by Judith Curry
Could we switch to the grownup channel, please? – Donna Laframboise.
Two years ago, Donna Laframboise published a book entitled The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, which was discussed on this Climate Etc. post. Donna has a new book on the IPCC entitled Into the Dustbin: Rachendra Pachauri, the Climate Report & the Nobel Peace Prize. Her new book is an anthology of her blog posts at No Frakking Consensus. With the release of the AR5 Working Group I Report anticipated in a few weeks, the release of the book is very timely as the world reacts to the IPCC AR5.
Here I provide excerpts from two chapters: 69, which provides a summary of Pachauri’s performance as Chairman of the IPCC, and 31, which introduces us to Thomas Stocker, co-chair of AR5 WG 1. Note, I do not use italics for these excerpts so as not to confuse actual quotations from individuals. Also, the hyperlink for the chapter title links to Donna’s original blog post with all of the original source material.
A few weeks ago, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, delivered a speech in India in which he publicly praised the chairman of the IPCC. “I was just able to meet with my friend, Dr. Pachauri, Nobel Laureate,” he said, “and we thank him for his extraordinary work.” Let us leave aside the fact that Pachauri is not a Nobel laureate. The larger issue is that, according to the US government, Pachauri has done a great job. An extraordinary job, even. So let us review some salient facts.
1. The 2007 IPCC report mistakenly said that Himalayan glaciers were in danger of disappearing by 2035. When various parties tried to tell the IPCC this was ludicrous, Pachauri called those people names and disparaged their intelligence. He said they were practicing “voodoo science” and “schoolboy science.” Eventually, however, the IPCC admitted its glacier claim was wrong.
2. Pachauri has publicly ‘joked’ that his critics (aka climate skeptics) should be given a one-way ticket to outer space. He has alleged that they are part of a “carefully orchestrated” campaign, and that they believe “asbestos is as good as talcum powder – and I hope they put it on their faces every day.” Are these remarks worthy of the leader of a prominent international body?
3. Pachauri says it’s “gratifying that [an] independent review found our work solid and robust.” But the 2010 report to which he refers actually identified “significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s assessment process.” It said “significant improvements” were necessary – and criticized the IPCC for claiming to have “high confidence” in many statements for which there is actually “little evidence.” The authors of the independent review did not use the ‘robust.’ Neither did they use the word ‘solid.’
4. The independent review said an IPCC chairman should serve no more than one term, since a 12-year appointment, was “too long for a field as dynamic and contested as climate change.” Pachauri, who was then two years into his second term, refused to take the hint. Rather than helping the scandal-ridden IPCC press the reset button, he clung to his post.
5. The Sunday London Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, and the New Scientist have all called on Pachauri to step down.
7. The independent review said the IPCC was too insular and could benefit from “a greater variety of perspectives.” It recommended the establishment of a new, Executive Committee that would include “three independent members,” particularly individuals “from outside of the climate community.” Pachauri’s IPCC has, indeed, established such a committee, but it includes no outsiders. Instead, IPCC employees fill those three slots.
8. Nine weeks prior to the release of the independent review’s findings, the Pachauri-led IPCC announced the names of the experts it had selected to work on its upcoming climate assessment. The review recommended the adoption of “a rigorous conflict of interest policy” with respect to these people. Pachauri told The Economist “it wouldn’t be fair” to impose a conflict-of-interest policy “retrospectively.” In other words, there’s good reason to suspect that the new report has been written by at least some people whose judgment is questionable.
10. The IPCC is supposed to be a scientific body. But Pachauri fraternizes with green lobbyists. In his capacity as IPCC chairman, he has written forewords for Greenpeace publications – in one case describing the document as “rigorous.” He has declared the annual State of the World reports, published by the sky-is-falling Worldwatch Institute, to be “a remarkable source of intellectual wealth.” He has accepted a “green crusader” award and urged students at TERI University (which he also heads) to be “the torch bearers of the green campaign.” TERI’s most recent sustainability conference was partially financed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). A few days ago, TERI jointly released a report with the Natural Resources Defense Council – which styles itself “the Earth’s best defense.”
11. Pachauri has long insisted that IPCC reports rely – only and solely – on peer-reviewed source material. The independent review observed that, to the contrary, the IPCC’s 2001 climate assessment cited peer-reviewed material only 36% of the time in one section, only 59% in another section, and only 84% in a third.
12. The independent review noted that non-peer-reviewed source material wasn’t being identified as such by the IPCC – and that this was a clear violation of its own policy. It said the IPCC needed to:
strengthen and enforce its procedure for the use of unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature…ensuring [that such literature] is appropriately flagged in the report.
The exact opposite has since occurred. The Pachauri-led IPCC has abandoned that policy altogether.
13. Pachauri insists that the people who write IPCC reports are the world’s best and brightest, at the very top of their profession. He says they’re selected for their academic publication record as well as their depth of experience. In fact, many IPCC authors have been graduate students still working on their doctorates. Many authors have links to green organizations. Still others are “clearly not qualified” personnel from the developing world (chosen to give the report an international flavour).
15. The IPCC is supposed to be a “policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive” organization. Yet Pachauri aggressively advocates a range of policy responses to climate change – including carbon and airline taxes, emissions reduction, and eating less meat. He has advised the public that it needs to adopt a “new value system” and has berated politicians for not doing enough.
16. When IPCC insiders answered a questionnaire in 2010, their views of Pachauri contrasted sharply with those of John Kerry. Pachauri’s handling of the glacier mistake was described as “inexcusable” – a “major communication blunder” that “damaged the integrity” of the organization. Overall, his leadership was deemed “totally inadequate,” of “very serious and urgent introspection in need.”
17. There is one final reason why Pachauri is a disaster as chairman of the IPCC. He, himself, has acknowledged that the process is rigged. Nevertheless, he continues to pretend otherwise. Let us travel back to 2009. The individuals who would write the upcoming climate report hadn’t yet been selected (that didn’t happen until the following year). Nevertheless, the IPCC chairman knew – all those years in advance – what conclusions these IPCC authors would reach. In September 2009, he told religious leaders in New York:
When the IPCC’s fifth assessment comes out in 2013 or 2014, there will be a major revival of interest in action that has to be taken. People are going to say, ‘My God, we are going to have to take action much faster than we had planned.’
Not only did Pachauri know the nature and direction of the IPCC report’s conclusions, he knew these conclusions would be alarming and dramatic. This is not how a scientific body operates. This is the mark of a political organization, established to serve political ends. If Rajendra Pachauri has done a good job as IPCC chairman, what would a bad job look like?
I’ve written extensively on the harm Rajendra Pachauri inflicts on his own organization. Other IPCC bigwigs are similarly guilty.
Thomas Stocker is a climate modeler from Switzerland. Following 10 years of IPCC involvement, in 2008 he became the current co-chair of Working Group 1. Each of the three IPCC working groups has two chairpersons – one from an affluent country and one from a developing nation. Informally, everyone understands that the former is the person in charge (partly because that individual’s government has committed to housing and funding the working group’s administrative activities until that edition of the climate bible is complete). Because Stocker is head of the ‘science’ section of the climate bible and his co-chair is from China, his influence in the current IPCC configuration is difficult to overstate. In 2009, Stocker gave a media interview in which he declared that “all societies on this planet” would have to adopt “a clear schedule of emission reductions.” This man expects people concerned about the stunted growth of the children in their arms today to get concerned about carbon emissions that might cause a problem 100 years from now?
In another interview that same year, Stocker sounded for all the world like a politician when he opined that the upcoming UN climate summit:
must clearly set down the reductions expected from industrialised countries, and at the same time define sanctions if these reduction targets are not met…then we need a clear plan for the way in which emissions allowances are traded.
Let us be clear about what’s going on here. This man has decided that humanity’s primary response to climate change should be emissions cuts. He’s also decided that penalties will be necessary for countries that don’t meet their targets. Moreover, he’s decided there should an emissions trading system. What I want to know is this: Which part of his physics training equips him to make these policy decisions on behalf of the rest of us?
I am grateful to Donna Laframboise for pulling this all together, it provides important context for the forthcoming AR5 report. I encourage you to support Donna’s efforts by purchasing her book at amazon.com (kindle; paperback) and also writing a review at amazon.
I am intensely interested in the response of the IPCC to the UN InterAcademy Council recommendations; does anyone have an update? I am incredulous that the IPCC appears to have dismissed many if not most of the IAC recommendations.
I’m thinking about the diligent scientists, without agendas, that participated in the AR5 particularly for the first time and spent a colossal amount of time working on it. When I first saw the list of IPCC authors for the AR5, I was excited by all the new names including some excellent scientists that are well known to me and whose integrity and honesty I trust absolutely. I ran into one of these scientists a few years ago at a meeting, and he said how excited he was to be a part of the IPCC, how a review on his topic was long overdue, and that he looked forward to the outcome of this review. I ran into another of these individuals at the AGU meeting last fall, who had become jaded by the process. He said it is a constant struggle between the newcomers, who want to ‘tell it like it is,’ versus the old hands who are worried primarily about what was said in the AR4 and not providing fodder for the skeptics. Even if the ‘good guys’ prevail at the chapter level, I have the sad suspicion that the people who are really in charge will be playing politics with the document whereby primary concerns are not providing fodder for skeptics and showing continued increasing ‘confidence’.
The IPCC has clearly been playing egregious politics with climate science, as Laframboise extensively documents. Perhaps this is what the policy makers want, this whole thing is so politicized it is difficult to tell. But there is no escaping that the IPCC has severely tarnished its ‘brand’, since the heady days in 2007 with the release of the AR4 and the Nobel Peace Price: Climategate, Pachauri’s shenanagins, the explicit green advocacy by IPCC grand poobahs and their irrepressible urge to make imperative policy proclamations, and failure to address the reforms recommended by the IAC.
As a result, the IPCC’s legitimacy and authority in terms of its expertise and process have been diminished since 2007. Does this in itself mean that the conclusions in the IPCC AR5 are erroneous or otherwise inappropriate? Of course not. But it does mean that the IPCC will have to do a much better job in terms of making its arguments and defending its judgments than it did in the AR4, in order for them to be accepted. ‘Trust us – we’re the experts’ doesn’t play very well anymore with this particular group of experts.
Could we switch to the grownup channel, please?
pretty much sums up the whole IPCC situation for me. The science, the policy makers, and the world deserve better. I hope that Laframboise’s new book gets the attention that it deserves.
Update: Some additional comments seem to be in order based on the discussion in the comments. Laframboise’s interest in the climate change debate seems to have been jump started in a big way in 2009, around the time of Climategate. As far as I can tell, she seems driven by a concern over the accountability of the IPCC. To me, it seems like this concern motivates her selection of examples regarding the IPCC. No, this is not a dispassionate assessment of the IPCC, but rather raises concerns about the integrity and accountability of the IPCC. In that sense, there is ‘spin’ in the book. But given the enormous influence of the IPCC, I find it entirely appropriate that someone take a hard look at the behavior of the IPCC’s principal actors.