Paper says IPCC underestimates scientific certainty about climate change



According to a new document, the most comprehensive compilation of climate change research uses language that implies how bad things are. It is both a matter of overcoming the worst scenarios and not expressing the strength of certain evidence. The authors of the paper argue that, just like the distinguished climate scientists who write IPCC reports, professional psychologists and communicators should have a say in making the public better understand the scientific data they describe.

The assessment report of the 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2014, brought together the best climate studies of the world at the time. It has shaped the thinking not only of the governments that constitute its target audience, but also businesses, journalists and lobby groups. As part of this important role, the report, like those that preceded it, attempted to explain the scientific uncertainty surrounding certain aspects of climatology. Rather than expressing certainty, expectations are expressed in terms of trust. For example, there is a 66 to 100% chance that something will happen or happen.

However, Dr. Salvador Herrando-Pérez of the University of Adelaide argues that this cautious language can hinder public understanding. In BioScience, Herrando-Pérez and his co-authors analyze the language of the reports and describe it as "remarkably conservative". Herrando-Pérez said in a statement: "We have found that the main message of the reports – that our society is facing a climate emergency – is lost by an overestimation of the uncertainty and that it gets lost in gigabytes of information. "

Herrando-Pérez told IFLScience that the IPCC avoided uttering 100% absolute certainty on issues for which our knowledge is as secure as anything scientific. Philosophers of science will note that nothing in science is ever really certain, but there are many things for which the chances of being wrong are so small that it makes sense to round them up to 100%. Herrando-Pérez states that "greenhouse gases as the main cause of global warming" fall into this category.

In addition, according to Herrando-Pérez, the report alleviates the danger in which we find ourselves. For example, if there is real uncertainty about the magnitude of sea level rise during this century, the report gives a lower estimate of 10 centimeters under papers. on which it is based.

Regarding the executive summary, which is edited by government officials, Herrando-Pérez told IFLScience that the direct pressure of inactivist politicians was likely to have an impact on the wording. Elsewhere in the report, he thinks the warning reflects fears of another "gateway to the glaciers", where a single mistake among the thousands of pages of the fourth report has been used by climate advocates to discredit the Entire document.

In addition, Herrando-Pérez believes that many IPCC authors may not be fully aware of how their use of uncertainty is exploited by those who wish to delay action on the climate. . He would like communication specialists to assist scientists in drafting future reports.


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