Friday, August 4, 2017

Tim Ball and Tom Harris Are Deceptive About the IPCC

Tim Ball and Tom Harris recently wrote an article claiming the IPCC can’t be trusted. Their line of reasoning is that the IPCC’s mandate has changed over time. Originally, the mandate was to review the science on climate change and has now become to review the science related to manmade climate change. This, they claim, makes it untrustworthy. By changing the mandate he claims the IPCC has now become biased, since it is therefore somehow beholden to find manmade climate change in order to ensure its own continued existence. If there’s no manmade climate change, they reason, the IPCC won’t be needed. So, they’ll ignore anything that doesn’t support what they want to find.

The principle problem with this claim is that it is deceptive. While the original mandate stated that the IPCC was to study all causes of climate change, it also made it perfectly clear the emphasis was manmade climate change. No specific item mentions any other cause. Apparently, the authors of this article didn’t think anyone would actually go back and read the original mandate to check on the accuracy of their statement. Go read the original mandate for yourself at Meanwhile, let me quote for you:

“Concerned that certain human activities could change global climate patterns, threatening present and future generations with potentially severe economic and social consequences,

Noting with concern that the emerging evidence indicates that continued growth in atmospheric concentrations of "greenhouse" gases could produce global warming with an eventual rise in sea levels, the effects of which could be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels,

Recognizing the need for additional research and scientific studies into all sources and causes of climate change,
6.   Urges Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and scientific institutions to treat climate change as a priority issue, to undertake and promote specific, co-operative action-oriented programmes and research so as to increase understanding on all sources and causes of climate change, including its regional aspects and specific time-frames as well as the cause and effect relationship of human activities and climate, and to contribute, as appropriate, with human and financial resources to efforts to protect the global climate;”

This is an example of what is known as ‘cherry picking,’ taking only what supports your predetermined conclusion and ignoring the rest. The article left out a considerable amount that clearly states the purpose of the IPCC was to study manmade climate change. In other words, the mandate did not change. So, we must ask, why did Ball and Harris say it did? The answer lies in examining their records.

Tim Ball is a doctor of historical geography. He is not a climatologist as is often claimed and was not a member of the Department of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg. There was no such department while he was there. He has never been a climate scientist and does not have any peer-reviewed papers on the subject. When Ball sued a paper for libel, the court documents stated, Ball "never held a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming."  Continuing, the courts also stated, "The Plaintiff's credentials and credibility as an expert on the issue of global warming have been repeatedly disparaged in the media,” and "The Plaintiff is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist."

But, that isn’t all. The co-author of this article is TomHarris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC). This organization serves to promote the fossil fuel industry and is closely aligned with numerous organizations devoted to denying climate science. Harris himself has a long, and well documented, record of affiliations with the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. 

So, we can see the reason for this article. It is part of the effort to undermine climate science and prevent any actions from being taken to address the problem. The IPCC is their principle target because it’s the leading international organization leading the way in this effort. Of course Ball and Harris don’t want anyone to trust the IPCC.

If they started the article this poorly, it stands to reason there will be many other false or misleading statements and they did not disappoint in this regard. For instance, speaking of the IPCC, they state, “this means that policymakers, not scientists, lead the process” (emphasis original). This is a very misleading statement because the IPCC is NOT a scientific body and has never been one. The scientists are the people doing the research and publishing papers. The IPCC reviews these papers and produces a report reflecting that science. Again, the people on the IPCC may, or may not, be scientists because it is not a scientific body. In other words, it has ALWAYS been the case that policymakers lead the process of putting together the report. The scientists are responsible for doing the science.

Their next statement is even more misleading because they purposefully call the IPCC report “research” when they stated, “the supposed scientific consensus was reached before the research had even begun.” (Emphasis original.) The report is a review of the science and is not. What is really interesting about this statement is that it is attribute to RichardLindzen, another person with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry. Lindzen famously declared for years that he did not receive any funding for his research from the fossil fuel industry. But, what he failed to state was that he was receiving large payments from ExxonMobil for ‘consulting.’ The exact amount he received over the years is not clear, but some estimates have it going over a million dollars and he has admitted to receiving as much as $2500 for a day’s worth of work.

The pattern is definitely developing.

They continue, stating, “The fact is that in 1992 -- and still today -- we have no idea what GHG concentrations would lead to “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”” (Emphasis original.) Once again, this statement is, at the least, misleading. Even ExxonMobil admits it has known for decades manmade emissions were causing climate change. Esso (the ExxonMobil predecessor) scientist James Black published a paper, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, that stated manmade emissions were causing climate change. In 1977, Dr. Black warned company executives of the danger of atmospheric carbon dioxide increases from the burning of fossil fuels and that these emissions were most likely changing the climate. So, Ball and Harris are misleading with their statement. We did, in fact, know in 1992 (and much earlier) that greenhouse gas emission would lead to dangerous climate change. I suppose they could quibble over the meaning of ‘dangerous’ and argue they weren’t being deceptive. Of course, any such argument would be deceptive by itself.

Let’s look at another statement. Referring to the IPCC statement that the report examines both natural and manmade causes of climate change, the pair state, “Following the UNFCCC lead, the IPCC reports exclude most natural variables and mechanisms. This is politically necessary so as to support the predetermined conclusion that human sources of carbon dioxide are causing dangerous climate change. This occurred even though carbon dioxide, from natural and anthropogenic sources combined, constitutes only 4% of atmospheric greenhouse gases.”

No, they are not telling the truth. Natural causes are examined in all scientific research. The problem is that, outside of a tremendous event (such as a meteorite impact or massive volcanic eruption) there are no natural causes that can change the climate as much and as quickly has been observed. All causes have been examined; it’s just that natural causes are not capable of producing what has been observed. Once again, they are misleading the reader.

Ultimately, it is highly appropriate they closed with the quote from Voltaire about defining your terms because that is how they take advantage of the reading public – they change the meaning of the terms and hope you won’t bother to check on them.

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