Climate Change: The IPCC In The Age of Speculation

Worth A Look, Climate, Frontier Centre


Judge Lance Ito lost control of the O. J. Simpson trial when he allowed speculation without a shred of evidence. Defense counsel Johnny Cochrane was able to sow seeds of doubt by his speculations and it found fertile ground in the jury’s mind. The entire Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) structure and work was designed to convince the public either with no facts or falsely created ones. Once these were established the speculation of impending doom could begin.

Structure of the IPCC begins with Working Group I outlining an unproven speculation that academics call a hypothesis, which is defined as, “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” In this case they proposed that CO2 is a gas that causes global temperature to rise and it will continue to increase in volume in the atmosphere because human activity, particularly energy production, will continue to expand.

As evidence accumulated it showed the hypothesis was not proven. Indeed, nobody has produced a record that shows a CO2 increase preceding a temperature increase.

Despite this, Working Group II assumes global warming is occurring and speculates on the impact it will have. It is a meaningless exercise and the area where much of the incorrect information was used and many of the non peer-reviewed articles are cited.

Working Group III take the speculations of Group II and propose strategies for offsetting them to achieve the goals of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is stated in the introduction of the 2007 Report as, “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” So they come full circle as they claim to have proved scientifically what was necessary to achieve their original goal. The hypothesis was not proved, nonetheless, the speculation of impact ensued and totally inappropriate recommendations presented. Policy based on speculation that is a product of speculation is frighteningly normal in this Age of Speculation.

How News Drifted Away From Facts

There are many writing styles that are used as appropriate to the material and the audience. Traditionally news stories use the active or passive voice and are factual, preferably with simple rather than complex sentences. Gradually the practice of editorials appeared and outrageously these were unsigned opinions. In an attempt to provide balance the practice of an op-ed, that is an abbreviation of “opposite the editorial page”, appeared. Both the editorial and the op-ed are opinions not fact. This trend spilled over into regular reporting, as regular reports became speculative and opinionated with very few and selected facts. They have adopted the conditional style used by academics because so many climate or environmental stories are obtained from academia. 


Use of the conditional is standard in academic writing, which is why it was academically and scientifically problematic when James Hansen told the US senate in 1988 that he was 99% certain global warming was due to humans with no conditions. Similarly, the unqualified claim that the science of global warming was settled raised concerns, even amongst the media.

It’s astonishing how many facts are believed real when they were only speculation in a media report or in an IPCC Report. Too often it’s a ‘fact’ supporting a false or misleading headline or assumption. Here is an example from a BBC article about ocean acidification. The headline said, “Acid oceans ‘need urgent action’.” It is false or at best misleading because the oceans are not acid they are alkali and they don’t need urgent action because the data on which the claim is made are completely inadequate.

From this false base the article makes speculations such as, “The also say that it could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people.” The key word is “could” because it is conditional. This means it is subject to one or more conditions. In this case it is the presumption that acidification is occurring due to increased atmospheric levels of CO2 and will continue.

Reporters look for articles in academic journals seeking those with a scary and sensational potential. They usually include the conditional words, but the public who read the article as a ‘news’ story overlook these. Then the headline reinforces the idea that the story is factual. Sadly, they are the predominant style, especially about climate and environment. Reporters are making news not reporting it.

One of the ways that speculation can dominate is because of the shift away from having general rules with exceptions to the rule. Now everything is an exception to the rule and we’re told each minute piece of a complexity is critical to the entire picture. In establishing the legal system they knew a perfect trial was not possible, hence the term reasonable as a fundamental part of the law. If you wanted to suggest there was doubt it was necessary to have at least one fact to substantiate a reasonable defense. Judge Ito allowed speculation or doubt without facts in the same way that speculation without facts or with inappropriate facts are used to write articles and promote the false science of global warming or climate change.