It's Time for the IPCC to Open Up & the Blogosphere Can Help

closed blinds photo
New Scientist argues that the IPCC needs to 'Let the sunlight in on climate'. Photo: Jon Ross via flickr.

In the wake of recent events surrounding the IPCC's inclusion of speculative data on Himalayan glacier melting, and those surrounding the hacked climate emails, a recent editorial by New Scientist is particular worth reading. It argues that the IPCC's "heroic days" of "Herculean work" are probably over, more frequent assessments focused on policy challenges are required, and the wider review of science made possible by the blogosphere can help:New Scientist says because the case for anthropogenic climate change is firmly established ("the Nobel prize is won") the IPCC really needs to revision itself.

IPCC Deliberations Need to be Open to Scrutiny
It still needs to "serve as a seeker of truth whose deliberations are open to scrutiny," but it needs to speed things up a bit, taking less time between assessment reports and making periodic updates on how the science relates to policy. A special report on geoengineering, a report on how best to measure and verify national greenhouse gas emissions, and one on carbon sinks, New Scientist recommends, would all be useful.

Though the IPCC should remain an intergovernmental body, it needs to get with the times. "The IPCC was established before the internet revolution. Like it or not, its closed world of peer review is no longer possible, let alone desirable."

Whether Peer or Public, Review Still Needed
I'm sure there are a good many people who will take issue with the part after that last comma, and considering that it was so-called 'grey literature' that has most recently created a quasi-scandal certainly some sort of public review process needs to be in place, but the essence holds true.

Much like how a wrong date on glacier melting doesn't undermine the fact that they are indeed still melting and that it's something to be concerned about, but I digress...

Blogosphere Can Improve Public Confidence in Science
New Scientist says rather than retreat from debate about the science "in the name of spurious consensus" it needs to embrace it:

Some argue that the views of an untutored blogger, or even a scientist from another discipline, should never carry the same weight as those of someone with a lifetime's expertise in a relevant field. But if occasionally the emperors of the lab have no clothes, someone has to say so. The wider review of science made possible by the blogosphere can improve science and foster public confidence in its methods. Scientists should welcome the outside world in to check them out. Their science is useless if no one trusts it.

Right on. The only caveat in there I'd make is that while the views of non-specialists or non-professionals can't or shouldn't be ignored--indeed the internet (if not blogging itself, let's not pat ourselves too strongly on the back) has opened up the ability to get more and more eyes on information--some sort of sorting system needs to be in place, still.

Just as there are times when we have to tell the emperor he is in fact naked, there are also times when we have to tell the court jesters that their antics aren't funny or adding to the conversation.

More on the IPCC:
IPCC 'Regrets' Himalayan Glacier Melting Statement in 2007 Report
IPCC Chairman Personally Back 350ppm CO2 Targets, Holding Temperature Rise to 1.5°C
IPCC Head Says Aspirational Statements Not Enough, We Need Deep Emission Reductions by 2020

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Science


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