Friday, April 06, 2007

Sophists 1, Science 0

In the Global Warming league, three autocratic governmental regimes -- Saudi Arabia, China, and the Bush administration's version of the United States -- fought five days and four nights and then a fifth night into the wee hours of today against "hundreds of international environmental experts" in a "marathon" session over the final wording (and graphics) of the "4th Assessment Report" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Time Magazine reports that what they were fighting over wasn't even the full 1,500 report. It was "over the 21-page draft meant to be a policy guide for governments." Explains the AP for Canadian readers:
An international global warming conference approved a report on climate change Friday, chairman Rajendra Pachauri said, after a contentious marathon session that saw angry exchanges between diplomats and scientists who drafted the report.

"We have an approved accord. It has been a complex exercise," Pachauri told reporters after an all-night meeting of the International Panel on Climate Change.

Several scientists objected to the editing of the final draft by government negotiators but in the end agreed to compromises. However, some scientists vowed never to take part in the process again.

"The authors lost," said one scientist. "A lot of authors are not going to engage in the IPCC process anymore. I have had it with them," he said on condition of anonymity because the proceedings were supposed to remain confidential. An Associated Press reporter, however, witnessed part of the final meeting.

More details are reported in the Boston Globe:
The climax of five days of negotiations was reached when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and in a tussle over the level of scientific reliability attached to key statements.

There was little doubt about the science, which was based on 29,000 sets of data, much of it collected in the last five years. "For the first time we are not just arm-waving with models," Martin Perry, who conducted the grueling negotiations, told reporters.

The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised the many of the objections to the phrasing, often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.

The irony is that the report by 2,500 assembled scientists was supposed to be, as Bloomberg News Service puts it, the "first comprehensive overview of scientific evidence since 2001 ... aimed at informing policymakers of the known and predicted impacts of climate change, and of ways to adapt to global warming."

Instead, the sophists got their way. Those same "policymakers" from the U.S. , China, and Saudi Arabia refused to accept the scientific report as written. The result was, as Time Magazine puts it, an "unprecedented showdown between scientists and diplomats over authors' concerns that governments were watering down their warnings."

We can't yet give you a link to the final report but the watered-down "Summary for Policymakers" is now available -- minus the parts your government doesn't want you to see. Still, among many other dire consequences the scientists of the world foresee, you can read that in the United States --
Coastal communities and habitats will be increasingly stressed by climate change impacts interacting with development and pollution. Population growth and the rising value of infrastructure in coastal areas increase vulnerability to climate variability and future climate change, with losses projected to increase if the intensity of tropical storms increases. Current adaptation is uneven and readiness for increased exposure is low.
Richard Black of the BBC has some details on the contentious parts which were edited out:
The draft for this meeting started off by stating with "very high confidence" that natural systems on land and sea are being affected by regional climate changes, which was badly received by Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China.

Deadlock continued until the early hours of the final day's negotiations, with Dr Rosenzweig presenting a note of protest to the chair on behalf of senior scientists, saying that their evidence-based conclusions were being ignored.

At one point she left the room, and the whole process could have unravelled. In the end it was diplomatic leadership by the US, favoured bogeyman of activists, that found a compromise which everyone could live with.

"The final document states that observational evidence on every continent and most oceans shows that natural systems are being affected by regional changes, particularly temperature increases," she said.

"And I'm very happy with that."

It will take a little time for the rest of the details to leak out which our own government (with help from our good democratic allies in Saudi Arabia and China) managed to suppress. In the meantime, let's contemplate this question:
Do you suppose those same U.S. "policymakers" who compelled the world science community to change their report would similarly order their own doctors to change the diagnosis, prognosis and remedy if their personal health was on the line?

No comments: