Friday, May 13, 2011

Blindspots At the IPCC.

Earlier this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a 26-page summary of an upcoming 1,000-page report about renewable energy. While perusing this document I was reminded of remarks by an anonymous IPCC insider who answered a questionnaire last year.

According to this individual, the IPCC sees the world through a distorted lens. That distorted lens now dominates the way most of the planet thinks about climate change:
A relatively incoherent narrative…has been established by the IPCC, and scientific research in the field proceeds by embellishing this established narrative. And the end result is that we are not asking the right questions in the field of climate research… [bold added, see page 97 of this 678-page PDF]
IPCC spokespeople (and myriad scientists associated with this organization) have declared that we face a climate crisis and must reduce our carbon dioxide emissions dramatically in order to prevent horrible things from happening.

But if the IPCC really believes this, why isn’t it developing realistic plans to de-carbonize as quickly as possible? Why isn’t it systematically evaluating courses-of-action A, B, and C? That way we’d all have a better understanding of what our full range of options are, what the strengths and shortcomings of each happen to be, and what the trade-offs look like.

Instead, the IPCC has adopted a moralistic view of the world. There is “good” energy (renewables) and “bad” energy (non-renewables). It only wants to talk about the first category – thus this new 1,000-page report – even though the second category includes options that could dramatically improve the situation in the short term.

For example, the International Energy Agency has observed that:
Countries such as Australia, China, India, Poland and South Africa produce between 69% and 94% of their electricity and heat through the combustion of coal. [bold added, see p. 11 of this 130-page PDF]
In the 21st century people are not about to turn their back on either heat or electricity.

Last week the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation released a 36-page report titled The Shale Gas Shock. Written by respected science writer Matt Ridley, with a foreword by eminent physicist Freeman Dyson, the report concludes that replacing coal with shale gas would dramatically reduce not only CO2 emissions, but bona fide pollutants as well. As Ridley writes:
…unlike burnt coal, burnt shale gas includes no sulphur dioxides, no mercury, and fewer nitrogen oxides.
Ridley reports that natural gas leads to fewer human fatalities than does coal mining, does far less damage to the natural world (no tunneling or mountaintop removal is required), and is significantly friendlier to wildlife than industrial wind installations.

So how many times do you suppose the term shale gas comes up in the 26-page summary of the IPCC’s new 1,000-page report? That’s right – not even once.

A world in which our leaders genuinely believe humanity’s future is at stake would be one in which governments would be explaining the benefits and promise of shale gas to the public.

Instead, the viewpoint of environmentalists dominates the discussion on shale gas.

We need no further proof that the environmentalist mindset also dominates the IPCC than the fact that this new report appears to completely ignore the shale gas revolution.

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