Thanks to a whistleblower, draft versions of most chapters of the IPCC’s upcoming report are now in the public domain. Among the new revelations: the IPCC has learned nothing from the Himalayan glacier debacle.
A week before Christmas, three data sticks containing 661 files and amounting to nearly one gigabyte of material came into my possession. They were created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN body currently at work on a high-profile report.
Due to be released in stages starting in September, this report will be promoted by government press conferences the world over. Officials will point to its findings and continue to spend billions on climate change measures.
The IPCC has three working groups. Respectively, they examine the scientific evidence related to climate change, the impacts on the human and natural world, and possible responses.
These data sticks were distributed to Working Group 2 personnel – those writing about impacts. The blue stick is labelled “Working Group II AR5 LAM1″ and refers to their first lead author meeting held in January 2011, in Japan. The gold stick is associated with their second meeting in San Francisco nearly a year later, the green one is from their third meeting, in Buenos Aires, 10 weeks ago.
The IPCC has confirmed the authenticity of sample documents on these sticks. Today I’m making this massive collection of data, which I call the Secret Santa leak, public. Some of these documents are already online. Many others would only have been released by the IPCC years from now. Still others the IPCC intended to keep hidden forever.
I’ve created a zip file of the contents of each stick and encourage you to download your own copies. See the bottom of this post for torrent info and other download options.
My 2011 book, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, documents the IPCC’s numerous credibility problems. Among these is the disturbing influence of green activists on what is supposed to be a rigorous scientific body.
The Working Group 2 section of the upcoming IPCC report contains 30 chapters. The third draft of those chapters (known confusing as the Second Order draft internally) has not yet been written, but two earlier versions reside on these sticks. What’s known as the First Order draft runs to 2,465 pages and may be describes as “scientific expert reviewers.” The names of individuals so designated by Working Group 2 are listed here. The comments they submitted are on the green stick. The path is: Buenos Aires Documentation;c_ExpertReviewFiles;FOD_Comments
Most of these comments appear to be constructive, and will likely enhance the quality of the final report. But some of the individuals who took part are activists. Many of their suggestions amount to bald-faced attempts to embed activist source material – and activist perspectives – in a scientific document.
In other words, under the guise of “scientific expert review” the IPCC has facilitated an aggressive, behind-the-scenes, activist lobbying effort.
WWF PERSONNEL URGE THE IPCC TO CITE WWF PUBLICATIONS
The last major IPCC report, released in 2007, contained an embarrassing error about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are expected to melt. This error received widespread media attention in early 2010, prompting prominent newspapers to call for the resignation of the IPCC’s chairman.
There’s nothing complicated about the Himalayan debacle. The IPCC authors responsible for writing Working Group 2′s Chapter 10 the last time around disregarded less alarming conclusions published in the peer-reviewed, scientific literature. They chose, instead, to rely on statements found in a publication produced by a green lobby group (see p. 10 here).
The group in question was the WWF. Still known in North America by its original name, the World Wildlife Fund, elsewhere it has rebranded itself as the World Wide Fund for Nature. Hardly a shoestring operation, the WWF has offices in more than 60 countries and a staff of 5,000.
The WWF is the outfit that brings us Earth Hour every March. Having funded four decades of its own activities with donations from the fossil fuel industry (its first corporate sponsor was Shell Oil), the WWF now thinks impoverished nations should leave their fossil fuels in the ground rather than using them to provide light, heat, and hospitals to their populations.
My book reveals how the WWF has, in the past, infiltrated the IPCC report-writing process. Two thirds of the chapters in the 2007 report included, among their personnel, at least one individual linked to the WWF. One third of the chapters were led by an WWF-affiliated author.
Neither the IPCC nor the WWF appear to have learned much about circumspection since then.
Susan Evans is employed by WWF Canada. She holds a Masters degree in zoology, but many of the comments she recently submitted to the IPCC are devoid of scientific content. For example, she sees this report as an opportunity to “foster a sense of stewardship and responsibility” toward the ecosystem (Chapter 00/comment 44).
On four separate occasions, Evans advises the IPCC to consult a 72-page handbook published by the WWF’s Global Arctic Programme (Chapter 00/comment 45, 2/727, 14/577, 15/367).
On three occasions, Evans calls the IPCC’s attention to a third WWF-produced document about Pacific marine ecosystems (13/300, 26/260, 26/417). In three further instances, she points to a fourth report about climate change in Western Canada that the WWF helped create (15/367, 15/370, 26/316). Elsewhere, she urges the IPCC to consult a fifth WWF document, a 69-page publication about managing water supplies (15/455).
In a lengthy comment concerning Chapter 20, Evans editorializes about the need to “significantly reduce our current rate of development and consumptive behaviours” and urges IPCC scientists to consult the WWF’s latest Living Planet report (20/16.1 and 16.2).
I wrote about that very document soon after it was released, pointing out that the terms equality and inequality appear 28 times. In other words, it’s a political treatise.
Evans’ efforts to get WWF perspectives included in the IPCC report are reinforced by her colleague, Cassandra Brooke – whom the IPCC tells us represents WWF’s head office in Switzerland. A formal bio is difficult to locate, but one dated 2008 says she holds a PhD in geography.
In her capacity as an expert reviewer, Brooke thinks the IPCC should pay attention to the same WWF arctic handbook Evans promotes on four separate occasions (4/943).
She urges IPCC scientists to get their information about mangroves and climate change by visiting a WWF website, and is disappointed that the IPCC report “does not recognise that cultural and spiritual values are a form of ecosystem service” (4/1011, 5/1204).
But it is her remarks about species extinction that are especially revealing. Chapter 19 is a synthesis chapter. Its purpose is to summarize the findings of the other 29 Working Group 2 chapters. The job of those authors, therefore, is to accurately reflect what is written elsewhere.
Brooke, commenting on Chapter 19, gets it backward. She observes that the language in Chapter 4 “is very vague” and “inconsistent in tone” with what Chapter 19 says. It’s clear she thinks the wording in Chapter 4 should be strengthened rather than the hyped summary toned down.
Brooke is distressed because Chapter 4 “seems to be distancing itself” from the “strong statements” about climate change and species extinction that appeared in the IPCC’s 2007 report (4/664, 19/428). But this retreat is good news. As I have discussed elsewhere, the IPCC relied on a single research paper that had already been demolished by other scholars. (One famous biologist called it “the worst paper I have ever read in a major scientific journal.”) The IPCC not only failed to pay attention to those vigorous rebuttals, it declined to let readers know they existed.
One would expect scientific expert reviewers to be pleased that the IPCC is now behaving more responsibly. One would expect them to applaud the IPCC’s shift toward more solid evidence.
But Brooke is not a real expert reviewer. She is a WWF employee. And the WWF is OK with exaggeration. As it declares on its main website: “It is nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change.”
OTHER ACTIVIST “EXPERT REVIEWERS”
Among the other organizations attempting to influence the IPCC’s scientific report via the expert review mechanism we find the Alliance of Small Island States. Its website freely acknowledges that it’s “an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice” for certain political interests. Here are some others:
- Centre for Global Change
- Conservation International
- GenderCC, Women for Climate Justice
- International Rivers
- Norwegian Refugee Council
- Nourishing the Planet
- SeaTrust Institute
- Third World Network
On two other occasions she points them to a document titled Building Resilience to Climate Change (15/430, 16/123). This was published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, whose website talks about “a just world.”
But justice is a political concept. Reasonable people disagree about what justice looks like. Is a green group pursuing justice a reliable source of information? The IPCC apparently thinks so. The current Working Group 2 draft already cites the Building Resilience publication in Chapters 5 and 9 (see pp. 379, 402, and 813 of the 2,465-page draft).
Similarly, the activist group Germanwatch is concerned about “global equity” and champions certain political and economic ideas. Sven Harmeling, whom it employs as a climate policy team leader, twice urges IPCC authors to consult a joint WWF-Germanwatch discussion paper (14/555, 15/224).
Elsewhere he calls the IPCC’s attention to a second document co-published with the WWF titled Institutions for Adaptation (15/418). For good measure, he points to a third document, this one a briefing paper published by his employer and two other organizations (15/343).
Still another example is the International Rivers network. The people who work there see themselves as being “at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers.” One of them, Katy Yan, describes herself on Twitter as a “climate campaigner.” She, too, is an IPCC expert reviewer.
Like the individuals mentioned above, Yan thinks that publications produced by her own organization deserve to be cited in a scientific report. She twice recommends a document titled Before the Deluge. It was written by the executive director of International Rivers – in other words, by her boss (3/752, 3/766).
Additionally, Yan recommends two news stories that were published on her organization’s website, an online bibliography of “key scientific articles” selected by her fellow activists, a 112-page report on sustainable water strategies, a 90-page report on alternative power in Guatemala, and two other documents about renewable energy in Chile. All of this material was produced in-house (3/869, 3/891, 27/339, 27/345).
All of it, therefore, is activist-generated grey literature – exactly the kind of thing that has caused the IPCC grief in the past.
What is the IPCC thinking? Why is it rolling out the red carpet for activists, permitting them to directly lobby IPCC authors?
That is not the way to prevent another Himalayan debacle.
WWF AND GREENPEACE LITERATURE
Even prior to this lobbying barrage, the Working Group 2 draft already listed the following nine WWF publications and two Greenpeace documents among its end-of-chapter references. (The page numbers in square brackets refer to this 2,465-page draft.)
- IUCN 2008: Ecosystem-based adaptation: An approach for building resilience and reducing risk for local communities and ecosystems. A submission by IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, WWF, Conservation International, BirdLife International, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee, Practical Action, WILD Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International and Wetlands International. Gland, Switzerland: IUNC. [p. 371]
- Fish, M.R. and C. Drews, 2009: Adaptation to Climate Change: Options for Marine Turtles. WWF. San Jose, CA, USA, 20 pp. [p. 514]
- Fish, M.R., A. Lombana and C. Drews, 2009: Climate Change and Marine Turtles in the Wider Caribbean: Regional Climate Projections. WWF, San Jose, CA, USA, 20 pp. [p. 514]
- Kollmuss, A., H. Zink, and C. Polycarp, 2008: Making sense of the voluntary carbon market: A comparison of carbon offset standards. WWF Germany. [p. 1067]
- Harmeling, S., S. Kreft, and S.C. Rai (2011) Institutions for adaptation: Towards an effective multi-level interplay. Germanwatch and WWF International, available at https://germanwatch.org/klima/ad-inst.htm [p. 1726]
- Sattler, P., M. Taylor, 2008: Building Australia’s Safety Net 2008: Progress on the directions for the National Reserve System. WWF-Australia, Sydney. [p. 2007; actual title is Building Nature’s Safety Net]
- Allianz and WWF, 2006: Climate Change and Insurance: An Agenda for Action in the United States, Allianz and WWF. [p. 2071]
- Constable, A.J. and S. Doust, 2009: Southern ocean sentinel – an international program to assess climate change impacts on marine ecosystems: Report of an international workshop, Hobart, April 2009. ACE CRC, Commonwealth of Australia & WWF-Australia, pp. 81. [p. 2287]
- Experts Workshop on Bioregionalisation of the Southern Ocean (September 2006: Hobart), S. Grant Antarctic Climate, Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, WWF-Australia, Peregrin, S. Grant, A. Constable, B. Raymond, and S. Doust, 2006: Bioregionalisation of the southern ocean: Report of the experts workshop (Hobart, September 2006), [report prepared by: Susie grant … [et al.]] Sydney: WWF-Australia Head Office. [pp. 2289-90]
- Richter, C., S. Teske, and R. Short, 2009: Concentrating solar power: global outlook 2009. SolarPaces, Greenpeace and ESTELA. [p. 879]
- Anisimov, O.A., M.A. Belolutskaya, M.N. Grigor’ev, A. Instanes, V.A. Kokorev, N.G. Oberman, S.A. Reneva, Y.G. Strelchenko, D. Streletsky, and N.I. Shiklomanov, 2010: Assessment Report: The Main Natural and Socioeconomic Consequences of Climate change in Permafrost Areas: A forecast Based upon a Synthesis of Observations and Modelling. Greenpeace, Russia. 40 pp. [p. 1892]
One would think that, if the scientists writing the IPCC’s scientific report can’t support a line of argument without relying on activist-produced literature they shouldn’t be making that argument in the first place.
This is an organization that has not learned a thing from its Himalayan glacier experience.
THE IPCC & CONFIDENTIALITY
All three data sticks contain a copy of an IPCC confidentiality document (also available on the web here). Although it begins with a solemn assertion that the “IPCC places a priority on openness,” the remainder of the text makes it clear that this organization has the same relationship to transparency that vampires have to sunlight.
The IPCC says secrecy leads to a “product of the highest quality.” It says deliberations behind closed doors equal an effective process. It says the IPCC depends on confidentiality while its report is being written.
This is foolishly short-sighted. The IPCC needs to be upfront, open, and honest about every single step by which it arrives at its conclusions. The last thing educated people in the 21st century are going to be convinced by is a group of shadowy experts who smile and tell us to trust them.
Secrecy has nothing to do with science. It is, however, valued by those eager to control the message. Secrecy allows the IPCC to release its reports in an orchestrated manner to great media fanfare. It also permits the leaking of advance copies to sympathetic journalists.
The public has a right to examine every document ever produced by this UN body. This is important not only at present, but for scholars later on.
If activists employed by lobby groups can read draft versions of this report, so can the public. We also have a right to know, in as close to real time as possible, what sort of feedback these drafts are receiving – and to judge how well or poorly the IPCC responds.
The confidentiality document includes this emphatic statement:
The assessment process cannot be effective if draft materials are released or discussed publicly during the preparation of [the current report].
But the IPCC doesn’t really believe this. Here’s why:
In mid-December, draft versions of the 14 chapters that comprise the Working Group 1 section of the upcoming IPCC report were leaked. These Secret Santa data sticks contain drafts of an additional 30 chapters.
This means that draft versions of a majority of chapters in the upcoming report (44 out of 60, or 73%) are now in the public domain.
If the confidentiality document is worth the paper it’s written on the IPCC will now suspend work on the upcoming report. It will announce that the extensive nature of these leaks makes it impossible to continue.
But throwing in the towel is the last thing I expect this bureaucracy to do.
Donna Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist. She is the author of The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, an IPCC exposé. Recently translated into German, it is available in avariety of formats. Donna can be reached at NOconsensus.org AT gmail.com.
- We don’t yet know how many WWF-linked personnel are currently working on this new IPCC report, because the names of all the contributing authors haven’t been released. But we do know that Jennifer Morgan, who used to be the WWF’s chief climate spokesperson, is involved.
- A high-resolution version of the photograph at the top of this post is available here. Media outlets and bloggers may use all versions of this image freely. Photo credit: Donna Laframboise – or a link back to this post.
- If anyone has the technical skills to make the Secret Santa data accessible – and searchable – online, that would be marvelous.
- Working Group 1 and Working Group 3 personnel are hereby cordially invited to help inform the public about what’s going on behind closed doors. See my contact info here.
- This blog has no regular tip jar. My ‘buy a girl a drink‘ holiday appeal has been extended by one week due to circumstances connected to the Secret Santa leak. If you think journalism that shines a light on the IPCC is important, please consider supporting it with a small donation.
Chapter 19: Emergent Risks and Key Vulnerabilities – here or here
Chapter 20: Climate-resilient Pathways: Adaption, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development – here or here
Chapter 21: Regional Context – here or here