You might regard this analysis as being too simple to add value – but then again:
“Science may be described as the art of systematic oversimplification.”
― Karl Popper
The skeptical weblogs contain clear signs that there is a lot of opposition to the works by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Could it be that one of the the root causes for the opposition can be found in the lack of robust scientific principles in the guiding principles for the Panel?
A good place to look for the scientific principles is in the document: PRINCIPLES GOVERNING IPCC WORK. The revision history of that document is a clear indication that the document can be regarded to hold the fundamental principles for the Panel. The document was first approved in 1998 and latest amendment was in 2013. Please be aware that I do not attempt to put up a full and comprehensive analysis of the principles. I only extract a few elements which I find particularly disturbing. The following sentences in the principles are particularly relevant when looking for indications on the scientific method that is endorsed by the panel:
Paragraph 1 :
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … shall concentrate its activities …. on actions in support of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process.”
Here is an extract from Wikipedia that will help to understand this better: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change .. is an international environmental treaty .. The objective of the treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
Hence the following will be a legitimate interpretation of Paragraph 1:
“The panel shall concentrate its activities on actions in support of stabilizing the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
Obviously, the principles does not nourish a culture of systematic scrutiny or attempts to falsify parts of the theory about anthropogenic warming.
Paragraph 10 :
“In taking decisions, and approving, adopting and accepting reports, the Panel, its Working Groups and any Task Forces shall use all best endeavors to reach consensus”
Obviously, consensus is a very central value for the Panel. This can be regarded as a dangerous value to endorse – groupthink is a well known cause of unsound decisions – and argument by consensus is a well known logical fallacy.
Empirical falsification can be regarded as a modern scientific theory. The following extract from Wikipedia summarize quite well the fundamental principle in empirical falsification:
“It is not the goal to bless theories with claims of certainty or justification, but to eliminate errors in them.”
It is by no means given that a scientist of today follows modern scientific principles. Also it is by no means given that contributors to the reports by the panel and members of the Panel follows modern scientific principles.
Judging from the principles that are governing the work by the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change, I would say that the work by the Panel seems more close to fit the following characteristics.
One observes nature, proposes a modest law to generalize an observed pattern, confirms it by many observations, ventures a modestly broader law, and confirms that, too, by many more observations, while discarding disconfirmed laws. The laws grow ever broader but never appreciably exceed careful, extensive observation while scientists keep accurate records for collaboration. Thus freed from preconceptions but empowered beyond a lone human’s observations, scientists gradually uncover nature’s material and causal structure.
Unfortunately, these are the characteristics of a scientific method from the renaissance. The characteristics above has been taken from Wikipedias description of the scientific method Inductivism. Inductivism is the traditional model of scientific method attributed to Francis Bacon who lived from 1561 to 1626.