Nature raps IPCC’s knuckles, but misses the boat

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long been criticized for the absence of a Conflict of Interest (CoI) policy. This was highlighted almost a year ago in the review of the IPCC’s policies and procedures by the InterAcademy Council (IAC).

So, they’ve had more than enough time to get their CoI act together if they so wished. Certainly they were able to act quickly enough on the “communications” front, as demonstrated by the chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri’s scripted and more moderate tone in his recent video appearance – which, if they’re lucky, will be more widely disseminated than his contravention of the “non-policy prescriptive” rule as demonstrated by his repeated exhortation:

“We have to ensure that there is a price on carbon”.

Yet, on the CoI front, the IPCC has been dragging its heels. The IPCC is indisputably rife with conflict of interest that is unlikely to be addressed by their decision to tap into the team-work side-step, when they eventually get around to developing their ““Annex A – Implementation” and “Annex B – Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form”.

In a rare instance of appearing to set aside its own editorial bias, Nature magazine has chastized the IPCC for its laggardly ways:

Shot with its own gun

[…]in the past two years, the IPCC has displayed a talent for manoeuvring itself into embarrassing situations, making itself an easy target for critics and climate sceptics.


The subsequent fallout [from Glaciergate] seriously damaged the IPCC’s credibility, and was exacerbated by the inept attempts of the group’s chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, to contain the crisis. A subsequent review of the organization’s governance and policies saw it commit to a number of wide-ranging reforms.


Pachauri is on record as saying that the new conflict-of-interest policy will not apply retrospectively to the hundreds of authors already selected for the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, due in 2014. This is unacceptable. He should make it a priority to ensure that the rules cover everyone involved — including himself.

Yet, as Steve McIntyre has observed, in rapping the IPCC’s knuckles, Nature has missed the boat:

The problem that Nature should be concerned about is whether IPCC is discharging its duties and responsibilities of providing the public and policy-makers with effective and balanced scientific advice. That’s what Nature should be worried about. If it does so, then critics will have less to criticize.

One might also note that this editorial fails to acknowledge Nature‘s not inconsiderable contributions to the problems of the IPCC by the obvious lack of due diligence in its own 1998 promotion of the notoriously iconic “hockey-stick” – and more recently (2009) by a similar lack of due diligence prior to publishing its cover story on alleged “Antarctic warming”.

UPDATE 04:16 PM PDT: Speaking of Nature, the IPCC and the notoriously iconic “hockey-stick” … Andrew Montford (author of the eminently readable and highly informative The Hockey Stick Illusion) has posted on his Bishop Hill blog some highlights of the “revisionist scholarship” engaged in by one of Michael Mann’s co-authors, Raymond Bradley.


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