Stocker’s ounces of self-promotion … and IPCC demotion prevention

Readers may recall that in mid July, I had posted an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Secretariat with some questions pertaining to submissions that had been received in response to a “background paper” on the Future of the IPCC.

While I did not receive a response from the Secretariat, I did receive a (surprisingly!) timely and courteous response from Jonathan Lynn, (IPCC Head, Communications and Media Relations) to whom I had forwarded my open letter.

On July 7, when I had written my open letter, there was no sign anywhere on the IPCC site of this “background paper” or any indication as to whom the invitation to respond might have been sent; however, within three days of my E-mail to Lynn, the documents I sought were posted on the IPCC site for its October meeting in Batumi, Georgia, when the issue is scheduled to be discussed [Item 8 on the Agenda]

I was still curious to know whether (as had occurred in a similar exercise in 2008) submissions would be received from:

organizations … Lead Authors (LAs) from all Working Groups (WGs) and the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI), and from … (Co-chairs Working Group 1) and … (Vice Chair Working Group 2) in their capacity as members of the IPCC Bureau.

So in a follow-up E-mail to Lynn, I had asked:

Would I be correct in assuming that the answer to:

In contrast to the similarly named review in 2008, comments/submissions were not (and, presumably, will not be) invited from “Organizations”, “Lead Authors [and/or Coordinating Lead Authors], of the [WGs and TFI]” or “Working Group Co-Chairs … as members of the Bureau”, is that correct?

is yes?! Or will there be a further invitation for submissions from these groups prior to IPCC 37?

Lynn’s reply:

I don’t know the answer for sure to that question and the person who does is away for health reasons for a couple of weeks and can’t really be disturbed, but I’ll try and find out then if it’s not too late.

Off the top of my head, if it’s discussed in the plenary then the observers can certainly talk about it as can bureau members. This won’t be wrapped up in one meeting but will go on for a few years, so anyone can make their views known to their governments, and it’s the governments as members who will decide this ultimately. [emphasis added -hro]

It was refreshing to hear someone from the IPCC say “I don’t know the answer” and I appreciated his subsequent undertaking to get back to me “in a couple of weeks”. So it was somewhat disappointing that I haven’t heard from him since – particularly in light of a recent article by the Guardian‘s “US environment correspondent”, Suzanne Goldenberg.

Goldenberg’s record is far from stellar. She seems to think her job is simply to relay to readers whatever might fall into her mailbox – as long as it promotes “the cause”. She’s proven herself to be an ardent admirer of Peter Gleick and his disgraceful behaviours last year.

Consequently, anything Goldenberg writes should probably be taken with a hefty grain of salt – and a very healthy dose of skepticism. That being said, perhaps there is some measure of truth in her Sept. 4:

Scientists call for overhaul of UN ‘blockbuster’ climate reports

As the IPCC prepares for its next major assessment, experts and governments propose more targeted and frequent studies

International scientists are calling for an overhaul of the United Nations’ “blockbuster” climate reports ahead of the delivery of the next big assessment.

The reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are compiled by hundreds of scientists and are considered the definitive assessment of global climate risks, with the next big report due to be released in Stockholm this month.

But the IPCC’s core mission is now under challenge from the very scientists who compiled those reports, as well as some governments.[emphasis added -hro]

The “definitive assessment of the risks”?! Gee, I thought the IPCC Assessment Reports were supposed to be the “definitive assessment of the science“. Isn’t that what they’ve always told us?!

But, nice of her to mention the governments, who actually constitute the Panel! Particularly since she appears to have paid no attention to the Netherlands’ response which has been public since July 5, when Marcel Crok discussed it on his blog. Nor did she seem to think the IPCC secretariat’s compilation of the 29 government responses was deserving of comment until now – although this has been available since July 19.

Goldenberg cites Lynn:

The governing body of the IPCC will discuss its future at a meeting in the Georgian resort town of Batumi in October and later in Berlin, a spokesman said.

“What sort or products should the IPCC be producing, over what kind of time scale? Do we need this blockbuster report every six or seven years or do we need more frequent reports? That is the sort of thing that is going to be discussed there,” IPCC spokesman Jonathan Lynn said.

Then she gives airtime and a “promotion” to (perhaps?!) her latest hero:

Thomas Stocker, a climate scientist at the University of Bern and a co-chair of the UN climate panel, said he had sought permission to convene a public debate on the future of the IPCC at one of the biggest gatherings on the scientific calendar, the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Some 22,000 people are expected at the meeting, which takes place in San Francisco in December. Stocker said he saw the meeting as a chance to broaden the discussion on the future of the IPCC.

“With that input directly bottom-up from the scientists, I can help in this discussion and certainly facilitate that the views of scientists, those individuals and colleague that carry the burden of the assessment and provide their time and intellectual expertise, are heard,” Stocker said. [emphasis added -hro]

Thomas Stocker is “a co-chair of the UN climate panel”?! A little bit of basic fact-checking might have masked Goldenberg’s obviously very shallow knowledge and understanding of the IPCC’s organizational structure. This page, for example, has some lovely pictures of all the honchos on the Executive Committee: Rajendra Pachauri is the Chair, and there are three Vice-Chairs. Stocker – who may well have aspirations to rise to a higher level in this pantheon – is a co-chair of Working Group I, not of “the panel”.

And I wonder from whom Stocker might have “sought permission to convene a public debate on the future of the IPCC … at the [December] meeting of the AGU”. The IPCC Executive Committee? The Secretariat? The Bureau?

Goldenberg’s next paragraph suggests that it was none of the above:

The AGU would not respond directly to questions about the climate science town hall.

If she’s correct, though, Stocker was surely stepping far outside the boundaries of the new, improved rules for persons representing the IPCC! Nor would this be the first time he’s done so! Stocker seems to have adopted Pachauri’s very flexible definition of “non policy prescriptive”. During a visit to Vancouver two years ago this new, improved “world leading authority on climate change” told the Vancouver Sun:

the planet might be better off if [gas prices] soared to “three to four” times its current level.

As for his ability to “facilitate” the views of others being heard. Stocker certainly has a knack for that! Consider, for example his role in “facilitating” the disappearance of the inconvenient but rarely practiced rule that non-peer reviewed material should be appropriately flagged in the reference sections of IPCC reports. Although, to be honest, I think “manipulate” is a more accurate description of Stocker’s skills than “facilitate”.

Another example of Stocker’s “faciitation/manipulation” skills in action was thoroughly documented by Steve McIntyre in a Jan. 2012 post in which Stocker is revealed to have slipped in a “rule” regarding increased “confidentiality” of drafts, pretending that it was in response to a recommendation from the InterAcademy Council’s (IAC)’s 2010 report on the policies and procedures of the IPCC – when in fact, the IAC had called for greater transparency. McIntyre summarizes this saga:

Although Stocker’s recommended language in no way “addressed” recommendations of the IAC Panel (and arguably was even antithetical to their reiterated support for openness and transparency) and although the Task Group had been well aware that these issues were outside the mandate set by the 32nd IPCC plenary, the resolution represented this (and other) recommendations as addressing recommendations of the IAC Panel

But, I suppose there’s some kind of “balance” that Stocker achieved: he succeeded in disappearing one rule that the IAC had recommended be enforced more strongly, while introducing a new rule that was, as McIntyre had noted, antithetical to the IAC’s recommendations.

Such integrity and leadership, eh?! But back to Goldenberg …

Her narrative includes a quote from the always green, but nouveau politician, Andrew Weaver at his politically platitudinous best:

“My own view is that … it would be healthy for the IPCC to focus on regional impacts and to focus on individual phenomena rather than the big global thing. The way to go forward would be to pick an issue and to work together in an interdisciplinary way,” Weaver said.

Well, I suppose “the big global thing” is a wise step back from his pre-AR4 “barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles

Oh, and I almost forgot … Goldenberg seems to have glommed on to Obama’s ignorant “reframing”. After a dutiful recitation of the “one error” in AR4 myth, she writes:

The error was in one paragraph in a 900-page report. But it was seized on by those who doubt the science behind climate change, and those who oppose controls on carbon pollution, to try to damage the credibility of the entire IPCC exercise. [emphasis added -hro]

I wonder if Goldenberg realizes that with or without “the science” the climate is always going to change! And I very much doubt that Stocker’s “vision” for the future of the IPCC will be much of an improvement over Pachauri’s recent:

Pachauri said that though the [IPCC] is currently not under the umbrella of the UN, it might play a more catalytic role in the future to deal with climate change.

And I’m surprised that Goldenberg failed to notice that during a recent junket to Finland, Pachauri – in his typically “non policy prescriptive” way – was reported as saying:

the most important way of limiting the harmful effects of climate change is making polluters pay for their carbon dioxide emissions.

Certainly ties in with Obama’s “reframing” (and Goldenberg’s!) – as well as with Stocker’s “solution” to “carbon pollution”.

Goldenberg lets Stocker whine on:

But Stocker said scientists must squeeze in the work along other obligations. The scientists are not paid for their work on the IPCC.

If one didn’t know better, one would be inclined to think that this select group of “scientists” do their IPCC work on their own time – rather than that of the institutions by which they are employed. It is the expert reviewers who are often not paid for their work, not the “scientists”.

But in any event, I do agree with those who believe that the IPCC has outlived its usefulness (if in fact it ever had any in the broader world). And what we really need is a moratorium on any such reports while the IPCC cleans up its act – and preferably recognizes that whatever the pause between any future reports, if it is to have any credibility in the future, it must first let the scientists get back to doing science – and weed out the propagandists and activists.

Then perhaps we might get some reports that are, well, better than we thought!

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3 thoughts on “Stocker’s ounces of self-promotion … and IPCC demotion prevention

  1. “IPCC aims to reflect a range of views and expertise.” The UN link: “… provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.”
    Yes, IPCC does reflect a ‘range of views,’ even a clear view, on ‘potential…impacts.’
    Yes, a narrow range of views – focused on suggested {?imagined} negative impacts. Check: the panel continues to address its commission. Why and how can we complain?
    Just because members fail “… to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information …” does not mean IPCC failed to ‘provide the world’ A view.

    in re ‘play a more catalytic role’
    Pachauri, Goldenberg, Stocker, Obama, and Weaver: which acts the fool? which the clown?

  2. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 8 September 2013 | grumpydenier

  3. Someone commented the IPCC had only ever written one report. FAR and rehashes. The original dish wasn’t edible, and the leftovers even less so.

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