It’s complicated

Trying to simplify scientific data for “policy makers” who often don’t know their burro from a burrow*, has got to be a gargantuan task.  Further, no scientist worth her salt is ever going to say “I know X.”  The best they can do is say, “The data strongly suggests X.”

This Wall Street Journal article describes the recent brouhaha over the IPCC and the pressure scientists felt to simplify the information for non-scientists, and also what the IPCC is doing to make sure that oversight is tightened and that they stay true to their mission: to describe their findings as best they can and leave the policy prescriptions to others. That’s got to be a hard line to toe, but it is the key to scientific inquiry.

Even some who agree with the IPCC conclusion that humans are significantly contributing to climate change say the IPCC has morphed from a scientific analyst to a political actor. “It’s very much an advocacy organization that’s couched in the role of advice,” says Roger Pielke, a University of Colorado political scientist. He says many IPCC participants want “to compel action” instead of “just summarizing science.”

To restore its credibility, the IPCC will focus on enforcing rules already on the books, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri and other officials said in interviews. Scientific claims must be checked with several experts before being published. IPCC reports must reflect disagreements when consensus can’t be reached. And people who write reports must refrain from advocating specific environmental actions—a political line the IPCC isn’t supposed to cross.

However…  Continue reading