The Politics Over The Process of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Over the past few months, the politics surrounding climate change continues to heat up . Recent efforts by global warming opponents have sought to disclaim the work, and credibility, of groups like the IPCC and CRU.  Opponents have been successful in their efforts to disclaim the work by these institutions by shifting the debate towards claims of cover ups and the mishandling of data by prominent climate scientists as proof of malfeasance. The goal of these efforts by global warming opponents is to redefine the debate over climate change.

By attempting to reshape the public’s perceptions of this issue, climate change opponents are attempting to provide an alternative explanation about some of the problems with the scientific consensus on global warming. This is a shift from previous attempts by global warming opponents to claim that climate change is either not happening or not a result of human activity. This strategy focuses on creating doubt among the public over the entire process in which scientific consensus was reached on this issue. Thus far opponents have done this in two ways. First, opponents have been successful in disclaiming the CRU. This led to the resignation of its Director, Phil Jones, over  leaked email messages that global warming opponents claimed was evidence of a corrupt peer-reviewed system by which scientific evidence on climate change was based.  Second, opponents have begun to discredit the IPCC over glacier-gate. Opponents claim the process that resulted in glacier-gate (faulty predictions over the melting of Himalayian glaciers) typifies a flawed process by which the IPCC makes their assessment on climate change; namely the IPCC’s process is driven by a political agenda and bureaucratic incompetence.  So, where does this leave us? Well, we should expect to see  global warming opponents up the ante in their efforts to challenge the process by which scientific consensus is reached over climate change.

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Environmental Outliers

Today’s Environmental Outliers:

  • Reuters discusses the likely policy alternatives for Congress in dealing with climate change legislation in 2010.
  • Environmental ministers from BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) countries met in India to discuss the post Copenhagen scenario on climate change.
  • Pew finds global warming ranks last in immediate priorities for the U.S. government to tackle.
  • The lead climate change negotiator from China notes he has an “open mind” on whether climate change is caused by humans .
  • Bill Gates discusses his concerns that funding for climate policies will come at the expense of health funding.
  • Amy Harder gives an assessment of President Obama’s efforts on energy and environmental policies.
  • The Wall Street journal opines on the continuing glacier-gate controversy

Glacial Politics: The IPCC and Climate Change

A slow-moving storm is brewing over a recent apology from the IPCC due to  an erroneous climate prediction of Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035. As this story unfolds there are multiple perspectives for what caused the controversy:

Dr. Murari Lal used the claim to pressure governments into action.

Dr. Syed Hasnain, who was the source of this info, was misquoted and the IPCC process for disseminating information on climate change is driven more by political considerations than it is by scientific evidence.

Nevertheless, politics appears to be behind claims made by the IPCC as well as by critics of the process. Further, an important lesson from this case is that it exemplifies some of the problems policymakers face when trying to shape public policy based on scientific evidence. No matter how certain the politics may be around this issue, the uncertainty principle continues to be a major factor in developing policies that relate to climate change.