over the possibility that global warming will be harmful. The authors of the NIPCC series have no such conflicts. The series is funded by three private family foundations without any financial interest in the outcome of the global warming debate. The publisher, The Heartland Institute, neither solicits nor receives any government or corporation funding for the Climate Change Reconsidered series. (It does receive some corporate funding for its other research and educational programs.)
So is man-made global warming a crisis? Don’t just wonder about it, understand it yourself. Read one or a few chapters of one of the NIPCC reports, and ask if what you read is logical, factual, and relevant to the debate. See if the UN or its many apologists take into account the science and evidence NIPCC summarizes, and then decide whether its predictions of “of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods” is science or fiction.
[First published at Forbes.]