IPCC reports: spaced out?!

One of the recurring themes I had noticed when we were attempting (unsuccessfully) to quantify the “Accepted” “Rejected” etc. comments on the Second Order Draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), in AccessIPCC, was the considerable number of comments that were “Rejected” or “Noted” due to “space limitations” and/or variants thereof. There were 320 such comments that I was able to identify.

To me this was somewhat ironic considering that saving the planet (at a cost of trillions) would be hanging on the “Approved” (and presumably incorporated) comments that ended up in this “gold standard” report. Although I did wonder how the word-space was allocated.

I still don’t have the answer to the word allocation question regarding AR4; but there was a news release a few days ago from the UN regarding cost-cutting which might point in the direction of an answer to this rather puzzling matter [h/t Steven Edward’s at The National Post]:

UN cutting costs by the word

By JOHN HEILPRIN – Associated Press | AP – Thu, Aug 11, 2011

GENEVA (AP) — Even words aren’t cheap anymore. The United Nations, not normally known for terseness, is putting a word limit on the thousands of reports it produces each year to try to save money and diplomats’ time.

Lengthy documents are being scaled back “due to increasing financial constraints and the strain on translation services,” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the U.N.’s director-general in Geneva, told diplomats on Thursday.

Reports by the U.N.’s intergovernmental bodies must now be limited to no more than 10,700 words, he told the Conference on Disarmament that he oversees — a big change from the thick reports whose pages often run to dozens, even hundreds, pile up in press rooms and clog the inboxes of reporters.

The U.N.’s secretariat is limiting its own reports to 8,500 words.
The secretariat’s $5.4 billion annual budget is set in U.S. dollars, causing hardship in places like Geneva where the Swiss franc is soaring against the dollar and euro. Extended U.N. agencies spend billions more each year.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.S. Congress that the world body is doing what it can to reduce its budget this year and said he has instructed his senior advisers to devise a 3 percent cut.

Ban reported to the General Assembly that the U.N. “enforces strict compliance” on the word limit.

But all is not lost for the long-winded: He also told the General Assembly that officials who feel they have a whole lot more they need to say can ask for an exception on a case-by-case basis. [emphases added -hro]

Hmmm … “strict compliance” eh?! Sure! But at least they’re open about the “exception” loophole. However, I do wonder what IPCC Chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri will make of this edict? Oooops, I almost forgot … as I had noted a few days ago, Pachauri told The Economist last year that:

Well, those are UN organisations and they are bound by UN rules, and you know that the IPCC is not a UN organisation, it is an intergovernmental organisation and in that sense we are distinctly different from UNEP and WMO or any of those organisations.

Mind you, if the IPCC is so “distinctly different”, alas the mystery of the source of the edict on “space limitations” for AR4 remains unsolved <sigh>

Then again, I suppose we should be thankful for all the trees that will be saved by this edict; although, I’m inclined to think that considering that the UN is so concerned about “carbon footprints” – and about their budgets – perhaps travel might have been an expense area worth exploring (and reducing).


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