Posted by: climatewonk | March 9, 2008

Denialist Canard of the Day – The IPCC Summary Is Too Simple

One of the chief complaints lodged by various “skeptics” is that the IPCC summaries are not advanced enough to explain the science to the average person.  A post over at the “audit” blog is an example of this complaint and is dealth with quite effectively by Atmoz:

By examination of the document, I would argue that this was it’s purpose. The answers provided in this document are presented in a way that the average adult citizen of the World with a secondary-level education would understand. Those expecting to find a more detailed examination of the greenhouse effect should look elsewhere. In my view this brochure is not intended for readers with more than a cursory interest in climate change.

This is not to say that the greenhouse effect FAQ answer is perfect even for it’s target audience. For instance, “[t]hus, Earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible.” This just isn’t true. Most of the lifeforms that we are familiar with may have adapted so that the natural greenhouse effect is now a necessity. But that doesn’t mean that all life on Earth is dependent upon the natural greenhouse effect. We have known since 1977 that there is “abundant and unusual sea life — giant tube worms, huge clams, and mussels — that thrived around the hot springs [thermal vents at the spreading centers of mid-oceanic ridges].”

At the end of the post, McIntyre writes, “[t]he general public should not be required to wade through Goody and Yung at a university library to get an explanation.” I don’t think the general public would be able to understand Goody and Yung, but they don’t have to trudge over to the good-old university library to wade through it. Relevent portions of it are online.

I might add that it was the summary for “policymakers”, most of whom have little or no science education — they are politicians. I work in policy and have to continually edit down my work so that it is simple enough for policy makers to comprehend. If the summary for policy makers included all the relevant science and equations, etc. the policy makers would throw it on the table and demand to be told what it mean “in plain English” (or their preferred language.)

This criticism is therefore petty and meaningless and just another excuse to attack the IPCC. It is also more proof that the audit is more a tactic in a larger strategy rather than a serious interest in facts and proofs.

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