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Der Versuch, mit Kritik am Boten eine ungeliebte Meldung zu ändern (Rezension in englisch), 2. Januar 2012
In the new book titled 'the delinquent teenager' Donna Laframboise (DL), a Canadian journalist, tries to depict the IPCC as a 'spoiled child' that should be rightened and better educated, e.g. by scientific academies. The author denotes herself as a climate sceptic ('climate sceptic' or 'denier': people who do not believe that there is a noticeable human influence on climate), and unfortunately the book exhibits very quickly the common deficiencies of sceptic's arguments: there are some correct basic points, which are surrounded by a lot of one-sided argumentation and errors. It has to be noted that the basic (and correct) points have already been highlighted and discussed in an evaluation report by the Interacademic Council (IAC) in August 2010. 'The Delinquent Teenager' does not exhibit any new relevant points. Unfortunately, it only adds erroneous criticism which originates from selecting some single cases or from missing knowledge about actual processes.
The main problem of the book: It only deals with the messenger, but does not really care about the message. It starts with the scientific academies: DL several times challenges the scientific academies to look at the IPCC process and to look after that 'spoiled child'. She considers the academies as scientific authorities, which should set the standards and speak out on that topic. She welcomes the report of the IAC (see above) and blames the IPCC of not having implemented its recommendations. However, while it is undisputed that there are deficiencies in the IPCC process and that there is room for improvement (as in every human organization in the world, by the way) one has to keep in mind two things:
1) There is no such thing as a scientific assessment of the state of knowledge in any other scientific field. The IPCC is a novel thing and yet has to develop everything new and learn from experience, which is a long process.
2) All criticism of IPCC processes, deficiencies, etc. does not change the results of innumerable scientific studies over decades and the main findings of the IPCC which are based on these studies. There may be some overstatements for certain aspects ' and some understatements for others (a problem DL was not interested in at all!) ' but the overall picture is not really altered by that. While requesting academies to step in, DL does not know or just conceal that numerous academies all over the world have done similar assessments as the IPCC and have come just to the same conclusions: that there is man-made climate change over the last decades and that this ' without counteraction - will be a serious problem in the future.
Therefore, the main content of the IPCC report is not in question. But DL just follows the recent tactic of a lot of 'climate sceptics': if you don't like a message, and there is a lack of arguments against it, attack the credibility of the messenger. And that seems to be the only purpose of this book.
In summary, it takes up the critical points that are mentioned in the IAC report and inflates these points by adding a lot of invalid allegations which come from ignorance (in the best case) and one-sided presentations of some isolated stories. And its arguments are often inconsistent: DL e.g. blames climate scientists to not behave like other scientists (not testing their models against reality; chapter 7) and in the next chapter blames climate scientists for behaving like all other scientists (namely keeping their data secret before publishing). Or the IPCC authors are blamed to not have included additional literature proposed by a certain expert during the expert review, and a few lines later blames IPCC authors to have done exactly that, namely included some additional literature after the expert review (chapter 14).
Below are given some illustrative examples (arguments in the book are in italics):
Criticism in the book: Some IPCC authors have connections to environmental activist's organizations (like Greenpeace or WWF) and therefore are not independent.
Comment: The value and correctness of any scientific analysis is independent of its background, be it a professor, an environmental or an oil company activist. Anybody can publish in the scientific literature, complying with scientific standards presumed. If a scientist is active in any organization, this does not disqualify his scientific work.
If a scientist agrees to write a foreword for an activist organization's publication about his research field, this does not mean that he is an activist but that he tells the organization his experience.
Unfortunately missing in the book are on the other hand the fact that there are other lead authors that are members of interest groups which are not really in favour of climate change. There are e.g. a member oft the Japanese Electric Power Industry and somebody (a coordinating lead author) who has worked 31 years for the petroleum industry.
Argument in the book: Climate models are independent from reality, they are invented at the desk and not tested against reality. They should not be included in a scientific assessment.
Comment: DL invents a difference between climate models and 'real' science, which does in fact not exist: 1. Every scientific discipline works with models. No scientific theory is perfect or corresponds exactly to the real world. Even physical 'laws' are in fact derived from a model that is based on observations and experiments. And we even know that these 'laws' do not exactly correspond to the 'real' processes, but only work within certain conditions and can help to predict certain events. An illustrative example is the fact that to describe the effects of light one need to describe light as a particle in some cases and as a wave in other cases. But what is light in reality? We don't know. But although we don't know, we can predict certain behaviour of light with our models. Or the atom model: 'the world of the atom, the quanta of particles, appears so strange that we can no longer visualize what we think and talk about. The particles have a quality of complete random existence and non-existence about them; and yet the methods of quantum electrodynamics, quantum chromodynamics, and the whole of quanum mechanics provide such precise, useful, and powerful tools (Jim Walker). The same is true for climate models: Although they do not catch the 'whole' reality, we can reproduce and predict certain behaviour of our climate system. 2. Climate models are far from being just inventions at a desk. Climate models contain a multitude of well-known and established physical laws (mass conservation, energy conservation, radiation laws, etc.), and they contain a multitude of observed interrelations. Although there is no second Earth, climate models are tested in the real world, e.g. by simulating the climate evolution in the past or by predicting the climate effect of observed phenomena like the Pinatubo eruption. And, like all the other scientific models, climate models are always improved and tested again and again. Climate models have certain skills and certain limitations like any other scientific model or theory, and we know the skills and we know the limitations. The existence of limitations or the lack of capturing the 'truth' does not mean, as for any other scientific model or theory, that they are of no use. If climate modelers should not be involved in the IPCC, no scientist should be trusted, because they all work with models.