by Judith Curry
Mark Lynas has a new post up entitled “Questions the IPCC must now urgently answer.” It is even more powerful than his previous post. I may not be able to predict the climate, but I think I can predict certain outcomes in the climate debate.
Lynas’ previous post has sparked a blogospheric furor. Some responses to the criticisms and challenges to the IPCC are in his latest post. Some excerpts:
How is the Exxon scenario different from what has just happened with the IPCC’s renewables report? And why – when confronted with this egregious conflict of interest and abuse of scientific independence – has the response of the world’s green campaigners been to circle the wagons and cry foul against the whistle-blowers themselves? That this was spotted at all is a tribute to the eagle eyes of Steve McIntyre. Yet I am told that he is a ‘denier’, that all his deeds are evil, and that I have been naively led astray by him. Well, if the ‘deniers’ are the only ones standing up for the integrity of the scientific process, and the independence of the IPCC, then I too am a ‘denier’. Indeed, McIntyre and I have formed an unlikely double-act, posing a series of questions – together with the New York Times’s Andy Revkin – to the IPCC report’s lead author Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, to which he has yet to respond.
No your eyes don’t deceive you. Lynas has upped Curry’s heresy with “then I too am a denier.”
But what I don’t want are recycled campaign reports masquerading as ‘proper’ scienceleading the assessed scenarios – and the media – because their originator has managed to lever himself into a pole position on the team of lead authors. That stinks. And it stinks doubly because the Greenpeace report was originally co-authored by the European Renewable Energy Council – an industry lobby group whose prospects depend on state subsidies which can be expected to be further increased once its views are given the ‘official’ stamp of approval from the IPCC.
There are some very clear lessons here for the IPCC:
- Campaigners – or industry employees – should not be lead authors on IPCC reports, on any of the working groups
- Whilst ‘grey literature’ may be valuable to assess, it should not be assessed by those who have written it
- This rule applies more broadly: no authors should be tasked with ‘independently’ assessing their own work, across all the IPCC working groups
- Press releases and Summaries for Policymakers should not be released until the full report they are based on is also released
- A clear conflict of interest policy should be agreed by the IPCC and implemented immediately, applying to current as well as future authors
Here, repeated, are the questions I have posed to the IPCC’s Edenhofer:
1: what was the process for writing the press release, and who decided whether it faithfully represented the main conclusions of the SPM/main report?
2: why was the SPM released more than a month before the full report?
3: was Sven Teske in any way involved in the decision to highlight Teske et al, 2010 as one of the four ‘illustrative scenarios’ explored in greater depth as per Section 10.3.1?
4: what is the IPCC conflict of interest policy with regard to lead authors reviewing their own work, and having affiliations to non-academic institutions, whether campaign groups or companies?
Steve McIntyre has additionally, in the same email exchange, requested full access to the transcripts of the comments made during the reviews to which the IPCC reports are all subjected. As far as I understand, these are supposed to be in the public domain.
JC comments: What we have here is Mark Lynas behaving like an investigative journalist, with a watchdog and accountability role, the 5th estate and all that. The climate establishment has been berating the journalists for their failure to effectively communicate climate change and its risks. That is not the job of the journos, but of the climate scientists themselves. Journalists for the most part have dropped the ball on the climate change issue, and the watchdog/accountability role has been ceded to the blogospheric auditors, notably Steve McIntyre. There are very few mainstream journalists behaving in a true investigative way on the climate change issue. The pointman just posted an interesting essay on this.
As I predicted in my previous post, the criticism being leveled at Lynas by the greens is sending him in the other direction. I described this phenomenon in my essay heresy and the creation of monsters:
There are some parallels between the “McIntyre monster” and the “Curry monster.” The monster status derives from our challenges to the IPCC science and the issue of uncertainty. While the McIntyre monster is far more prominent in the public debate, the Curry monster seems far more irksome to community insiders. The CRU emails provide ample evidence of the McIntyre monster, and in the wake of the CRU emails I saw a discussion at RealClimate about the unbridled power of Steve McIntyre. Evidence of the Curry monster is provided by this statement in Lemonick’s article: “What scientists worry is that such exposure means Curry has the power to do damage to a consensus on climate change that has been building for the past 20 years.” This sense of McIntyre and myself as having “power” seems absurd to me (and probably to Steve), but it seems real to some people.
Well, who created these “monsters?” Big oil and the right-wing ideologues? Wrong. It was the media, climate activists, and the RealClimate wing of the blogosphere (note, the relative importance of each is different for McIntyre versus myself). I wonder if the climate activists will ever learn, or if they will follow the pied piper of the merchants of doubt meme into oblivion.
In reconsidering “monster creation,” a key element in this is the reaction of the warm-green side of the debate to even relatively moderate criticisms of the IPCC. You are ignored by the IPCC and vilified by its defenders, which makes you realize that there was even more there to criticize than you originally thought.