2005-01-29

Science and Policy

Well, here is the long-anticipated :-) post about science and policy/politics. But first a disclaimer: since I'm writing about policy not science, I'm on weaker ground. And since I haven't thought this through carefully I regard myself as at liberty to change my mind on some of this stuff if people argue cogently against me. Oh, and since this is policy, perhaps I should say I'm an active member of the UK Green Party. That out of the way, lets continue...

A good and interesting context to talk about this is the Landsea-leaves-IPCC/IPCC is politicised fuss. Personally, I think he's just flounced out (ooh am I ever going to regret that if I have to work with him... fortunately you don't get too many hurricanes in the Antarctic). But just to push this further: Landsea said: It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda... and in this case he is talking about hurricanes. *But* if you read carefully you find that Landsea is writing a paper with Patrick Michaels. And if there was ever someone pushing unsupported agendas, its Michaels. So, how come Landsea, oh so scrupulous about who he works with, is happy to work with Michaels but can't cope with Trenberth? It doesn't add up, to my mind.

So... RP has a recent post A Good Example why Politics/IPCC Matters. This appears to suggest that because the CEI doesn't like what Pachauri says, he should keep quiet. Or rather, he should guard the IPCCs role as an honest broker. I don't agree: the CEI is going to attack the IPCC for politicisation come what may: there is no point at all in pandering to them.

And then again... Reader Mail on Political Advocacy is also highly relevant (whether you disagree with RP or not, there *is* an awful lot of intersting stuff on his blog; and not just cos it refs me...). I half agree (at least) with RP here: the head of IPCC has to remain apolitical (not having looked closely enough I don't know whether he has or not). But the bit I object to is So long as people within the IPCC leadership sees its role as political advocate rather than honest broker. This appears to be asserting entirely too much. I'm sure the IPCC leadership *do* see its role as to be "honest brokers" (or maybe they don't, since thats RPs phrase not theirs: OK, I expect that they *do* see their role as providing an honest and objective report of the state of the science of climate change). In the past they have succeeded magnificently in achieving this - it would be nice to see more people recognising that.

Now back to musing about sci/pol in an aimless way. RP is strong on the idea that they can't really be separated: But none of this is to suggest that the IPCC should withdraw from discussion of policy. In fact, trying to cleanly separate science from policy can make things worse. To the contrary, the IPCC is at risk of politicization because it tries (WGI at least) to remain mute on policy (here). I don't fully understand that comment. It assumes that the *IPCC* is already engaging in discussions of policy, and I don't see that. It suggests that WGI should not be mute on policy and I disagree on that and I'm pretty sure most of the WGI folk would agree too. But (having established a sort of context for the idea of sci/pol mixing) why is it so difficult to imagine them separate (for WGI at least)? They have been for the reports up to now, and its worked well for the science. Arguably (I would argue) not enough has been done about climate change, but I don't see how IPCC getting mixed up in the pol would help there. Hmm... now I seem to be arguing *for* RP's other point... shurely shome mishtake? But no, because I'm not opposed to individual IPCC folk speaking out, it would be bizarre if they had to be silent.

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