Federal Budget Cuts and the Future of the IPCC

The House has voted to cut off $2.3 million in U.S expenditure contributing to the production of the IPCC Reports on climate change mitigation and adaptation.   The easy interpretation of this choice is that this is another “Al Gore snub” (see my earlier posts on political ideology and the climate change debate).   What is the social cost of cutting off the IPCC?   Climate Bloggers will continue to blog, climate scientists will continue to publish.   But, who is the “authority” with the ability and the credibility to aggregate up all of this dispersed, diverse information into an executive summary that my mother will sit down and read?   I have had mixed feelings about the quality of the IPCC reports that focus on human impacts.   The authors appear to be too aware that they were writing a document with political implications.    Overall, I oppose the Republican cutoff of funds but it is a valid question to ask what is the IPCC’s core mission and is it optimized for achieving this goal?

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

6 thoughts on “Federal Budget Cuts and the Future of the IPCC”

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. . . . The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.

    “Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. IPCC aims to reflect a range of views and expertise. . . .

    “The work of the organization is . . . policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.”

    Sounds utterly impossible to me. Policy-relevant, yet policy-neutral? What’s “neutral”?

    And, the U.S. is contributing $2.3 million!? That’s not enough to pay the internet connection bill.

    Of course, we could leave funding to the Koch brothers, Halliburton, and Exxon/Mobil — surely that will produce optimal results! Free market and all that.

  2. Thomas Franks. The Wrecking Crew. Explains it clearly and well.

    Those who claim to be acting on a man date are pro-business and anti-scientific findings that interfere with certain favored businesses. It happened in this country before. It is happening now. It will pass, with damage to our country and ecosystems. It likely will happen again before the end of the century depending upon what is left then.

    Nonetheless, in my view the IPCC represents the voice of the scientists participating. Sadly, the vast majority of them were not trained to communicate with the public, the media, with decision-makers. Thus industry has fairly successfully undermined the work of the IPCC in this country. In saner, more mature countries, the mission seems to be going a little better. But true leadership is lacking so not much will be done before it is too late to reverse conditions that will lead to ecosystem decline. And thus a decline in our quality of life, and a decline in many other things for the poor.

  3. “. . . acting on a man date . . .” Sounds gay.

    The one point on which I might be persuaded to join a demurral would be on the precedent for the centralization of authority. If the economists could be persuaded to break free of their libertarian cant for a moment, they might strike a blow for decentralization and diversity, generally, and for mechanisms and processes for aggregating information assessments that work better than committee meetings and plenary sessions.

  4. Policy-relevant, yet policy-neutral? What’s “neutral”?

    Dr. Kahn gets at this with the idea that:

    The authors appear to be too aware that they were writing a document with political implications.

    Suppose an asteroid were about to hit the earth. You wouldn’t want a document that engaged in lots of anti-asteroid hysteria. You’d want to present both sides of the issue, and let people make up their own minds.

  5. Any time you give likelihoods of temperature increases, that tends to have an impact on people. If people don’t want those impacts, we often mediate societal changes through politics. With ~7B on the planet, that is likely the best way we have figgered out how to do things.

  6. The GOP are opposed to science full stop, with the solitary exception of medicine, which gives them the hope of an eternity of whining about their cruel struldbrug fate.

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