IPCC Pretends the Scientific Publishing Crisis Doesn’t Exist
If climate research is like other research, half of the IPCC’s 6,000 academic citations are dubious.
By Donna LaFramboise
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a press release today. It tells us the IPCC assesses “thousands of scientific papers published each year,” and that its latest report relies on “more than 6,000 references.”
That sounds impressive until one remembers that academic publishing is in the grips of a reproducibility crisis. A disturbing percentage of the research published in medicine, economics, computer science, psychology, and other fields simply doesn’t stand up. Whenever independent third parties attempt to reproduce/replicate this work – carrying out the same research in order to achieve the same findings – the success rate is dismal.
The influential 2005 paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, is now very old news. Headlines declaring that ‘science is broken’have become commonplace. In 2015, the editor-in-chief of The Lancetdeclared that “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”
So here’s the bottom line: We know that studies about promising drugs typically fail when strangers attempt to reproduce those studies. We know that flashy physics research published in Science and Nature has been wholly fraudulent. We know that half of economics papers can’t be replicated, even with assistance from their own authors. We know political bias distorts the peer-review process in psychology. (All of this is discussed in a report I wrote in 2016).
We therefore have no earthly reason to imagine that climate science is exempt from these kinds of problems.
If half of the scientific literature is untrue, it therefore follows that half of climate research is also untrue.
This means that 3,000 of the IPCC’s 6,000 references aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
BACKGROUND: The IPCC is a UN bureaucracy. Governments select scientists to write climate reports – one of which has just been completed.
These scientists are further asked to summarize their work. But the scientist-crafted summary is only a draft. At the meeting that just ended in South Korea, the draft was re-written by politicians, diplomats, and bureaucrats representing the political establishments of various countries.
At that point, the summary forfeited any conceivable claim to be a scientific document and became, instead, a politically-negotiated statement.
Today’s press release announces that the politicized summary was “approved by governments” and has therefore been made public (download it here).
Please note: the report itself has not been made public. Nor has the draft summary containing the scientists’ own words. (Although the IPCC claims to be ultra-transparent, its website says the original/draft version of the Summary for Policymakers is available only to “authorised users” such as government officials.)
This is the IPCC’s standard MO. It controls the message by feeding the media a politically-negotiated Summary of its latest work. Then it stands back and lets gullible reporters mislead the public about what the science says.