The authority of the IPCC First Assessment Report and the manufacture of consensus
The word “consensus” does not appear in the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 1989. It appears prominently, however, when scientists associated with Working Group I represented the report’s findings to the public. This early commitment to “consensus” talk legitimated opponents’ attacks on the existence of a scientific consensus, locked the scientific community in to defending a rigid position, and lead the public debate in unhelpful directions for twenty years. There were alternatives.
This paper was presented at the National Communication Association conference, Chicago, November, 2009.