- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

Today, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its long-awaited Fourth Assessment Report. Well, not quite.

Actually, the U.N. panel releases just the 12-page Summary for Policymakers — and, of course, a press release for those too busy to read the summary. The rest of the report, about 1,600 pages, will be available in May. Why the long delay? As the panel so charmingly explains: It’s to permit adjustments to the scientific report — to make it consistent with its Summary, a document severely edited by some 150 government delegations that met last week in Paris. In other words, the panel, which prides itself on being strictly scientific and policy-neutral, wants to be sure that its report is politically correct.

We think this procedure by the panel is a little strange — reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland: summary first, report later. It will undoubtedly raise some doubts about the scientific credibility of the panel’s conclusions. Will the U.N. panel fully document the post-summary “adjustments” to the report? We are not holding our breath.

We wonder also if Rep. Henry Waxman will hold hearings on the panel’s efforts to cleanse its scientific report of anything that might contradict the summary. Mr. Waxman’s Jan. 30 hearing on government interference with science delved into allegations that the White House modified an EPA document. Actually, an Al Gore clone in EPA had put words into a U.S. report to the United Nations that would have distorted administration policy positions. The policy people in the White House, quite properly it seems to us, changed the offending phrases.

The cleansing of the U.N. report — and delay in publication — is leading to wild speculations about climate catastrophes, with many leaks to compliant newspapers. We already have the remarkable statement (reported by Reuters on Jan. 25) of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. panel: “I hope this report will shock people, governments, into taking more serious action… as you really can’t get a more authentic and a more credible piece of scientific work.” And he helpfully added: “So I hope this will be taken for what it’s worth.” Indeed.

Compared to earlier reports, the Fourth Assessment Report is really quite restrained, perhaps because the effort is chaired by a real scientist, less given to ideology. For example, the last report (in 2001) featured the “Hockeystick,” a graph that claimed the 20th century was “unusually warm.” Hearings last year before Rep. Joe Barton established that the underlying science was flawed, based on incorrect statistics. The new report agrees implicitly; the Hockeystick no longer appears in the summary.

But the panel still fails to provide real proof for its key conclusion: “It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse-gas increases caused most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century.” (The emphasis is in the original.)

The evidence they present is not at all convincing — and indeed, there is contrary evidence that’s been ignored by the U.N. panel. The whole question of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming is of obvious importance and is key to any policy of climate mitigation. It warrants closer examination of the arguments, which unfortunately must await publication of the full report.

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