IPCC plays snakes and ladders while going full tilt for windmills

Well, the “full” [1,000 page] version of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Working Group III’s “Special Report” urging the expenditure of trillions, won’t be available until May 31. And the IPCC 33rd Session isn’t due to start until tomorrow, May 10 – at least according to their Provisional Agenda. Strangely, unless the “Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN)” has a secret code name, this “Special Report” does not appear on this Agenda, nor on the “Annotated Provisional Agenda” … ooops …make that the “Provisional Annotated Agenda“.

I also took a look at the “Provisional Agenda” for the 11th Session of Working Group III – submitted by the IPCC Secretariat. (Sorry, no “Annotated” version available for this May 5-8 Session.) And there’s no indication I could detect of any item which would suggest “approval by the IPCC”.

But, one way or another, the busy beavers of WG III have somehow succeeded in gaining the IPCC’s approval of the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of this report. An excerpt from their Press Release explicitly states:

The findings, launched today after being approved by member countries of the IPCC in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, are contained in a summary for policymakers of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN).

The summary is a short version of a roughly a thousand page comprehensive assessment compiled by over 120 leading experts from all over the world for IPCC’s Working Group III.

“With consistent climate and energy policy support, renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human well-being by sustainably supplying energy and stabilizing the climate,” said Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III at the report launch.” [emphasis added -hro]

They’ve even got an interactive diagram of how they accomplished this magnificent feat. Here’s a miniature version of the “big picture” (just in case your mouse dies before the full “reveal” – which takes no less than 14 clicks, btw):

IPCC Procedure: The Development of a Report - SRREN

Quite the image, eh? Unlike the ‘monopoly‘ board that depicts the procedures of the Assessment Reports, this one brings to mind (well, my mind, at least) the game of “Snakes and Ladders”.

Oh … before I forget, and in the interest of truth in posting … slide 4 gets hidden in the big picture. On this slide one learns either that “Nominees not selected as authors may become expert reviewers” or that “Nominees Not Selected As Authors Become Expert Reviewers” – depending on whether one pays more attention to the former (a caption) or the latter (a Black on White ‘pop-up’) that temporarily appears directly beneath “IPCC Bureau Selects Authors” (from amongst the Government nominated ‘experts’)

But rest assured, this report did not come out of the blue (nor did its somewhat foregone conclusions). The full chronology of this report’s gestation period is, well, a little fuzzy. A “scoping meeting” had been “organised to support a decision on the Special Report by the IPCC Plenary, which was held in Lübeck, Germany from 20 to 25 January 2008.” Your guess is as good as mine as to whether it was the Plenary or the “scoping meeting” that took place on those dates. Nonetheless, predictably, the IPCC “approved the development” of the SRREN at the 28th meeting held in Budapest in April 2008.

For anyone who’s counting, the First Order Draft – prepared by ‘experts’, of course – generated 8,775 comments, while the second draft generated 14,021. Add to these the 1,286 comments on the second draft of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and the “additional government review of Chapter 9” which is billed as “Renewable Energy in the Context of Sustainable Development” and which resulted in 684 comments – both of which must be really, really important, because they were mentioned on two consecutive slides (10 and 11). And their grand total of comments received is 24,766 – which is the same as the total of the numbers above. Given the IPCC’s … uh … history with number games, this is somewhat reassuring.

We may know next to nothing about the specific areas of expertise of these ‘120 experts’; although most seem to have very friendly full-colour pictures on the site – which may (or may not) be a ploy to divert attention from the fact that, while many appear to be associated with prestigious institutions, we have no way of immediately knowing whether an individual ‘expert’ might have skills in a relevant area (for example … oh, I dunno … statistics, perhaps?!) or whether s/he is a sanitation engineer who happens to hold environmentally correct views and has been selected to provide gender and/or geographical “balance”. But I digress …

The narrative accompanying slide 14 is, well, interesting … here’s how it begins:

Before publication, any SPM changes affecting chapters are included and redesigned figures are added to the Report.

Most IPCC reports are published commercially. A limited number of free copies can be provided to experts from developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Publication includes publication of all comments & answers on the relevant IPCC website

So, if you’re not an ‘expert’ from a developing country or a country with an economy in transition, and you don’t have an Internet connection you may never know all their words of wisdom. As for the “content” … lots of buzzwords … sustainability (in keeping with Pachauri’s vision for AR 5, of course), renewables, etc. etc. Not sure about the SPM, but the “entire report” will be very heavily laden with …. Energy:

Chapter 1 Renewable Energy and Climate Change
Chapter 2 Bioenergy
Chapter 3 Direct Solar Energy
Chapter 4 Geothermal Energy
Chapter 5 Hydropower
Chapter 6 Ocean Energy
Chapter 7 Wind Energy
Chapter 8 Integration of Renewable Energy into Present and Future Energy Systems

[and as noted above:]
Chapter 9 Renewable Energy in the Context of Sustainable Development

One thing that is conspicuously absent from the official fanfares and verbiage surrounding this masterpiece is any mention of ‘peer-reviewed’ (or non-peer-reviewed for that matter). Or at least none that I could find! Looks like “peer-reviewed” literature might be as scarce in this report from WG III as it was in WG III’s contribution to AR 4.

There are two more chapters (that don’t have Energy in their titles) and three Annexes:

Annex I Glossary and Acronyms
Annex II Methodology
Annex III Cost Table

Look, ma! No hint of references!

One can hardly wait until November when (according to the IPCC website) “The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change” will be available. Wait a minute … I thought they were trying to stop climate change, not “Advance” it ;-)

6 thoughts on “IPCC plays snakes and ladders while going full tilt for windmills

    • Nope. No mention of “peer-reviewed” … and no mention of nuclear energy either:

      “The report reviewed bioenergy, solar energy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean energy and wind. It did not consider nuclear power, so IPCC chairman Rajendar Pachauri said the recent nuclear accident in Japan was not discussed and had no impact on the report’s conclusions.”

      [The above courtesy of AP via CBC News who can always be counted on to give unquestioning publicity to and parrotting of the IPCC and its “findings”.]

  1. Re:

    …while many appear to be associated with prestigious institutions, we have no way of immediately knowing whether an individual ‘expert’ might have skills in a relevant area (for example … oh, I dunno … statistics, perhaps?!)

    Exactly. It is seriously annoying that the IPCC thinks the most important thing it can tell us about their “expert” authors is their country, followed by their institutional affiliation.

    The public has a right to know exactly what expertise these people actually have. In other words, we should be provided with a direct link to the person’s CV. When authors are nominated for IPCC duty, their CVs are supplied. Why does the IPCC then lock these CVs in a drawer?

    There should be public access to the CVs of people who were nominated but not chosen. That way we could form an opinion about whether the best experts were actually selected by the IPCC – and whether some countries are nominating bureaucrats and politicians rather than genuine experts.

    • Indeed. It is most unfortunate that the powers that be at the IPCC evidently decided that wrt the author selection process it would be perfectly OK to proceed as though the IAC report found no problem and that the following [from pp. 14-15] was hardly worth considering, prior to “launching” their masterpiece:

      “The selection of authors is one of the most important decisions in the assessment process because credibility of the assessment depends largely on the participation of respected scientists … Although the individuals who corresponded with the Committee were generally supportive of the author teams chosen, few knew why some authors are chosen and others are not, and many found the selection criteria arbitrary. The absence of a transparent author-selection process or well-defined criteria for author selection can raise questions of bias and undermine the confidence of scientists and others in the credibility of the assessment (e.g., Pielke, 2010a). The IPCC has no formal process or criteria for selecting authors, […]” [emphasis added – hro]

      The tremendous work that you have done, Donna, on uncovering that which the IPCC would probably much prefer to have kept under wraps has been a valuable public service.

  2. Pingback: The IPCC on Renewable Energy « NoFrakkingConsensus

  3. Pingback: IPCC ‘science’, propaganda…by ‘press release’ | pindanpost

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