IPCC’s makeover result: Business as usual

In a post on her blog yesterday, Dr. Judith Curry cited several excerpts from a recent (undated) submission via KNMI (Royal Dutch Meteorological Society) on “The Future of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]”

Curry begins her post as follows:

The IPCC is soliciting input from participating nations regarding the future of the IPCC. This submission from Netherlands is being discussed in the skeptical blogosphere, lets take a look at some suggestions that I find particularly good […] [emphasis added -hro]

This discussion in the blogosphere appears to have begun on the blog of the much respected Marcel Crok, in which he had noted:

Dutch advice to IPCC: limiting the scope to human induced climate change is undesirable

Goverments around the world have been asked by IPCC to think about the future of the IPCC. The Netherlands now sent their submission to the IPCC and made it available on the website of KNMI.

I would say Holland is fairly critical about how IPCC is operating right now. This part struck me as most interesting:

The IPCC needs to adjust its principles. We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change. The Netherlands is also of the opinion that the word ‘comprehensive’ may have to be deleted, because producing comprehensive assessments becomes virtually impossible with the ever expanding body of knowledge and IPCC may be more relevant by producing more special reports on topics that are new and controversial. [Crok’s emphasis]

Now, don’t get me wrong! As frequent readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn, I completely agree with both Curry and Crok! As I do with most of the submission [pdf] from The Netherlands, which begins:

Submission by The Netherlands on the future of the IPCC

The Fifth Assessment has been a particularly turbulent period for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The unfortunate mistakes in the Fourth Assessment, and the delayed response to these, unveiled serious vulnerabilities in the organisation, the process of producing reports, the perceived integrity of the people involved and the communication. Based on the recommendations by the InterAcademy Council (IAC), the IPCC entered into a prolonged period of self-reflection and decided to implement a large number of incremental improvements. This has increased the ability of the IPCC to cope with the Fifth Assessment successfully, but the pace at which the world changes is stepping up, and we can be sure that the IPCC must adapt to these changes if it still wants to retain significance in the future. [emphasis added -hro]

However – notwithstanding the IPCC’s very own June 2012 claims to the contrary – I have yet to see any evidence in support of this submission’s contention that the IPCC’s “prolonged period of self-reflection” following the conclusion of IAC’s August 2010 review, has resulted in “a large number of incremental improvements”.

Disappearing a rarely practiced but inconvenient rule in response to a recommendation that it be strengthened and more closely adhered to, is not exactly my idea of an “improvement”.

Nor would I consider the following sequence of events an “improvement” on the part of the IPCC.

On June 24, 2013, the IPCC sent out a “Media Advisory” inviting:

national and international correspondents based in Addis Ababa to the opening session of the 4th Lead Author Meeting of Working Group III, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5) which will last from July 1 to 5, 2013.

The Addis Ababa meeting is the last of four WGIII Lead Author meetings in the AR5 assessment cycle. The experts are expected to produce a comprehensive, balanced and sound assessment of the status of knowledge on strategies and options as well as risks of climate change mitigation. The WGIII assessment will be carried out in strict compliance with the “Principles Governing the IPCC Work”, which require that it is made on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis and should be neutral with respect to policy.


Media are invited to the Opening Plenary of the 4th Lead Author Meeting and to the press conference which will follow at 10:30 a.m. local time.

Yet, as Donna Laframboise reported a few days ago, one presumes that during the course of this July 1 Press Conference (if not before!), these “experts” (whose “expertise” was unhelpfully unspecified, as is often the case at the IPCC) had morphed into “[pretend] climate scientists”. Laframboise has highlighted a very misleading “out of Africa” headline that appears to have been generated by yet another Agency in the ever-growing UN maze.

This time the misleading spin – and obligatory knee-jerk recitations of climate alarmism, accompanied by a doom and gloom image – came from the “UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)” (my bold -hro):

Climate Scientists gather for fourth meeting in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, 01 July 2013 (ECA) – Scientists from around the world comprising the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III have commenced their fourth meeting that takes place from1-5 June in Addis Ababa. The session opened with reminders of the magnitude of the challenge of climate change, particularly in Africa and a call to do more on resilient measures in the face of climate related disasters.

But I digress (hey, it’s my blog, and I’ll digress if I want to!) … Back to this submission from the Netherlands which has been presumed to be in response to a call from the IPCC to its member nations.

I was curious to learn how other nations might have responded. So my mouse and I headed off to Google – where the only references I was able to find to this call for submissions on “The future of the IPCC” were from 2008. Some excerpts from the first:

FUTURE OF THE IPCC [missing hyperlink to source added 07/7/2013 -hro]
Synthesis of Comments
(Submitted by the Secretariat)

Some issues related to the future of the IPCC

(Synthesis of comments prepared by the IPCC Secretariat)

1. Introduction

This synthesis is based on comments on the Chairman [Rajendra K. Pachauri]’s discussion paper (Annex 2) received by 21 February 2008 from the following 37 governments:

[list of 37 which included Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, U.K. and US -hro]

Submissions were also received from 16 organizations, more than 70 Lead Authors (LAs) from all Working Groups (WGs) and the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI), and from Susan Solomon and Qin Dahe (Co-chairs Working Group 1) and Geoff Love (Vice Chair Working Group 2) in their capacity as members of the IPCC Bureau. A compilation of all submissions is contained in document IPCC-XXVIII/INF.1

While some submissions referred to all aspects of the discussion paper, many did not follow the structure of the paper and primarily addressed main questions of future IPCC outputs, Working Group structure and composition of the IPCC Bureau. Many authors and organizations also offered detailed comments on scientific technical issues for the next assessment round. Comments were also offered on the use of the funds received for the Nobel Peace Prize. They are reflected in the document submitted under item 7.

In the light of the decisions that have to be taken by the 28th Session of the Panel this synthesis attempts to summarize comments on main decision items and reflections on the AR4 process.

Not surprisingly, the Secretariat’s “synthesis” had noted:

2. Future IPCC outputs

All submissions endorsed the value of IPCC reports and strongly endorsed a continuation of IPCC assessment work. Overwhelming support was expressed for a continuation of comprehensive assessment reports, covering the full range of the physical science basis, impacts and response measures. Most of the government submissions supported current practice to finalize all volumes of a comprehensive assessment report within a relatively short time frame. Most submissions also urged to maintain in principle the rigorous IPCC procedures and the general structure. [emphasis added -hro]

As the saying goes … well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?!

In its typically transparent UNhelpful™ fashion, the Secretariat had provided no hyperlink to “document IPCC-XXVIII/INF.1”. So, for those who might want to undertake the exercise of comparing the compilation (“submitted by the Secretariat”) with the Synthesis – or The Netherlands’ 2008 submission with its more recent contribution – here’s the link (pdf).

In light of so many events and developments subsequent to this soul-searching exercise in 2008, the “Chairman’s Discussion Paper (Annex 2)” which evidently precipitated this 2008 call for submissions has some rather, well, interesting bits … including but not limited to (all emphases mine -hro) (p. 8):

The structure of the IPCC and the processes and practices that it has established have proved extremely successful not only in attracting some of the best talent available in the world for carrying out assessments of all aspects of climate change
the scrutiny and approval by policymakers give the scientific output of the IPCC a credibility and validity that is perhaps unparalleled in any other scientific effort carried out in fields linked with public policy …
The focus of the Panel and the comprehensive assessment that it carries out by relying on peer reviewed literature is one of the major strengths of the IPCC, and over a period of time this has certainly motivated researchers both at the individual and institutional levels to undertake research activities that advance the frontiers of knowledge. It is not unusual for researchers to seek and receive research funding on the grounds that their work would feed the requirements of the IPCC. Hence, the work of the Panel has had a major capacity building dimension that should not be minimized.

“Extremely successful”? Well, I suppose it was back in the good old days when few read anything beyond its carefully crafted Press Releases (or the dutiful regurgitation and/or interpretations thereof by lazy and/or gullible journalists).

“[R]elying on peer reviewed literature”? What a joke that turned out to be, eh?!

It would be difficult to dispute, however, that some who call themselves “researchers” do indeed “seek and receive … funding [to] feed the requirements of the IPCC”. This is certainly a “major” something or other; but “capacity building” is not a phrase that immediately comes to my mind, in this particular context.

Also on p. 8, one finds:

An important element of IPCC’s effectiveness has been its ability to convey its findings to the public through the media and other means. Needless to say media interest in the IPCC’s work is a function of the credibility of the organization, but it is clearly the result also of an increasingly proactive outreach strategy to enhance the value, acceptance and effectiveness of the outputs produced by the IPCC.

First of all, if you think that there’s any truth in this claim regarding the IPCC’s purported “credibility” (however it might have been acquired), here’s a book you definitely must read:

The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for The World's Top Climate Expert: IPCC Eposé

As for this “outreach strategy”, it certainly seemed to convince those who deemed the IPCC worthy of being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In case you’ve forgotten here’s the “reason” for this increasingly debased “award” going to the IPCC and Al Gore:

“for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”

However, in the intervening years (judging by all the moaning and groaning of so many in the “how can we get our message out” advocacy crowd) perhaps this 2007 award was somewhat premature – if not completely unwarranted and undeserved.

Apart from the fact that Pachauri appeared to gloss over declarations elsewhere that the IPCC’s “major client” is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – IOW, “the work [of the IPCC] feeds the requirements” of the UNFCCC – there’s another tidbit from this episode of Pachauri’s Pontifications (and/or those of his ghost-writer) that I found amusing.

Here he appears to be remarkably prescient regarding the future rise in importance of the IPCC’s younger sibling, the IPBES with its “biodiversity” scary stories more closely aligned to the ever-increasing hues and cries from the “sustainable development” crowd.

It is worth noting that of the twelve instances of “sustainable development” contained in the Secretariat’s “synthesis”, eight were found in Annex 2 (aka Pachauri’s Pontifications on how wonderful a job the IPCC is doing), including the following (contained in a section entitled “Drivers of required change in the future”), in context (p. 10):

This is an appropriate moment to consider the possibility of some changes in the structure of the IPCC and the various outputs that it produces. These changes, if at all should essentially be in the nature of refinements to what has already been established and not necessarily any major departure from either the process by which the IPCC functions or the products that it develops and produces. The factors that require understanding to bring about some change in the future are:

Public perceptions and knowledge related to climate policies: The public is now much better informed about the scientific basis and scientific nature of climate change. There has been an obvious explosion in awareness [word salad from which he pulls the following rabbit out of his hat:] With this level of awareness, there is now a greater demand for a higher level of policy relevance in the work of the IPCC, which could provide policymakers a robust scientific basis for action.

Possible translation from Pachauri-speak: the public is now aware that the science is settled. This was followed by his immediate leap onto (what he subsequently declared to be an “overarching” theme) the shiny new tracks of the “sustainable development” gravy train:

With the growing awareness about climate change has also come much greater interest in the fundamentals of sustainable development, and larger issues which focus on the depletion and degradation of natural resources and ecosystems across the globe. Future assessments by the IPCC will be required to focus in more concrete ways on various aspects of sustainable development. A shift in the framework to be developed and used at least for the work of Working Groups II and III towards various aspects of sustainable development will, therefore, be warranted, while maintaining the comprehensive nature of IPCC assessments.

With such a self-congratulatory “audit” under the Secretariat’s belt, it is little wonder that two years later the IPCC embarked on a course of paying lip service to (but, in reality, thumbing its nose at) the recommendations of the IAC.

In the absence of any indication** that I was able to find on the IPCC site of a more recent call for submissions on “The future of the IPCC”, one can only speculate on the reason(s) that the government of The Netherlands might have chosen to release its apparently far more recent submission, discussed by Curry and Crok.

** I looked here, where I found nothing; and I looked there, believe it or not this is a page entitled “Search for IPCC Documents Related to:” which seemed quite promising. But alas, it was followed by six supposedly hyperlinked items, none of which worked (at least not for my Chrome-plated mouse) :-(

Meanwhile, over at Bishop Hill, Mr. Nice Guy (aka Richard Betts), a representative of a “jewel in the crown, of British science and global science” (aka the U.K. Met Office) who has a remarkable talent for defending the indefensible (not to mention finding some nugget or other that he can rip from its context and on which he can build a “case”) rode to the rescue of the IPCC (in which Betts, as a WGII Lead Author, has a somewhat vested interest) against the charge (which emanated from the The Netherlands’ paper) reiterated by Mike Jackson [Jul 5, 2013 at 6:23 PM]:

The trouble is that the IPCC was set up to investigate anthropogenic climate change if my reading of its remit is correct.

Given that it is a UN body and therefore has access to a bottomless money pit, investigating anything which might lead to the conclusion that there’s nothing they can do about and so they might as well disband is something of a non-starter!

Betts [Jul 5, 2013 at 11:25 PM] responded to Jackson:

No, the IPCC was set up to assess the current state of knowledge on climate change from any cause, either anthropogenic or natural.
[T]he IPCC defines climate change as including natural as well as anthropogenic effects:

Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.

When Turning Tide, another commenter, subsequently pointed out [Jul 6, 2013 at 12:55 AM] that IPCC’s very own Principles of Work (last Amended following “the Thirty-Fifth Session (Geneva, 6-9 June 2012)” quite clearly state:

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change […]

Betts was reduced to lamely limping away from reality [Jul 6, 2013 at 10:40 AM] with the uh … unsustainable “revisionism” that:

UNFCCC and IPCC define climate change differently. UNFCCC does define climate change as being anthropogenic. An unhelpful confusion by these two organisations!

Betts may (or may not) have returned to this particular discussion thread, where others subsequently noted …

Mike Jackson [Jul 6, 2013 at 10:57 AM]:

Yes, I know that the IPCC’s own website has quietly removed the concept of “caused by human activity” but I think you will find that when it was originally set up that was indeed the remit, as Wikipedia (in my view, correctly) says.

Betts’ own employer most certainly subscribed to this narrowed remit as recently as October 2011.

Martin A. [Jul 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM]

“What is climate change?(…) The term climate change usually refers to man-made changes that have occurred since the early 1900s.”

Not only that, but as another poster observed, the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (which presumably has responsibility for compiling the U.K. government’s glossary) specifically excludes “natural causes”.

Barry Woods [Jul 6, 2013 at 11:44 AM]

“Climate Change

The process of changing weather patterns caused by the increased number of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere as a result of human activity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”

In short, those who wrote The Netherlands’ “submission” were quite correct when they observed – notwithstanding the 2010 lifeline handed to them by the IAC (my phrasing, not theirs), or indeed all the well-deserved criticism levelled at the IPCC in the intervening years – that as Crok had highlighted:

The IPCC needs to adjust its principles. We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change. The Netherlands is also of the opinion that the word ‘comprehensive’ may have to be deleted […]

In short, the IPCC may have deluded some into believing that it has given itself a makeover***, but the end result is … business as usual.

*** Footnotes:

There were a few appearances of enhancements that my mouse and I did discover on the IPCC site during the course of our fruitless search for signs of a recent call for submissions on “the future of the IPCC”.

One of which is that they are now far more “up-front” [scroll down!] with their definitions of “Approval”, “Adoption” and “Acceptance” (all three of which, evidently, now constitute “endorsement”) than they have been in the past. This should be of tremendous assistance to lazy journalists, such as the Guardian‘s Damian Carrington and Carrington’s noble defender, IPCC Lead Author, Richard Klein.

The other makeover (?!) surprise – to me at least – was the discovery (a little further down on the same page) that:

Lead Authors then finalize the Paper based on the comments received during the final government review in consultation with the IPCC Bureau which functions as an Editorial Board. If necessary and as determined by the IPCC Bureau, the Technical Paper would include in a footnote differing views, based on comments made during the final government review that were not otherwise adequately reflected in the Paper. [emphasis added -hro]

An “Editorial Board”? Who knew?! This may well be an interesting topic for another day! But in the meantime … hands up all who have ever read an IPCC “Technical Paper” where it seems that those “differing views” that cannot be arbitrarily dismissed or ignored (in accordance with what appears to have been a long-standing past practice) might well be buried.

Amazing, eh?!

2 thoughts on “IPCC’s makeover result: Business as usual

  1. Thanks, Hilary, for wrestling with UN distractions and jargon.
    re “… the IPCC entered into a prolonged period of self-reflection and decided to implement a large number of incremental improvements. ”
    ‘… decided to implement …’ ?? When? Which large number? in response to the several IAC recommendations. Which and when, incrementally? Where can we find which increments were approved in this month’s meeting?

  2. It is sufficient to note that the WGIII report is in preparation in parallel with WGII’s work, which is contemporaneous with WGI, to know that the entire operation is a put-up job. That WGI authors and findings are at the bottom of the editorial totem pole, instead of in control of QC and verification, is irrefutable proof. The entire process, by design, is bass-ackwards.

    Hal Lewis: “the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, … has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”

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