The U.K. Guardian is probably best known these days for being at the investigative forefront of the new-revelations-by-the-hour News of the World/Murdoch media frenzy. One tiny aspect of which I discussed about 10 days ago: the role of former deputy executive editor, and recently arrested, Neil Wallis – and his involvement (at the same time as he was on contract doing PR work for the London Metropolitan Police) as the “lead” PR person who came to the rescue of the University of East Anglia (UEA) whose Climate Research Unit (CRU) was mired in a bad press mess of their own making in the immediate aftermath of Climategate.
This newspaper is also quite well-known for its far-from-investigative advocacy efforts in support of any and all environmental causes – not the least of which was its sponsorship of last October’s PR disaster known as the 10:10 “No Pressure” video.
Damian Carrington, who appears to keep his credentials (or perhaps lack thereof – cf Guardian profile on David Adam) well-hidden from interested researchers, is the Guardian‘s “head of environment”. Carrington’s current crusade seems to be the rehabilitation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A not so well-hidden green-heart-on-sleeve blog entry of July 28, has the rather curious “ipcc-climate-change-science-pachauri” in the URL, yet (IPCC chair, Rajendra K.) Pachauri is not mentioned even once by name in his article. This blog entry is entitled: In defence of the IPCC: critics ignore the real scandal.
Carrington begins with a dramatic recitation of the IPCC’s laurels:
The world truly woke up to the threat of climate change on Friday 2 February 2007 when a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that humanity’s activities were – beyond all reasonable doubt – driving dangerous global warming. It remains the seminal moment, and the IPCC’s work was recognised with the award of the Nobel peace prize, shared with Al Gore.
How things change. Given much of the recent reporting of the IPCC’s work, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a tinpot group of green zealots, rather than the greatest feat of global scientific cooperation ever seen. Its reports are approved and endorsed by every nation on the planet, making it utterly unique and authoritative. [emphasis added -hro]
Wow! That is just so impressive, not to mention scary … OMG, I’m driving dangerous global warming!
For his next act, Carrington dutifully recites the Pachauri party-line regarding the latest IPCC faux-pas:
The most recent “controversy” was over the IPCC’s special report on renewable energy. “Its launch was hijacked by Greenpeace, with the actual report buried until weeks later,” screamed critics. Here’s what they failed, for some reason, to tell you.
1. The summary for policy makers (SPM) was released before the full report for the very same reason that gives the IPCC its unique clout. The SPM is discussed and then approved by all 194 countries, which means some changes are made to the draft. Those changes need to then be woven back into the full report, 1000 pages in this case. That takes time, but the SPM is already widely available. Suppressing the SPM until the revisions to the full report are made is simply impossible. [emphasis added -hro]
“Suppressing the SPM”?! Good grief … they worked on the report for a few years, what difference would a few more weeks have made? But more importantly …
Here’s what Carrington failed, for some reason, to tell his readers:
Unless all 194 countries were accounted for and present (in the days prior to commencement of the actual meeting of the IPCC), so that they could participate in the final session of Working Group III at which the SPM was “discussed and approved”, they could not have all “approved” it. In fact, had Carrington done the slightest bit of fact-checking – as I did circa May 14 – he would have learned that the IPCC does not “approve” the SPM of any Working Group’s report, as was made clear in the annotated agenda:
4. ACCEPTANCE OF THE ACTIONS TAKEN AT THE 11th SESSION OF WORKING GROUP III ON THE SPECIAL REPORT ON RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES AND CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION (SRREN)
Under this agenda item, the Panel will formally accept the Summary for Policymakers of the SRREN. Section 4.3 of the IPCC procedures stipulates that
“for a Summary for Policymakers approved by a Working Group to be endorsed as an IPCC Report, it must be accepted at a Session of the Panel. Because the Working Group approval process is open to all governments, Working Group approval of a Summary for Policymakers means that the Panel cannot change it. However, it is necessary for the Panel to review the Report at a Session, note any substantial disagreements, (in accordance with Principle 10 of the Principles Governing IPCC Work) and formally accept it.”
[reformatted and emphasis added -hro]
He then proceeds to excoriate Nature for an editorial in which the IPCC is criticized because he believes the only matter worth “screaming about” is the IPCC’s mere 12 person secretariat and inadequate budget. Perhaps Carrington is unaware of the additional paid (by hosting country/institution) resources available to each Working Group’s Technical Support Unit.
Funny, at the end of his piece Carrington has a note indicating that he had been corrected by some chap by the name of Richard Klein. Evidently in his initial post, Carrington had failed to use the:
IPPC’s exact terminology for the different author role, i.e. lead and coordinating lead. That’s now corrected
Too bad Klein didn’t know more about the IPCC process. Then he could also have pointed out the rather more serious errors in Carrington’s narrative. Klein could have mentioned the additional paid resources available via the Technical Support Units, and he could have directed Carrington to The IPCC’s “Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work” which indicates that there is a difference between “acceptance”, “adoption” and “approval” (p. 2):
PROCEDURES FOR THE PREPARATION, REVIEW, ACCEPTANCE, ADOPTION, APPROVAL AND PUBLICATION OF IPCC REPORTS
The definitions of terms used in this document are as follows:
“acceptance” of IPCC Reports at a Session of the Working Group or Panel signifies that the material has not been subject to line by line discussion and agreement, but nevertheless presents a comprehensive, objective and balanced view of the subject matter.
“adoption” of IPCC Reports is a process of endorsement section by section (and not line by line) used for the longer report of the Synthesis Report as described in section 4.3 and for Overview Chapters of Methodology Reports.
“approval” of IPCC Summaries for Policymakers signifies that the material has been subjected to detailed, line by line discussion and agreement.
Then again, perhaps Carrington is too blinded by the dazzling performance of Pachauri and the IPCC to even care about such details – or about investigating the potentially scandalous relationship between Neil Wallis and the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in the aftermath of Climategate.