It Can’t Be That Hard to Act Like A Gentleman

Einar Du Rietz on the latest IPCC blunder

A Gent

So we have to wait another 300 years before the Himalayan ice melts. The IPCC has admitted it had the new predictions before the Copenhagen summit, but were to busy to consider them. The most recent account is by the environmental editor at The Times, Ben Webster.

“The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists.”

“False”, is a strong word and indicates that there really exists a final date for the glaciers. So, when is it going to be? June 10 2335? Any such claim sounds to me like any claim throughout history that the world will end. Tomorrow at tea time!

What makes it mportant is that the 2035 prediction was only one among others, being percieved as the solid science that no longer was the topic of a polite seminar, but called for global, emmidiate action, in other words costly and possibly dangerous politics. The mantra, both before and during Copenhagen was always that “The Debate is Over”, “We Can’t Wait any Longer”, in extreme cases leading otherwise sensible people to question if “We” could even afford democracy any longer.

This was, and is scary, but there is an alternative.

Research can always go wrong. It’s called trial and error. A fundamental prerequisite for any scientific progress is that we are all permitted to make mistakes. However, the far too often tricky thing is that we are equally expected to admit when we are wrong. Acting like a gentleman – or Lady – in the scientific debate is essential to it’s reputation and survival.

This is even more important when the lives of innocent bystanders are affected. Two historians may spend a lifetime arguing about who shot who outside Lipp in 1951, or if DNA might prove that Chirac is really related to Donald Duck. Most likely they wont bother anyone besides their colleagues and families. Using climate models, and even admittedly false models, as an excuse for global political action – instead of engaging in enlightening discussions – is, if nothing else, quite impolite.


About the Author: Einar Du Rietz

Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.