Pachauri’s great expectations (July 2009) vs reality (June 2013)

[Please note UPDATE within text below -hro]

Rajendra K. Pachauri is the (somewhat unwanted and some would say unqualified) Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s much vaunted – and daunting, if not positively scary – Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the first volume of which (or rather, the first wave of Press Releases touting its “objective, transparent and inclusive” Summary for Policy Makers [SPM]), is the contribution of Working Group I (WGI), “The Science”, is due to be (sort of) completed and “approved” in September of this year.

As I had noted in a post two years ago, Pachauri’s 2009 “vision” for AR5 included the following:

Based on an approach that is open, thorough, and scientifically rigorous, the contributions of the IPCC are widely recognized as the authoritative source of scientific information on climate change and as key foundations for negotiations and decisions related to implementing the UNFCCC.
In addition to being authoritative assessments, the IPCC reports are powerful motivators for research. New research on many of the understanding gaps identified in the AR4 is underway and advancing, with both the scientific community and the world’s governments strongly supportive of a successful next IPCC assessment, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).
Climate change needs to be assessed in the context of sustainable development, and this consideration should pervade the entire report across the three Working Groups.
T]he IPCC AR5 is being taken in hand at a time when awareness on climate change issues has reached a level unanticipated in the past. Much of this change can be attributed to the findings of the AR4 which have been disseminated actively through a conscious effort by the IPCC, its partners and most importantly the media. Expectations are, therefore, at an all time high as far as the AR5 is concerned.

I doubt that anyone would dispute Pachauri’s contention that the IPCC reports are “powerful motivators for research” – although in doing so, this “motivator” appears to have given “research” a bad name! But I digress …

In the interim, the IPCC (and its “main client“, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC]) has had more than a few setbacks. Not the least of which was Climategate; as Fred Pearce had noted in December 2009:

I have been speaking to a PR operator for one of the world’s leading environmental organizations. Most unusually, he didn’t want to be quoted. But his message is clear. The facts of the e-mails barely matter any more. It has always been hard to persuade the public that invisible gases could somehow warm the planet, and that they had to make sacrifices to prevent that from happening. It seemed, on the verge of Copenhagen, as if that might be about to be achieved.

But he says all that ended on Nov. 20. “The e-mails represented a seminal moment in the climate debate of the last five years, and it was a moment that broke decisively against us. I think the CRU leak is nothing less than catastrophic.” [emphasis added -hro]

While they have certainly made a valiant attempt to pretend otherwise, it’s difficult to imagine that the IPCC and its inner circle of scientists, activists and water-carrying journalists were not concerned about the 2011 release of a second tranche of emails (CG2) – or by the more recent release of the key to unlock the remaining emails contained in a password-protected file in CG2.

There have been leaks of drafts of various WG reports which the IPCC is powerless to prevent. But perhaps most disappointing of all for an organization which very much depends on visual icons to convey an escalating chorus to accompany each recycling of an “it’s-worse-than-we-thought-we-must-act-now” mantra, it has had to watch as one potential icon after another was shot down in flames of post-peer-review analysis of the statistical gymnastics invariably (and unkosherly) exercised by the papers’ respective authors.

First, Steig et al‘s glorious living colour Nature cover story turned out to be naught but “artifacts” which did nothing to “advance the science” – and was more deserving of a big yawn than the fanfare and attention it had succeeded in garnering.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)’s well-dressed word-salad that emerged from last year’s Rio+20 confab, pretty well sidelined the IPCC in favour of what was no doubt deemed to be a more “sustainable” sibling, the IPBES which has been waiting patiently in the wings for a few years now.

Australia’s Joelle Gergis (another in a long line of activist scientists) and her colleagues did their best to resurrect Michael Mann’s notorious hockey-stick. The madness in their methodology evidently failed them.

Marcott et al‘s attempted hockey-stick extension didn’t work out either – unless the IPCC is prepared to accept over-hyped Press Release headlines (endorsed by the U.K. Met Office for two full months) as suitable “evidence”.

PAGES 2K was another of those just-in-time submissions of potential iconic value, that if the IPCC has developed any respect for its audience it will ignore (but I’m not counting on that!)

Oh, and yet another icon of the doom and gloomers, the polar bears are doing just fine, thank you very much.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch, a “jewel in the crown, of British science and global science” (aka the U.K. Met Office), and a self-declared mainstay of the IPCC, appears to have backed itself into a rather uncomfortable corner.

During the past seventeen years, it has become quite evident that the projections (and predictions) of the climate modellers have failed to accord with reality. This has not been helped by the failure of Mother Nature to cooperate with the weather forecasting provided by the Met Office (using the same unreliable models and high-priced computer power). In fact, the Met Office has become so, well, alarmed that according to the U.K. Guardian‘s Leo Hickman (not the most reliable of sources, I agree) they have decided to convene a one-day workshop:

Met Office brainstorms UK bad weather

Climate scientists and meteorologists are meeting next week to debate the causes of UK’s disappointing weather in recent years

Washout summers. Flash floods. Freezing winters. Snow in May. Droughts. There is a growing sense that something is happening to our weather. But is it simply down to natural variability, or is climate change to blame?

To try to answer the question the Met Office is hosting an unprecedented meeting of climate scientists and meteorologists next week to debate the possible causes of the UK’s “disappointing” weather over recent years, the Guardian has learned.

Tuesday’s meeting at the forecaster’s HQ in Exeter is being convened in response to this year’s cool spring, which, according to official records, was the coldest in 50 years. [emphasis added -hro]

UPDATE 06/17/2013:

A twitter conversation with Richard Betts and others, in which I had indicated that I would update this post accordingly, resulted in confirmation (albeit quite silent!) of my view that Hickman is not the most reliable of sources:


[End update]

The world waits with bated breath for the outcome of this “unprecedented meeting”. Will these “experts” be able to conjure up a new, improved icon for the IPCC?! A mirabile dictu “statement” that will rescue the IPCC from its quandary? Who knows, eh?!

Then again, perhaps this workshop is an attempt to bolster the claims of the Met Office in its April 2013 submission of “evidence” (pdf) to a forthcoming hearing of the U.K. parliament’s Science & Technology Committee, Select Committee which is holding an inquiry into “Climate: Public understanding and policy implications”

In their evidence, a 2,000+ word submission, “trust” is mentioned no less than thirteen times, and the context in each instance is self-declared “trust” in the Met Office – and/or in the IPCC.

One of the questions asked by the Select Committee was:

Which voices are trusted in public discourse on climate science and policy? What role should Government Departments, scientific advisers to Government and publicly funded scientists have in communicating climate science?

The Met Office responses included the following (all emphases in quoted text below are mine -hro):

The availability of objective science interpretation from a trusted, authoritative and transparent source is crucial to ensure that confusion about the science is dispelled, questions are answered and erroneous reporting is identified as such by the public and can be challenged.

I’m not sure how “trusted, authoritative and transparent” a source the Met Office might be if it takes two full months and three iterations of text to remove an erroneous and highly misleading title from a blog post. But, YMMV.

Transparent and open scrutiny of science, both within the formal peer-review process and by wider audiences, allows real progress in understanding to be made, and advice to be given – whether to policy makers or in wider communications. This independence and transparency is essential for confidence to be maintained in public scientists and institutions such as the Met Office and the Met Office Hadley Centre. Indeed, impartiality is consistently cited as a key driver behind the responses of “trust a lot” in a quarterly survey by the Met Office to measure levels of public trust.

No doubt it was in the interest of “transparent and open scrutiny of science” that the Met Office has refused David Holland’s request for details of the IPCC’s zero-order draft – or to even permit the appropriate official to participate in the tribunal hearing. Again, YMMV, but I cannot say that I would be inclined to “trust” even a little (let alone “a lot”) an organization which demonstrates its commitment to “transparent and open scrutiny” in such a manner.

As for the trusted ties that bind the “independent” and “impartial” Met Office and the IPCC, the Met Office declared:

9. Policy makers, decision makers and the public at large need access to a trusted source for the latest scientific advice on climate change. The World Meteorological Organization under the auspices of the UN therefore set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The UK followed closely in setting up the Met Office Hadley Centre to focus on policy relevant science developing its own climate models and using these and those from other institutions to produce projections of future climate.

10. The IPCC has a role in communicating climate science findings. It reports roughly every 5 years on the latest science relevant to policy associated with the physical science, the impacts of climate change and economic and technology implications. The UK led working groups in 4 out of the 5 IPCC Assessment reports, with technical support units being hosted at the Met Office Hadley Centre. The UK also makes a significant contribution to the IPCC providing a large number of lead and convening authors as well as contributing authors. The IPCC Assessment reports form the basis of climate change negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and of policy development in the UK. The reports are publicly available on the web (and in printed form) together with review comments and the response of authors. Climate science is therefore unique in science in having a single trusted source for the latest policy relevant science.

11. Communication is developed from this for specific audiences and for the public. The scientists and institutions that contribute to IPCC (including the Met Office) update their science and related communication between reports so that there is access to the latest science.

Amazing, eh?! And the beat goes on. As Donna Laframboise noted in a recent post, in the spirit of “transparency” there will be yet another IPCC gathering behind closed doors (this time in Sweden) in September to negotiate and “approve” the text of the SPM for WG1’s contribution to AR5.

The process, evidently, is the same as that which was followed in the “approval” of the SPM of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN).

So the “line by line” negotiation and “approval” of the text of the Summary for Policymakers derived from “The Science” compiled by WGI will be conducted not by “all the governments of the world” – but only by those “national delegations” who might accept the invitation to participate in the proceedings of the “12th Session of the Working Group I (23 – 26 September 2013)” which will precede the “Thirty-Sixth Session of the IPCC (26 September 2013) at which the “Provisional Agenda” indicates:


IOW, the IPCC Plenary will rubber-stamp whatever was decided during the previous four days – by whichever “national delegations” might have attended. The next two items on this “Provisional Agenda” for the IPCC Plenary, btw, are the important stuff in which the delegations from the “governments of the world” might (or might not) have some independent unscripted input – and conduct some actual decision making activities:


Donna noted in her post:

[The SPM] is supposed to be a summary of the contents of Part 1 of the forthcoming IPCC assessment (the previous assessment was released in 2007). Authored by the IPCC’s Working Group 1, this is the portion of the report that concentrates on hard science. This is the place in which the IPCC is supposed to answer the question: What does the most reliable climate research tell us is happening?

Considering that the Co-Chair of WG1 is Thomas Stocker, I’m inclined to suspect that much of the “political” (i.e. green) paint-job on this SPM will have been completed long before it is subjected to any line by line “approval” at this four-day session of WGI. Stocker has previously declared that the planet would be better off if gas prices tripled or quadrupled. He was also a key person in “disappearing” the “rule” that non-peer-reviewed material should be flagged in the references.

So, Pachauri’s great expectations for AR5 in 2009 may well be realized. A brigade of psycho-babblers, such as Stephan Lewandowsky and his sidekick protégé John Cook, has certainly been doing its best to bolster support for his “vision” with their own statistical gymnastics and bogus “surveys” intended to tarnish skeptics.

But the reality in 2013 is … more and more people are recognizing that, as Walter Russell Mead noted, the wheels are falling off the policies driven by “The Science” of the IPCC. In short, Pachauri’s “vision” is simply not … sustainable!


One thought on “Pachauri’s great expectations (July 2009) vs reality (June 2013)

  1. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 16 June 2013 | grumpydenier

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