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Are a Third of IPCC Review Editors MIA?

Are a Third of IPCC Review Editors MIA?

Read Part 1: The Secret Santa Leak

IPCC review editors were supposed to file a report last September. A third of them apparently didn’t bother.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a UN body currently at work on a report so important it’s known as the climate bible. Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC’s chairman, has long claimed that the process by which his organization writes these reports is an open book.

In a 2009 magazine interview he could hardly have been more explicit: “Whatever we do is available for scrutiny at every stage,” he declared.

But a document among the 600+ files now in the public domain as a result of the Secret Santa leak tells a different story. In fact, it assures certain IPCC personnel that reports they write will never see the light of day:

All of these reports are for internal audit purposes and will not be made public.According to IPCC Rules and Procedures, only [expert reviewer] comments and author responses become part of the public record. [see here]

The reports in question may be found on the green data stick. The path is: Buenos Aires Documentaion;c_ExpertReviewFiles;Review Editor FOD Reports. It’s not clear why the IPCC intended to keep them under wraps forever. US presidential records, for example, become accessible to the public five to 12 years after the end of an administration.

The big news, however, is that one third of the IPCC personnel who were supposed to write these reports apparently failed to do so.

The Secret Santa leak involves the Working Group 2 section of the upcoming IPCC report. Each of its 30 chapters has a group of authors, plus two or three people who serve as Review Editors (REs).

REs are supposed to ensure that feedback submitted by outside expert reviewers is addressed, rather than disregarded, by IPCC authors. A Review Editor isn’t supposed to be chummy with the author team. He or she is supposed to be a disciplinarian.

The RE role is one of the few oversight mechanisms built into the IPCC process. If a third of the overseers are missing in action, something has gone terribly wrong.

The same document that assures the REs of secrecy tells them they are expected to submit their first interim report by 24 September 2012. They are encouraged to consult a two-page sample report, and are told it’s OK for REs working on the same chapter to submit a joint document.

Out of a total of 66 Review Editors, 29 submitted reports on their own, 16 submitted reports jointly, and 21 appear not to have written a report at all.

These reports were supposed to highlight “the main areas of concern” and identify “contentious or controversial issues” in advance of the lead author meeting scheduled a month later. But the authors in some chapters were apparently left to their own devices.

Chapter 3 is devoted to Freshwater Resources. 950 separate comments were submitted by reviewers. But reports from that chapter’s REs are not on the green data stick. It appears that neither Pavel Kabat (who represents The Netherlands at the IPCC) nor Zbigniew Kundzewicz (who represents Poland) performed their duty.

Chapter 5, which is about Coastal Systems and Low-lying Areas, is a similar story. The IPCC received nearly 1,400 comments regarding the draft version of that chapter. But neither Robert Nicholls (UK) or Filipe Santos (Portugal) appear to have provided any written direction to their chapter’s authors.

Reports by the following Review Editors are also missing:

  • Omar-Dario Cardona (Columbia), Chapter 8: Urban Areas
  • Habib Amamou (Tunisia), Chapter 9: Rural Areas
  • Amjad Abdulla (Maldives), Chapter 10: Key Economic Sectors and Services
  • He Xu (China), Chapter 10: Key Economic Sectors and Services
  • Ulisses Confalonieri (Brazil), Chapter 11: Human Health
  • Rita Sharma (India), Chapter 13: Livelihoods and Poverty
  • Richard Moss (USA), Chapter 15: Adaptation Planning and Implementation
  • James Thurlow (South Africa), Chapter 16: Adaptation Opportunities, Constraints, and Limits
  • Ana Iglesias (Spain), Chapter 17: Economics of Adaptation
  • Stale Navrud (Norway), Chapter 17: Economics of Adaptation
  • Rik Leemans (The Netherlands), Chapter 18: Detection and Attribution of Observed Impacts
  • Tom Downing (UK), Chapter 21: Regional Context
  • Joan O. Grimalt (Spain), Chapter 23: Europe
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Japan), Chapter 24: Asia
  • Leonidas Osvaldo Girardin (Argentina), Chapter 27: Central and South America
  • Maria Ananicheva (Russian Federation), Chapter 28: Polar Regions
  • Omar Ly (Senegal), Chapter 30: Open Oceans

In other words, only 13 out of 30 chapters are receiving the oversight they’re supposed to.

Whether or not REs are meeting their obligations is not a new concern. I’ve written previously about a fake IPCC Review Editor named Bubu Jallow. He represented The Gambia at the IPCC during the preparation of its last major report, released in 2007.

In November 2006, Jallow signed his name to a remarkable statement. “I can confirm,” he said, that all the feedback received by Chapter 3′s authors has “been afforded appropriate consideration.in accordance with IPCC procedures.”

But Jallow had no firsthand knowledge of these matters. One of the leaders of the chapter, Kevin Trenberth, made this abundantly clear in an e-mail sent to IPCC officials :

I am writing to protest the inclusion of Bubu Pateh Jallow as Review Editor of our Chapter as listed. He played no role whatsoever in our chapter. He did not attend any meetings, he did not answer email and he should NOT be listed in my view.

The IPCC decided that, officially, Jallow was a review editor anyway. His name can be found near the bottom of the page of the online version of Chapter 3 of the Working Group 1 section of the 2007 report. Six years later, the public is still being told that there were three Review Editors on duty in that instance.

Why has this occurred? The IPCC is a UN body. It therefore cares deeply about things like diversity and regional representation. The other two Review Editors were from the UK and the USA – developed countries. Jallow’s name makes the chapter appear more multi-regional and multicultural.

It would seem that IPCC officials aren’t overly concerned about Review Editors who don’t do their jobs.


  1. A 2010 investigation into the IPCC, conducted by an InterAcademy Council committee, concluded that Review Editors actually have no formal authority. As it says at the top of p. 3 here, “the Lead Authors have the final say on the content of their chapter” – however strongly a Review Editor might feel. In other words, Review Editors are a weak oversight mechanism. But even this mechanism appears not to be fully functioning in most Working Group 2 chapters.
  2. The statement signed by Jallow, as well as the Trenberth e-mail, are part of a 7 mb zip file sent to me in Nov. 2011 by David Holland. In his words, the zip file is a package of material that was released by David Hoskins, another Review Editor on the Jallow chapter, “after Climategate under pressure from the [UK’s] Information Commissioner.” It may be downloaded here or here.
  3. Bubu Jallow is now employed by the UN.

Read Part 3: Cogs in the Climate Machine


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