Science That Is Run Like a Soviet Election

News from the United Nations:

Robert Orr, UN under secretary general for planning, said the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming will be much worse than the last one.

Hmm, that kind of confirms what critics have been saying for years, that the IPCC has nothing to do with science.  Because, you see, to my knowledge the scientists of the next IPCC have not even started their work, but the UN leadership has already determined what the report will say.  Which is consistent with their process in the last go around, where the UN political guys crafted the management summary first, and then circulated it to the scientific teams with instructions to adjust their sections of the report to fit the pre-existing conclusion.

In the same article, we get more of the "accelerating" nonsense:

He said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would make it clear to world leaders in Cancun "that we should not take any comfort in the climate deniers' siren call."

"The evidence shows us quite the opposite-- that we can't rest easy at all" as scientists agree that climate change "is happening in an accelerated way."

Its not even clear what the value of the first derivative is for climate change, or even if such a metric has any meaning in the complex climate system where regional trends can easily be going in opposite directions.  But anyone who can tell you that we know the second derivative, or even its sign, is totally full of crap.

Never (except perhaps with shark attack scares which come and go) have I seen such a classic case of observer bias.   Certain events occur in the tail ends of the normal distribution.  Suddenly everyone claims that these events are happening with more frequency, mainly because they get reported with more frequency. I reported on a great example of this from a supposedly scientific government report here, where researchers mistook improved measurement of certain events as a real underlying increase in the number of such events.  Another example here.

Of course, 95 percentile events can't be, by definition, happening more frequently.  The only thing that can happen is the normal distribution can have its standard deviation increase.  Similar to the second derivitive argument above, I am not a statistician, but my sense is that the odds that we could detect a standard deviation shift in the distribution of weather events using just a few years of highly imperfect data, even if such an underlying shift existed, is really  really low.


  1. David Zetland:

    Although I am totally on-board with your desire to avoid pro-CC bias, I think that you may be leaning a little too far in the other direction. (1) I don't think all of these probabilities fit a bell curve; fat tails DO matter (2) The "pre-arranged" conclusion may be his comment on the research that's happened since the last IPCC. Research takes years and the IPCC (my understanding) merely summarizes it. That means that the "preview" comes from Orr's opinion as an interest observer.

  2. EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy:

    I wouldn't make too much of the sloppy language around the ninety-fifth percentile events. No doubt they mean "events comparable to or stronger than the 95th percentile in a reference sample". Sloppy language is not encouraging, but that's people for you.

    The real sin is the assumption that the reference sample is automatically representative when it is short on the scale of climate change; that's inexcusable.

  3. TomG:

    I don't think highly of the U.N. at all. Every part of it seems cynical or politicized...just notice the most recent vote in the general assembly: 79-70 to remove gays and lesbians from a resolution condemning executions. In other words, peoples' natural right to NOT BE KILLED if they have harmed no one has been gutted because of some backwards countries in Africa and Asia that ought to have no say in the matter. A person's right to life cannot possibly be contingent on a f%^&ing VOTE. The fact that this happened shows how little respect is given to human rights in the U.N.

  4. Mesa Econoguy:

    Again, the IPCC is a political body, not a scientific one.

    Nothing it says or does should be considered scientific in any way.

  5. Kevin Dick:

    @David Zetland. You're probably right that some of these distributions are fat tailed. However, it actually takes _more_ observations (sometimes many, many more) to detect when a fat tailed distribution has shifted.

    So Coyote's point about not being able to detect shifts from a few years of data is in fact much more forceful if you assume fat tailed distributions.

  6. DrTorch:

    Heh heh, you said "derivative".

    I want to know how many members of the UN have an idea of what that means.

  7. caseyboy:

    The UN has become a joke. The US is being lectured for human rights violations by countries like Iran, Syria and N Korea. Iran once chaired the non-proliferation committee and Libya chaired the human rights committee. Countries where the citizens have no meaningful vote on the affairs of their own country are allowed to vote as equal members with democracies countries. The UN has outlived its usefulness and since we need to cut spending I'm in favor of pulling out and asking them to vacate NYC. The damage they do is greater than any possible benefit that may arise.

  8. Joseph Hertzlinger:

    Sentence first, verdict afterwards?

  9. tehag:

    And yet again and again the people of the USA and EU vote for it.