Adamant's Iron Law of Science and the Media: --( Copyright 2007 )
Reports universally referred to on
Prime-time go universally unread.
reflects the fate of the last three UN global warming studies. Everyone on TV says the next one from the International Panel on Climate Change will be released , appropriately enough , on The Day After Tomorrow ,this being January 31st.
They're wrong. What's being publicized high and low is the release of the gaudily illustrated 21 page " IPCC Executive Summary." Not to be confused with the inch thick Summary For Policymakers, let alone the real 4,000 page and umpteen figure report that won't be available to go unread until May. The object of this week's prime-time ballyhoo is a political document. One even the IPCC's Director admits is designed to "shock" us.
Shock is rather hard to sustain for the time it takes to read 4,000 pages of leaden scientific prose laden with equations and laced with computer graphs, so an ultralight Executive Summary precedes the ten kilogram tome. Which , given the level of scientific literacy prevailing inside the Beltway or at the UN might as well be written in cuneiform , translated into Esperanto , or carved in Sanskrit minuscule on the North Face of the Eiger.
This is a pity.What I've read of the IPCC opus as it has evolved on line over the last year-- most of some tranches, less of others-- suggests it contains over a pound of matter genuinely new and several ounces that merit universal approbation.
I cannot say as much of the 3/4 ounce Executive Summary, for divorced as it is from the contents of the IPCC report--200 to 1 is not a data compression ratio designed to inspire confidence ,The ExSum will beget some predictably bizarre government responses. Yet it remains a real tree saver , and a great way to while away the time as the 7 PDF's of the Real Thing download, a process that left me leisure enough to draft a First Corollary to the Iron Law:
Accusations of stacking the deck are
seldom avoided by printing your own cards
Of course the Real Thing is itself but a summary of a far more elaborate process, involving 1220 dickering authors and reviewers, about 1 in 100 of whom were invited to Paris to draft the ExSum. For those who just can't wait to dig in to the 4,000 pages
they boiled down to 21 and will reflate to volumes of hardcopy,the Federal Bureaucracy has magnanimously leaked its response in advance--its 14 page abstract is on line here. Unlike the Executive Summary authors, they did not have Madison Avenue's best and brightest sharpening their prose , but the difference will go undetected , because of the Iron Law's Second Corollary :
...Nobody reads anything
with a fourteen page abstract
Most people would sooner sit through a high budget movie starring a former Vice President. For those with stomachs strong enough to digest more than popcorn , The International Herald Tribune has a good account of what even Real Climate's IPCC boosters are calling " the sausage making going on in Paris."
DECEMBER 2007 Update : The exceedingly green folks at Island Press have kindly confirmed Adamant's Iron Law by providing a Summary of the IPCC Summary of the Executive Summary of the Summary For Policymakers: It is 32 pages long and roughly 64 times more turgid than the Magnum Opus itself