On November 2, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sent humanity a ransom note. In the words of the UK-based cartoonist known as Josh, its message was: “Give us trillions or you will fry!! There will be storms floods droughts winds and pestilence. We really mean it this time.”
The IPCC’s most recent document is a 100-page summary of a multi-thousand-page opus released in three instalments over the past 14 months. While the public is told this report – the fifth of its kind – is a scientific assessment of the state of the world’s climate, the truth is more complicated.
Despite the fact that climate research was in its infancy back in 1992, world leaders decided global warming was a problem worth worrying about, and that humanity was responsible. They signed a treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
It calls for the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” in order to prevent dangerous human “interference with the climate system.” It also mandates ongoing, annual UN climate conferences.
In any negotiation, it’s useful to begin with what lawyers call an “agreed statement of facts.” Rajendra Pachauri, the economist who heads the IPCC, hopes this newly-minted report will be helpful to “negotiators as they work towards a new global climate agreement.” He calls the treaty the IPCC’s “main customer.” This is the real purpose of the IPCC: to produce documents that can be cited during the poker game known as international climate negotiations.
People whose careers depend on keeping the climate treaty alive, such as bureaucrats in environment ministries and UN officials, have no use for a report that says 20th-century warming was nothing special, or that the sun dominates our climate system. Rather than shining a broad floodlight on such matters, the IPCC directs its spotlight in one direction only – humanity’s alleged guilt.
Climate change is nothing new. 20,000 years ago, most of Canada was covered by ice. Thousands of years before CO2-emitting factories and SUVs were even thought of, this ice receded all on its own. Despite decades of research, we still don’t know what portion of recent climate change is our fault and what portion is merely Mother Nature doing her own thing.
The IPCC’s new report “expresses with greater certainty” the opinion that humans are now the most important factor. While unable to prove this, the IPCC insists its experts are more convinced than ever that their view is correct. Too bad entire books have been written about eminent experts who got it wrong. And do we really need to explain to an international body that the fervency with which it believes something to be true is a separate matter from whether that belief is actually valid?
The IPCC’s latest press release says there’s an increased “likelihood” of bad things occurring if humanity doesn’t drastically curtail its carbon dioxide emissions. That’s all the IPCC has: fallible human beings imagining they know what the future holds based on hypothetical scenarios.
IPCC chairman Pachauri declares, in the same press release, that “We have the means to limit climate change.” This is nonsense. If Mother Nature decides it’s time for another ice age, there’s no reason to believe humanity can do anything to stop it.
It’s worth noting that the person in charge of the IPCC during its past two assessment cycles is no aloof, disinterested scientist – the sort who sets a good example by erecting a firewall between his personal opinions and his professional responsibilities. The fact that Pachauri unabashedly accepted a “green crusader” award two years ago speaks volumes about his organization’s scientific objectivity.
When the IPCC was publicizing climate assessment number four in 2007, Pachauri was quoted in the New York Times as saying “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
2012 came and went. No new emissions agreement was finalized. But like an old time preacher, the IPCC continues to threaten us with hellfire and damnation.