Steam and smoke rise from a coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Martin Meissne / Associated…)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the most scrutinized of scientific bodies. Each report, each sentence and sometimes even a footnote can bring on a rousing online debate between scientists and the skeptics who love to bedevil them.
Once again, the IPCC's upcoming report has kicked up a kerfuffle months before its scheduled release. An online blogger, who loathes the idea of regulating carbon emissions, leaked a draft of the IPCC's fifth assessment now under review until its release in September.
How'd he get access to it?
Alec Rawls signed up to be one the of the report's 800 expert reviewers and then posted the 14-chapter report on his website stopgreensuicide.com.
Why'd he do it?
Rawls said on his website that the massive draft report has one sentence that needed to be brought to light, bolstering the case of climate skeptics that solar and other cosmic rays could have a greater warming influence on the planet than human activities such as burning fossil fuels. The assertion was instantly dismissed as completely ridulous by the primary author of that chapter. He said the interpretation of the cherry-picked sentence is exactly backward.
The report, which follows on the IPCC fourth assessment, published in 2007, is filled with stronger language that climate change is happening faster and with greater consequences than previously anticipated. And that the scientists are ever more certain that it's caused by human activities.
For its part, the IPCC released a statement denouncing the "unauthorized and premature posting of the drafts ... which are works in progress and may lead to confusion because the text will necessarily change in some respects once all of the review comments have been addressed."