'Grey' literature, which led to the "Glaciergate" scandal of 2010 when it was revealed that the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are losing ice (gone by 2035!) was stated as fact even though it was not based on evidence, will no longer be a problem for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Because they have declared that grey literature will no longer be grey - any information they choose to use will be considered peer reviewed just by being posted on the Internet by the IPCC.
Most rational people would simply not use grey literature after the errors of the 2007 report, to avoid controversy and therefore keep climate studies as politically agnostic as possible. It isn't like global warming deniers are ever getting through peer review, so grey literature would seem to be unnecessary, unless you feel like the ridiculous claim that African farmers are going to suffer 50% yield drops by 2020 absolutely must be included in a science report (that one was also shown to have been made up).
Instead, they have embraced grey literature.. Makes no sense, right? Maybe it does. If I want to have fewer people living in poverty, for example, I simply redefine poverty and - presto - people are no longer poor. I could have a terrific career in politics if I simply got people to believe I cured poverty by redefining it. Redefining grey literature takes poor science and attempts to call it rich.
It gets worse, if you care about science or the environment and would like to have constructive dialogues based on data. The IPCC have also decided to impose gender and geographical quotas on IPCC membership. So they no longer care about having the best scientists, they care about social engineering the representation of the committee. If you, like me, have a triangle in mind when thinking about culture and politics, they have shifted the IPCC away from the Excellence node and toward Fairness. Fairness is necessary, we wouldn't want people blocked out unfairly, but dictating gender and geographical representation means IPCC science is no longer a meritocracy, it is a good works program. And therefore inherently unfair to the best scientists, who can't be on the IPCC if they have the wrong genitals.
The new rules also mean it will be required that Africa will have five members on the IPCC and North America will have only four. I don't want to come off as elitist because I was lucky enough to have been born in North America but does anyone really think Africa has 25% more top-flight climate scientists than the USA and Canada...combined? The USA alone produces 32% of the world's science.
But that's not really what matters, say the IPCC. They believe America seems to have an advantage small countries do not; evil science media corporations, though they are overwhelmingly liberal, are still unfairly blocking out developing nation scientists from getting published, activists at the IPCC contend. With 25,000 open access journals and thousands of print ones, these researchers apparently cannot get printed and cited.
In further revising history and casting doubt on IPCC credibility, Richard Klein from the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden told New Scientist journalist Fred Pearce this gender and geographical quota was always the case, and they simply formalized it. "Membership has always been based on expertise, geographical balance and gender."
Basically, if the IPCC wanted to provide ammunition for climate change skeptics, they just handed over an entire arsenal. They are now saying the IPCC never had the best scientists in the field, they picked them based on how diverse it made the IPCC look. Why didn't the InterAcademy Council (IAC) mention that in their analysis of all the things the IPCC was doing wrong?
Obviously this could have advantages for people other than obscure female scientists in Brazil. I can write a blog post saying something important and it could be included in an IPCC report in 2013. Unfortunately, since 2001 the prestige of being cited by the IPCC has dropped a lot.
Front page image credit and link: Christian Science Monitor/Newscom
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