Reforming the “non-policy-prescriptive” IPCC
November 15, 2011 8 Comments
There’s been a very interesting discussion (well, several, actually!) over at Dr. Judith Curry’s blog: “Public engagement on climate change“. Dr. Richard Tol, an environmental economist, is an IPCC “insider” who had expressed the view that ‘experts should only speak about the areas in which they are specialists’.
He is also one of many academics who have praised Donna Laframboise’s The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert:
Donna Laframboise does what good journalists do. She does not parrot authority, but asks “is that so?” In this book, she shines a hard light on the rotten heart of the IPCC.
However, in one of the sub-threads, a commenter had posed some questions:
If the IPCC is as you have stated, what is to be done?
How does one reasonably differentiate between the IPCC- which is promoted as *the* word on climate change, and the climate science?
To which Tol had responded:
The IPCC will not go away. It will not be reformed from the outside. Reform from the inside is the only option.
[emphasis added -hro]
So, I followed the link, and found the September 2010 paper, which is entitled “Regulating Knowledge Monopolies: The Case of the IPCC”. The abstract reads:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a monopoly on the provision of climate policy advice at the international level and a strong market position in national policy advice. This may have been the intention of the founders of the IPCC. I argue that the IPCC has a natural monopoly, as a new entrant would have to invest time and effort over a longer period to perhaps match the reputation, trust, goodwill, and network of the IPCC. The IPCC is a not-for-profit organization, and it is run by nominal volunteers; it therefore cannot engage in the price-gouging that is typical of monopolies. However, the IPCC has certainly taken up tasks outside its mandate; the IPCC has been accused of haughtiness; innovation is slow; quality may have declined; and the IPCC may have used its power to hinder competitors. There are all things that monopolies tend to do, against the public interest. The IPCC would perform better if it were regulated by an independent body which audits the IPCC procedures and assesses its performance; if outside organizations would be allowed to bid for the production of reports and the provision of services under the IPCC brand; and if policy makers would encourage potential competitors to the IPCC.
My response is as follows:
Richard, I read the paper you had linked to, and while I would be the last person to ever dispute that the IPCC is a “monopoly“, I am far from convinced that “reform from the inside” is a viable option.
If the IPCC had any institutional awareness of its shortcomings (or even any genuine concern where concern might count!), we would have seen indications that the IAC’s criticisms have been understood – and its recommendations being implemented.. Instead we have seen a parade of papers paying lip service to “change” – and Pachauri peddling a somewhat softer version of the “party-line” (while insisting – in his oh-so-non-policy-prescriptive-way** – that we all need a carbon tax).
Yes, he’s walked back (via a rather circuitous route) from “all peer-reviewed” (and more recently, in no small measure, I suspect, thanks to Thomas Stocker‘s ingenuity, from an inconvenient rule pertaining thereto).
Amusingly and (I’m sure entirely) coincidentally – a mere week after the launch of Laframboise’s exposé of the IPCC – in an Oct. 20/11 interview, during which he was (inter alia) singing the praises of the IPCC’s personnel and accomplishments, the previously omnipresent phrase “world’s leading experts” was conspicuously absent! They’ve evidently been downgraded in IPCC-speak to “objective, transparent, inclusive talent“. [If you decide to follow the link to the video, be sure to note the rather distinct pause ... almost as though he's grasping for the right word ... before "talent" rolls off his tongue ;-)]
The new, improved Pachauri insists that the IPCC has been doing a “poor job” at communication. Notwithstanding his insistence, not too long ago, that “no one would even be concerned about climate change” if it wasn’t for the wonderful work of the IPCC, preceded by his July 2009:
AR5 is being taken in hand at a time when awareness on climate change issues has reached a level unanticipated in the past. Much of this change can be attributed to the findings of the AR4 which have been disseminated actively through a conscious effort by the IPCC, its partners and most importantly the media. [emphasis added -hro]
IOW, all we’re getting from this organization – in response to the identification of some very serious problems – is rampant “revisionism” and a transparently thin paint job, which some are evidently hoping will disguise the cracks in the foundation and surrounding walls!
“Reform from the inside”?! I don’t think so – certainly, at this rate, not in my lifetime!
** Question: The IPCC maintains that its assessment reports are “policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive”. But your paper indicates that the IPCC provides “climate policy advice”. Is this “policy advice” neutral and non-prescriptive, from your perspective … or is the IPCC still leading us astray?!