It is a waste of time to debate … we do not have the answers either

When searching for information on how the AR5 was portrayed in the media, I came to this remarkable interview with Jean-Pascale van Ypersele (vice chair of the IPCC) in MO* magazine.

Again the usual statement that “the 5th IPCC report confirms with even more certainty that the warming is persisting and that man is responsible”. No word of course about the lowered equilibrium climate sensitivity, the larger sensitivity range, the inability to give a best estimate, the low confidence in trend and attribution of droughts and hurricanes, the lowered confidence in climate models and so on. Also no mention that this assessment is a opinion, not a measured value. In the light of this it is a bit odd certainty goes from 90% to 95%.

The thing that surprised me was that van Ypersele didn’t hide the fact that politics is almost as important to him than science (his father and grandfather were politicians). Which is probably an advantage having in the IPCC process (the IPCC is a political organization that uses science for its purposes).

That is how I saw the rest of the article, a combination of science and politics. About the AR Summary for Policymakers (translated from Dutch):

For five days long they discussed almost day and night about the Summary for Policymakers. Climate scientists simply do not rush it. And once the evidence is obvious, they also want politicians to take responsibility.

The summary for policymakers is a combination of science and politics. Strangely he says that “once the evidence is obvious”. As if the evidence is that clear. It relies heavily on climate models, which received quite some criticism in the last year. There is a growing discrepancy between the output of models and the observations. That would also be a reason why the certainty should have been lowered in stead of increased.

The reporter suggested that the report was conservative because the numbers are old. The answer (translated from Dutch):

With all the filtering it underwent, it can only be conservative. But the final findings have been accepted by all countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia. That’s very important, the report is very solid. If we don’t have controversy anymore over this data, it is a very important base. Therefor, the UN Climate Panel decided not to enter into debate with climate skeptics about science anymore. The debate should now be about the solutions.

This strikes me as a pure political statement, not a scientific one. Scientifically, it shouldn’t even matter if a finding is accepted by all countries. The fact that these countries agree, doesn’t mean this is a solid finding, in fact, it only means that the selected members of those countries agree on this text, not that it is scientifically correct. Big difference.

No controversy anymore? Sure, if there is no debate anymore with skeptics about the science, then there obviously is no controversy anymore and the debate could be continued to find the solutions. Which is the pure political part in the process.

This gives it a sense of urgency. Quick, quick, we have to do something. Never mind the failing models, never mind the observations that raise questions that could not even be answered, the lowered sensitivity,…

Besides, losing the debate because of the naughty uncertainty could mean losing credibility.

Acting upon the advice of the UN Climate Panel he refused a debate (translated from Dutch)

That’s why I did not accept the invitation of the RTBF program Mise au Point to debate with fellow chemist at UCL, István Markó. It is a waste of time to debate someone like that before a public that does not think about it in a scientific way. I don’t avoid the debate on scientific questions, but then it must be conducted in a scientific context, in meetings with scientists. If you have a science that is so firmly established, examined by hundreds of scientists, and if the result is accepted by all governments of the world, no, I have no more time to this yet to deal with a climate non-expert who cast doubt in the debate.

That really convenient. Back in 2011 he once debated István Markó and it didn’t fare well. After the discussion the majority of the audience said not believing that humans are responsible for global warming, while at the beginning it was the reverse.

He doesn’t want to discuss about it anymore, except with like minded people. That’s not a debate anymore, but a cozy get-together. It gives me the impression that here speaks a man that doesn’t want to prove his case and just want to press his political ideas without resistance. This is not a scientist speaking, but a politician.


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