NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Spins Latest Report

December 12, 2013

Every six years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) spins out another Assessment Report along with its accompanying Summary for Policymakers. "Spin" is the operative term, says Kenneth P. Green of the Fraser Institute.

  • How the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) describes their levels of certainty and confidence in their findings has evolved over the years.
  • The most recent report claims with 95 percent confidence in their finding that human beings are responsible for more than half of the observed climate change since 1950.

What does it mean, exactly, to have 95 percent confidence in a selective analysis of a vast body of literature that is too abstruse for even the authors of the reports to understand entirely? The reality of the IPCC's certainty is that it's really just a best guess, a self-assessment by authors with a vested interest in having their work believed by policymakers.

Dutifully, the mainstream media carries the findings of the report at face value, simply accepting that the IPCC is playing it straight with what they know and what they understand about the climate system and manmade climate change. The media treats the claims in the SPM as though they were the results of rigorous studies subject to statistical testing, rather than bother readers with the reality that this is really just a large, highly selective literature review in which subjective evaluations by a government-picked group of climate experts rule the day.

Decent journalists should know better: the Summary for Policymakers is, and always has been, a document intended to tell the narrative that the United Nations and other groups who promote catastrophic climate change have wanted it to tell. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Source: Kenneth P. Green, "The 'Science' of Global Warming, Part 1," Fraser Institute, November/December 2013.


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