Last month I blogged about a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on renewable energy. At that time I pointed out that the IPCC was up to its old tricks. When it issued the press release, it made only the Summary available. The full report wasn’t scheduled to become public until later.
The problem with this is that journalists are placed in the position of simply taking the IPCC’s word for it that the summary is an accurate reflection of what the full report says. Although IPCC likes to boast about how transparent it is, this is a perfect demonstration of the wide gap between IPCC rhetoric and reality.
Well, the whole enchilada is now available and, as Steve McIntyre explains, there’s a good reason why the IPCC might not have wanted anyone to look too closely at the full report.
It turns out the information the IPCC chose to highlight in its press release comes from a Greenpeace report – and that the person who wrote the Greenpeace report was also a lead author of the IPCC document.
It could not be clearer that the IPCC still doesn’t understand some basic concepts. It is improper for the IPCC to base its conclusions on Greenpeace research. I mean, how hard is this? If the IPCC is a scientific organization, if it says it is conducting a scientific assessment it cannot rely on work that was in any way undertaken or funded by activist groups.
It is also improper for Greenpeace employees to be IPCC lead authors. Period.
At least one prominent individual on the other side of the climate debate – Mark Lynas – has publicly recognized how bad this looks (in addition to speaking in positive tones about McIntyre and linking to this blog).
Nor does the IPCC understand that its credibility will continue to be non-existent so long as it continues to allow its own lead authors to pass judgment on research they themselves have authored. To quote Lynas:
I would have thought that not only should biased ˜grey literature’ be rejected, but campaigners from NGOs should not be allowed to join the lead author group and thereby review their own work. There is even a commercial conflict of interest here given that the renewables industry stands to be the main beneficiary of any change in government policies based on the IPCC report’s conclusions. Had it been an oil industry intervention which led the IPCC to a particular conclusion, Greenpeace et al would have course have been screaming blue murder.
There’s one last twist to this story. The research that is relied on by the IPCC is one of two Greenpeace reports of which I’m aware that contain forewords authored by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri (see pages 4-5 here and here).
As McIntyre observes, on that occasion Pachauri waxed poetic about the “comprehensive and rigorous” nature of the Greenpeace analysis.
We all need to remember this the next time we hear Pachauri talking about how rigorous the IPCC itself is. When one’s standards are that low.
UPDATE: Bishop Hill reports that Leo Hickman at the Guardian is also publicly acknowledging that the IPCC has messed up. This is great news. Shared values about what is proper and improper behaviour is a prerequisite if the quality of the climate change debate is ever to improve.
Read the Bishop Hill post New consensus: IPCC is dumb – love that headline :-)