It is doubtful that future IPCC reports will make a difference in climate policy
I have a long column at Salon.com, “Desperate times, desperate scientists,” which discusses how dire the climate situation is and how desperate climate scientists have become in the face of global inaction.
In general, I am a fan of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has done — and they certainly deserve the Nobel Prize they shared with Al Gore. That said, at the end of the Salon piece I argue for disbanding it:
In fact, I think that with the release of the recent synthesis report, the IPCC has reached the end of its usefulness. Anyone who isn’t persuaded by that document and the general desperation of international climate scientists is unlikely to be moved by yet another such assessment and more begging. In particular, skeptical Americans are unlikely to be convinced by another international report that focuses on international climate impacts.
We could use a new definitive analysis by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on climate science, U.S. impacts, and solutions. That analysis should also do something the IPCC doesn’t — namely, look at plausible worst-case scenarios, given that such scenarios typically form the basis for most of our security and health policies.
It would be harder for Americans to ignore an Academy study than the IPCC reports. An Academy study would also be more likely to get thorough attention from the U.S. media and possibly even from conservatives …
I just don’t think that continuing the IPCC process will have any meaningful impact on American climate policy. And much of the rest of the industrialized world is ready to make the necessary commitments now.
Maybe the only reason for keeping the IPCC is if you think it will help persuade China and India to act (assuming we act), and I have my doubts that future IPCC reports will make much of a difference to them. The IPCC process is slow and unwieldy, and in the face of the rapid climate change we’re now seeing, the summaries are not merely understatements of the problem, they are out of date the moment they’re published.
We also need a more credible body to analyze climate solutions (i.e., mitigation strategies). I just don’t think the IPCC persuades anyone who isn’t already persuaded that mitigation is practical and affordable.
If you want to read the Salon article, click here.