News - December 2, 2010

Dutch journalist sees climate conspiracies

Dutch science journalist Marcel Crok has been interviewing people on both sides of the climate debate for two years. In his book, The State of the Climate, he criticizes climate science and the IPCC. The book is strong on content, says professor of Earth System Science Pavel Kabat. Pity about the combative tone.

'I want to start by expressing my appreciation: this book is a good piece of scientific journalism. You have to know your stuff to understand the climate debate.
As far as I'm concerned, the first half deserves an 8, but the second half hardly scrapes a pass. I think it is a pity that he succumbed to the temptation to adopt such a hard-bitten tone in the second half. A straightforward summary of the facts would have been far more convincing. As it stands, parts of it are practically a campaign. With his detective novel style and his hunt for conspiracies, he makes indirect accusations. That is a pity. I know most of the climate scientists mentioned in this book personally: they take up the cudgels for their discipline but they have integrity. Climate science is not all wrapped up, it never will be, but there really is no deliberate attempt to steer the results in a particular direction.
Crok analyses climate science, the IPCC, the measurements and climate policy. He ask questions about all four of them, and in general, I think he's right to do so. For example, some measurements are taken in urban areas and that can raise the values.
He also argues for a fast cleanup operation in the IPCC, introducing maximum terms for members, increasing transparency in making summaries, and increasing the role of reviewers. The IPCC wants all these things too, but only in time for the sixth IPCC report in seven or eight years' time. Crok says, quite rightly, that this could be done sooner than that. in 2014. Crok also attacks the certainty expressed in the IPCC reports. He realizes that doubts and nuances are expressed in the full reports, but deplores the simplifications in the summaries. But he cannot blame that entirely on the IPCC; it is a fault of the system, which makes science provide politicians with quotable summaries. After all, the debate is conducted with oneliners.
In terms of content it is pretty good. There are a couple of small mistakes, For instance, Crok claims that evaporation goes up seven percent with every one degree of warming. But the increase is not in the evaporation but in the humidity in a saturated atmosphere (almost rain). That is fundamentally different.
I think the average reader will be left confused by this book. It is indisputable that the CO2 concentration is rising due to human activity. The relation with warming is complex, and he poses many questions about that. Most of them are valid questions, but can only be fully understood by experienced climate experts. Climate scientists can put these doubts in perspective, but the average reader cannot.'