Overlooked Issues in Prior IPCC Reports and the Current IPCC Report Process: Is There a Change From the Past?

Unfortunately, the answer is No.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I: The Physical Basis of Climate Change? is soliciting expert reviews from September 12 to November 4, 2005 (http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/). The chapter outline of the report topics is given below:

Historical Overview of Climate Change Science
Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing
Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change
Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground
Observations: Oceanic Climate Change and Sea Level
Couplings Between Changes in the Climate System and Biogeochemistry
Climate Models and their Evaluation
Understanding and Attributing Climate Change
Global Climate Projections
Regional Climate Projections

Previous IPCC reports suffered from a much too narrow focus on the issue of climate change, and unfortunately, this IPCC report perpetuates that perspective. For example, biogeochemistry is not actually separate from the climate system as indicated in the IPCC chapter outline, but part of the climate system as was concluded in the 2005 National Research Council (NRC) Report . The diversity of climate forcings that were described in the NRC (2005) report (see Figure ES-1 in that report) is also not evident in the chapter topics.

In disappointment on the focus of prior IPCC reports (and also the U.S. National Assessment), I completed an article on this subject in 2002 for the journal Climatic Change. Steve Schneider, Editor of the journal, is acknowledged and thanked for permitting this essay to be published, and to promote constructive dialog on this subject. The article is

Pielke Sr., R.A., 2002: Overlooked issues in the U.S. National Climate and IPCC assessments. Climatic Change, 52, 1-11. A constructive counterpoint article by Mike MacCracken followed mine (MacCracken, M., 2002: Do the uncertainty ranges in the IPCC and U.S. National Assessments account adequately for possibly overlooked climatic influences. Climatic Change, 52, 13-23. ).

Unfortunately, the issues that are raised in my article in Climatic Change are being ignored in the construction of the IPCC outline of chapters. The IPCC Chapter outline perpetuates the same narrow perspective that was in the earlier reports.

Indeed, even more substantively, the IPCC should consider whether a new paradigm is needed and would better serve policymakers. In my Climatic Change essay, a “vulnerability assessment approach…..in which the entire spectrum of environmental stresses are evaluated in order to determine the greatest threats to specific resources”? was proposed. This vulnerability perspective is expanded on in Pielke Sr., R.A., J.O. Adegoke, T.N. Chase, C.H. Marshall, T. Matsui, and D. Niyogi, 2005: A new paradigm for assessing the role of agriculture in the climate system and in climate change. Agric. Forest Meteor. Only once the vulnerabilities are assessed, should the “global climate projections�? be introduced as just one of the tools to determine the possibilities of what could happen in the future. Our earlier weblogs under the topic “vulnerability paradigm”?, as well as Chapter E in Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp, discuss this viewpoint further.

The format of the request for input to the new IPPC report clearly illustrates the limited scope of the authors. While input is requested on the 11 chapter topics, there is no framework to provide input on whether the chapter format that they have chosen is even what is needed by the scientific community and by policymakers! From their request for reviews of the Chapter, we are to just accept the chapter topics that they have selected.

There is no other conclusion, but that the IPCC continues to work as an advocate that will continue to communicate a very parochial view of climate science to policymakers.

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