18 November 2007

Politicized Science and the IPCC

-- Originally posted on American Thinker --

Just in time for Thanksgiving, the IPCC has delivered another warning of impending doom. This time, it has to do with the world's oceans' ability to absorb carbon dioxide. While I am not qualified to get into the science of this, I think it is instructive to dissect how the message is being delivered to the masses. For this, I'll use the Drudge-linked article from The Independent, a newspaper from the UK.

As might be expected with any article, the headline attempts to grab the reader's attention. In this case the headline reads, "A world dying, but can we unite to save it?" The "we" does not mean to imply that all the people of the UK should unite. This is a global vision; the "we" is global. The mission is messianic -- save the world -- which is all fine and good as long as the reader, or the believer, truly understands the intent of such an outlook.

In brief, the point of the IPCC's warning is that as the oceans soak up carbon dioxide (the article claims 500 billion tons since the industrial revolution), they become more acidic. In doing so, the life forms therein must adapt or die, and therefore the crisis.

Just like previous reports, this one was "[d]rawn up by more than 2,500 of the world's top scientists and their governments, and agreed last week by representatives of all its national governments." That means this is really not just science, but politicized science. It is the pursuit of "truth" so long as the agreed upon "truth" fits into the political machinations of the signatory governments. To mistake the IPCC reports with pure science is, by the reports' own admission, to only read half of it.

The political aspect of the IPCC report is clearly spelled out in the article itself. It "is designed to give impetus to the negotiations" which will happen in Bali in December. Again, the report is a premeditated attempt to push parties toward some sort of restrictive program with regard to carbon dioxide emissions. By having its end in sight, presumably before the writing, the IPCC politicizes its science. Whatever happened to the disinterested pursuit of the truth?

Most of the rest of the article is a whirlwind tour of the effects of carbon dioxide-saturated oceans. All of them are alarming. They are meant to be. They are designed to be.

The most curious of these points are the continent-specific predictions, which are saved for the knock-out punch at the end of the article. It claims that the "Greenland ice sheet will virtually completely disappear" and sea levels will rise "by over 30 feet". Bangladesh, which may already be in the reader's mind from the recent typhoon, is posited as a place which would disappear because of this. The Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef will both be destroyed. The farmlands of the US will dry up. And in Europe, the most curious outcome, "[w]inter sports suffer as less snow falls in the Alps and other mountains." All of this will happen, according to the article.

Though I am not a scientist -- far from it -- I have to wonder why all of the scare-mongering, shock-value numbers and political sign-offs are necessary. If the science really proves beyond a reasonable doubt that we are indeed headed for a climactic apocalypse, then the science should speak for itself. It should not be "designed" or packaged to influence politicians or the public. It should do so of its own merit. By allowing political influence into the equation, and in abundance at that, reports like this one taint and jumble the common person's view of both scientist and politician.


LSD said...

It seems that our ever-increasing ability to measure things has given opportunity to the UN for a power grab.

I ask what is scarier; a world that is changing, or a world in stasis? We can be sure that climate change will have local catastrophic effects and that these events will be used by politicians to the fullest extent possible.

ianric said...

And what does real science actually have to say? There is 3,60E19 g CO2 dissolved in 1,37E21 kg sea water. Thus the average concentration of CO2 in sea water is 0,0263 g/kg. The solubility of CO2 in water is 1,69 g/kg at 20 degrees centigrade and 3,35 g/kg at 0 degrees centigrade. The oceans are at 1% CO2 saturation. As for acidification, the reaction CO2 + H2O -> H2CO3 has a constant of equilibrium close to 10E-3, which means only one in a thousand molecules of CO2 is converted to carbonic acid. Of the total carbon in the carbon cycle a total of 1% comes from human activity. Perhaps the IPCC should think of consulting someone with basic knowledge of chemistry?

Bob M. said...

Thanks for the comments, folks.

ianric...Thanks for the chemestry lesson. I think I may need to head back to class to wake up those brain cells.