Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a news conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to introduce South Korean bureaucrat Hoesung Lee as its new chairman. Mr. Lee’s remarks to the press demonstrated that he is sadly out of touch with the actual status of today’s climate science.
This is not surprising. Although Mr. Lee said, “The hard science of climate change will remain the foundation of the IPCC’s work,” he has practically no hard science training or experience. Instead, he has a doctorate in economics and a career as an economist, IPCC insider and environment professor. Yet, when Jill Peters, weather broadcaster for Belgium Television, referred to Mr. Lee as a “climate scientist” in her question at the news conference, he did not correct the mistake.
Bob Carter, former head of the School of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia, commented: “The idea that an economist can make a suitable chair for an IPCC-type organization is misguided. The basic issue is a scientific one. Yet we now have another chairman who will be generally unaware of the complexities inherent in climate science and, in particular, of the high degree to which scientific advice about global warming has been corrupted by those with an interest in perpetuating needless alarm.”
Lee C. Gerhard, senior scientist emeritus at the University of Kansas, and past director and state geologist of the Kansas Geological Survey, summed up the situation well: “The appointment by the U.N. of Lee as chair of the IPCC is yet another attack by the U.N. war on science. His green credentials are impeccable, but his scientific credentials are non-existent.”
Mr. Lee demonstrated this when he told reporters, “We know with 95 percent confidence that human activity is causing climate change.” While it is true that by replacing forests with farms, buildings and roads, we cause regional climate change, Mr. Lee should know that this is not the primary issue at hand. The most important question is this: Are our carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions likely to cause climate change dangerous enough to be worth changing the way we generate and use energy?
Contrary to Mr. Lee’s assertion that “We know that, to avoid the severe, pervasive and irreversible consequences that will come, we will need to act now,” no one actually knows this. Mr. Gerhard remarked, “Despite more than 20 years of effort and billions of dollars in expenditures, the IPCC has not addressed whether recent climate change exceeded [that] documented by the records of the past several thousand years. Similarly, they have not examined whether there is any credible data that substantiates the hypothesis that human-source CO2 has significant impact on global climate. Mr. Lee’s background does not inspire hope that these two fundamental questions will be addressed.”
Referencing the U.N.’s much ridiculed “King Canute” clause, which assumes humanity controls climate as if we had a global thermostat, the new IPCC chairman asserted, “Our global emissions [of mainly CO2] should not be above 50 gigatons per year at the latest 2030 to achieve a 2 degrees stabilization. We need to have at least a minus 3 percent emissions reduction every year for the rest of the century so that by the end of 2100, the net emissions will be zero.”
The reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) demonstrate that many climate scientists dispute the idea that carbon-dioxide emissions need to be reduced at all. Mr. Lee is clearly not qualified to imply that NIPCC scientists are wrong.
In addition, the lack of global warming over the past 18 years, a period during which carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has risen 10 percent, shows there is something seriously wrong with the human-caused warming theory the new IPCC chairman holds dear.
Regardless, as Mr. Carter explains, “No empirical evidence exists that a planetary warming of 2 degrees Celsius would have a net detrimental effect — either environmentally or economically.”
Referring to Mr. Lee’s remarks as “tired cliches,” University of Western Ontario applied mathematician Chris Essex, an expert in the mathematical models that are the basis of the IPCC’s concerns, called the chairman’s comments “the same old meaningless poli-speak patter that only makes sense to those without any sense.”
NIPCC report chapter lead author Timothy Ball, environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, concluded: “There is one possible parallel between what Lee does and the IPCC. It is said of economists that they try to predict the tide by measuring one wave. The IPCC climate scientists try to predict the climate by measuring only one variable, CO2.”
Although Mr. Lee’s remarks do not mark an auspicious start to his chairmanship, he offered a glimmer of hope that the U.N. might start to consider alternative points of view on climate change. Saying that he wanted to “change what needs improvement across the IPCC,” Mr. Lee admitted, “there is always room to know more, to better understand how this complex and complicated thing we call the climate system works.”
Let’s hope Hoesung Lee leads the IPCC to finally open the door to a balanced consideration of the science driving the climate scare. There is too much at stake to do otherwise.
• Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.