By now, this is about the third time science journalist Fred Pearce has tried his hand at spinning Amazongate. Why may we wonder, is this hobby horse being flogged back to life?
The US Environmental Protection Agency says its authority to regulate environmental CO2 rests on the scientific veracity of the Nobel-prize winning IPCC reports. As a federal agency, the EPA can be fully expected to preserve its own right to regulate the environment. However, getting the science right, is as important for this very science-driven policy-making agency. This is because the EPA claims so steadfastly that it is the science that lends weight to its own authority.
Now, the question is: if there is a conflict between getting the science right and preserving its own regulatory authority, which path will the EPA take?
The answer is evident from its ‘defense’ (page 21 – PDF document) of the IPCC’s Amazon statement.
Roger Pielke Jr, indirectly, raised an important issue about the provenance of the IPCC Amazon statement at Climateaudit. “Why should we be content examining just the references quoted by IPCC Amazon defenders?” In doing so however, he succumbed to Amazon ‘jungle fever’ and started cutting through the thicket of citations himself.
At this stage, when the heavy lifting has been done, and done again, what would the outcome of any clear-eyed examination of the literature on the Amazon precipitation sensitivity be? That the IPCC’s statement on the Amazon in its Latin America chapter is unsubstantiated – is my guess.
We are aware of how entities in the climate change communication and advocacy business frequently direct the media how they should conduct their affairs. Apparently, some of these entities are slightly displeased that media outlets did their job during Climategate and public opinion about climate change advocacy and science tanked.
12 environmental advocacy organizations in the United States, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) signed a somewhat long list of complaints against “editorial boards and journalists” about their “misrepresentations” (that word again) . What interests us however, is a small passage, inserted presumably by the WWF, regarding the use of gray literature and documents by environmental pressure groups by the IPCC.
Here’s the relevant passage:
The Sunday Times also admitted it misrepresented the views of Dr. Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds, implying he agreed with the article’s false premise and believed the IPCC should not use reports issued by outside organizations.
So, per the interpretation of this group, Simon Lewis believes that it is OK for the IPCC to use reports issued by ‘outside organizations’, and somehow the Sunday Times implied otherwise. Is this correct?
“Amazongate is only an error of improper referencing, the actual science behind the key claim is sound”. This is the message that has been hammered home repeatedly by experts involved in Amazon forest research. In their press releases, letters of complaint and blog posts, they have refused to concede something might be wrong with the report, and argued that journalists should have performed in-depth research before bringing any disrepute to the IPCC.
Even as we search high and low only to conclude that the exact claim does not appear to supported by the literature available to date, another argument has been advanced simultaneously in defence of the IPCC. It says that the scientific evidence, the crucial pieces that go to make up this claim, bizarre though it might be, lie in many different papers. The IPCC report just brings them together – it paints an integrated picture of the trouble the Amazon region is in. So the defense of the IPCC is bi-layered. The science behind the imminent catastrophic destruction of the Amazon forests is true, and the IPCC makes a synthetic judgement to this effect. The only flaw is therefore one of citations.
The IPCC makes available its first order and second order drafts and reviewer comments. The question is: do these drafts and comments carry any indications or clues to the scientific summation and thinking process that is alleged to have taken place?