Review of The Delinquent Teenager who was mistaken for the worlds top climate expert: IPCC expose by Donna Laframboise

delinquent_teen_150x200This is a book about climate change denial and the alleged corruption of the IPCC. A friend of mine was recently told she should read this book ‘and do your own research’. Well I decided that I too would read the book and do some research which I will now share with you. I have been watching some Steve Shives videos lately and will actually try and replicate his method in dealing with this book which I hope you all will find as entertaining or useful as I do.

Unfortunately my first research failure was being unable to find a free copy of this book, but I did discover a sample copy of the first seven chapters and at the moment that is all I’m inclined to read based on those chapters I don’t think the final 29 are actually worth US$5, but if someone can find me a free copy to review I’ll continue. This review will be spread over the next month, I’ll be publishing two chapters a week since although the chapters are short I find a lot to comment on in each chapter

Before I get in to the actual content of the book I’ll say a little about the author (the sample includes a slightly more than two page bio) Donna Laframboise was a journalist who became interested in climate change in 2009 leading to her writing this book which was released in 2011. She claims that her research covered all sides of the climate change debate although the Blog Post she links to support the claim contains references to 41 books not one of which is taking a mainstream approach to climate change. Though to be fair this post is from 2011 so it may represent her final position rather than starting position, and yes she does admit to being a climate skeptic. The rest of her bio is her discussing how politicians and green activists are trying to silence people like her by saying things like the debate is over or saying nasty things about climate skeptics. A few final points which may be of relevance is that Laframbroise has a degree in Women’s Studies, was Vice-President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and is a self described feminist, so other than climate change I suspect her and I might have a fairly similar world-view.

But on to the actual argument of the book.

1 – A Closer Look at the Worlds Leading Climate Body.

This chapter starts with a terrible metaphor which you quickly realise is where the title of the book comes from and is likely to be carried on throughout the book.

This book is about a spoiled child. Year after year, this child has been admired, flattered, and praised. There has been no end of self-esteem-building in his life. What there has been little of, though, is honest feedback or constructive criticism.

This goes on for almost a page but I’m sure the bit you have all realised is that the spoiled child is the IPCC. I will make one little comment her claim that the spoiled child (IPCC) has received little constructive criticism, even if we ignore all the climate skeptic writing because it isn’t constructive criticism the IPCC still receives a lot of constructive criticism. Here is 102 pages of constructive criticism on the first draft of Working Group III Chapter 12 of IPCC AR4(2007) Sustainable Development and Mitigation. I’ll jump along to the next part of this analogy which

Notice that the word intergovernmental is part of its name. This means that every country that chooses to send delegates to infrequent meetings is a godparent of the IPCC. Any child with over 100 godparents is bound to be spoiled. Even when he torments small animals there will always be those who think he can do no wrong.

Which means that disciplining this child is next to impossible.

This may be the point where the metaphor becomes obviously useless, frankly I think any simple metaphor would fail to accurately describe the IPCC. But the whole UN as parents – the collected governments of the world as godparents – IPCC as child thing is kind of ludicrous. But going along with it for a bit, the kid has 100 godparents who are responsible for disciplining him(didn’t you know the IPCC was a boy) some of those will think he is great despite his animal torture habits (by the way – seriously?) but surely some of them will also think he is an absolute arse and animal torture simply confirms what they have always known and the majority of the god parents probably make their decisions on a case by case basis. I don’t really see how disciplining this child is next to impossible unless the godparents operate by absolute consensus decision making processes. But I fear we are drifting to far away from the main topic of discussion.

Having morphed into an obnoxious adolescent, the IPCC is now everyone’s problem. This is because it performs one of the most important jobs in the world. Its purpose is to survey the scientific literature regarding climate change, to decide what it all means, and to write an ongoing series of reports. These reports are informally known as the Climate Bible.

Ack…. Climate Bible, I do not recall ever having heard anybody refer to the IPCC report as that before and it seems very misleading considering that there are significant methodological differences between the IPCC reports and the Bible, not the least of which is that the IPCC is updated every few years to adapt to developing information while the bible is not.

But thankfully we have made it to the end of that drawn out metaphor, lets get some serious discussion going.

(two paragraphs later)

What most of us don’t know is that, rather than being written by a meticulous, upstanding professional in business attire, this report was produced by a slapdash, slovenly teenager who has trouble distinguishing right from wrong.

For now, let us consider just one example. In the grown-up world, whenever important decisions and large amounts of money are involved conflict-of-interest mechanisms are firmly in place.

Deer god it’s not going to end. Also the IPCC has trouble distinguishing right from wrong? It is largely written by academics, that is kind of what they get paid to do, at least in a narrow field of expertise. Also look at that sentence immediately before the slovenly teenager, since when has dressing nice made a person better at distinguishing right from wrong? But lets carry on we must be almost getting to the core of this argument.

Actually, no the chapter has three more sentences all stating the same point as that last one, that conflict-of-interest mechanisms are not in place at the IPCC.

So I’m guessing that chapter could better be called Introduction: An extended but terrible metaphor for the IPCC. Hopefully Chapter 2 actually gets to the point possibly addressing those conflict of interest accusations that she ended Chapter 1 on.

Chapter 2 – Showered with Praise

That title makes me nervous, there may be more metaphor coming. Well lets get reading..

The IPCC has lounged, for more than two decades, in a large comfy chair atop a pedestal.

Oh no its back! but I exaggerate except for a little analogy at the end that sentence that is it for this chapter.

Actually the chapter begins by describing the sort of nice things that people say about the IPCC focusing first on journalists and then the Nobel prize chairman when the IPCC won the Peace Prize in 2007. I actually didn’t know they were awarded that so congratulations IPCC sorry it’s a bit belated. But her description ends on an ominous note.

If you know a bit about history, though, that Nobel speech may have left you uneasy. This is how it ended: “Action is needed now. Climate changes are already moving beyond human control.”

Scary… back in 2007 people already thought climate change was almost beyond control and here we are six years later and little improvement has been made, I am uneasy. But wait why is history important?

Let us be sensible for a moment. Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. During that time it has endured all sorts of perfectly natural climate transformations. As recently as 20,000 years ago 97% of Canada was covered by ice.

Oh so you actually meant prehistory but okay lets go with it.

That ice melted and retreated and the Ice Age ended all on its own. The Egyptian pharaohs, remember, only came into the picture 5,000 years ago, while the Romans ruled 2,000 years ago. To suggest that the climate has ever been within human control is surely a bit silly.

Here is a graph it shows temperature, carbon dioxide and dust concentration changes over the past 400,000 years, that is twice as long as modern humans have existed. You see climate and carbon dioxide changes in a fairly regular pattern, regular because it is caused by factors like precession, orbital eccentricity and planetary tilt. So lets say that this graph represents the current normal state of the earth’s climate, now look at the far left of the graph that represents the modern day, we seen to be at the top of one of those temperature spikes, at the high end of the natural temperature range, in fact based on current climate change projections of an increase of 2oC by 2100 we would be up at the highest point in the natural temperature range of the past 400,000 years. Also note that naturally carbon dioxide doesn’t get above 300ppm currently it is at 397.23ppm and the nature of the relationship between the two has changed from what this graph shows and the modern era. This chart clearly shows carbon dioxide lagging temperature changes by a few centuries. Currently carbon dioxide is leading temperature changes slightly as seen in this Graph, ignore the vertical scale as ppm and oF can’t really be directly compared, but we can see that over the past few hundred years that carbon dioxide began increasing before temperature. Clearly the current climate change is different to the pre- historical climate change.

But yes suggesting that we have been in control of the climate is a bit silly, I mean too many people believe we aren’t even changing the climate so suggesting that the climate was ever in human control is unlikely, at least deliberately. But of course that isn’t what the Nobel Chairman was saying they were saying it is beyond our control which isn’t to say we ever controlled the climate simply that we are losing the option of controlling it.

Moving on Laframboise says the famous Mark Twain quote about how most people get their information second hand and don’t actually know what they are talking about. And of course she is quick to point out that this applies to environmentalists.

But it also applies to most climate deniers, so….

Twain was talking about religion and politics when he made the above remarks and, for some people, environmentalism has become a substitute religion. It is their worldview, the lens through which they interpret everything.

First I was going to point out all the people that have both a religious and environmentalist belief pointing out that for those people at least one is not a substitute for the other. Then I realised that when she says ‘substitute religion’ she actually means what I would call an ideology and yes some people do interpret everything through a sustainability or environmentalist framework. Although I do still feel that her manner of expressing this is written in such a way as to imply that environmentalists are all atheists or agnostics, which is clearly untrue and I suspect has more to do with the low esteem these last two groups have in North America. Continuing…

Moreover, because the IPCC is a child of the United Nations – the stage on which so many of the world’s power blocs jostle with one another – whether we like it or not the IPCC is also mixed up with politics.

Yeah that is why every year all the countries send representatives to those COP summits so that they can ignore the IPCC in person, damn politics.

The next few chapters describe how over the past fifty years ‘our children’ have basically been brainwashed into thinking the planet is on the brink of ecological collapse and that because of this no one has given the IPCC the scrutiny it deserves by anyone from heads of state to concerned parents. Odd thing is the worlds heads of state have a terrible habit of being more than half a century old so would have grown up in a world only slightly touched by this brainwashing. Which may explain why they refuse to do anything about climate change.

Also the conflict of interest line is mentioned again and I note Laframboise still hasn’t explained it. But it still doesn’t get explained in this chapter the rest of it is taken up by the final analogy…

Closer examination reveals that many of the things we’ve been told about the IPCC are mistaken. For instance, a great deal of noise is made about the allegedly rigorous manner in which its reports get written. The implication is that the IPCC has procedures and that these procedures are followed diligently.

But while the IPCC has taken the time to write down some rules of the road, it has never hired any traffic cops. Since many people exceed the speed limit when police officers are plentiful, what do we suppose happens when they’re entirely absent? In the real world, when undisciplined youngsters slide behind the wheel of a fast car, how many of them can be counted on to behave?

Firstly stop ending your chapters with random statements abut the IPCC that you don’t provide any argument for now I have to wait to find out how the IPCC are ignoring conflicts of interests and how they are breaking the procedures that they developed.

But lets discuss analogy. Police are entirely absent? Where is that 102 pages of criticism about a 54 page chapter in the 2007 IPCC report. Blah.. Blah… Blah undisciplined youngsters? Seems like an odd description for academics but you have your metaphor thing. Last point – the IPCC as a fast car? Just no.

Here I’ll fix it for you.

Since many people exceed the speed limit when police officers are plentiful, what do we suppose happens when police outnumber motorists almost two to one? In the real world, when middle aged people who have spent their lives learning in an increasingly self directed manner slide behind the wheel of a infuriatingly slow car, how many of them can be counted on to behave?

I think most of them would behave.

This review continues here


1 Comment

  1. August 29, 2013 at 11:27

    […] is the second part of the review, the first is here and the third is […]

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