In Stockholm it’s science v politics

Photograph: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

“Climate scientists wrangle over crucial projections” says the Guardian (here), but the sub-header is misleading, and seriously so. I would even say mischievously so if this were not the Guardian. For the scientists are not wrangling… with each other. It’s the politicians and civil servants who are wrangling.

There comes a stage in the production of every IPCC report when the scientists present their work to their political masters. That is what’s been happening in Stockholm this week, where the final draft of the Executive Summary is being negotiated. The choice of verb tells us a lot about what’s going on.

The scientists know what they’re talking about. They’ve been working on this stuff for seven years and more. They’re not beginners and they’re not fools. This week, basically, the politicians will have been going through the 50-odd pages, sentence by sentence, adverb by adverb, trying to water down the impact, and it’s no secret that some countries, the USA chief among them, will want to add more water than others. Hence the wrangling.

It must be exasperating for the scientists.

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