Old-hand Alcamo picked to rescue “tinkerbell” Figueres?

As readers of this blog are probably aware, I do not have much respect or admiration for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and its ever-growing maze of offspring – which includes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which feeds its so-called “science” to Christiana <tinkerbell> Figueres’ current bailiwick, the “send us your billions and we’ll give it to those we favour” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Despite the best of machinations on the part of various and sundry honchos from the IPCC – including Working Group (WG) I’s smooth-talking, but hypocritical, Co-Chair, Thomas Stocker – even the UN’s very own survey is maintaining a consistent but almost lowest of the low priority for “action on climate change”.

Notwithstanding her own perceptions and many word-salads to the contrary, Figueres has not exactly set the world on fire with countries tripping over each other to toss resources at the multitude of UN “mechanisms”. For the uninitiated, “mechanisms” is UN-speak for their various and sundry send-us-your-money-and-we’ll-spend-it schemes and dreams.

I have no idea how (or by whom) it was determined that Figueres might be in need of a little help from her friends. Nonetheless I happened to stumble across an announcement today:

Alcamo Appointed Special Science Adviser to UNFCCC Executive Secretary

4 June 2014: Former UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Chief Scientist and award-winning environmental modeling researcher Joseph Alcamo was appointed Special Science Adviser to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. He will be providing pro bono advice to the Secretariat.

Figueres said his invaluable advice will “strengthen our ability to understand developments in the fast moving world of climate research.” Upon his appointment, Alcamo stressed the “need to maximize efforts to convey the important science messages coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to policymakers.”


In the listing of Alcamo’s accreditations and accomplishments, that followed the above, I did notice a few rather conspicuous absences. Not the least of which was his “BC” [Before Climategate] keynote address to those attending the October 2009 Bali gathering of the IPCC, which included:

Many of you are aware that I am not only representing UNEP at this meeting but also a veteran of 15 years of IPCC work. Over this time I have had the chance to contribute to evaluating and developing scenarios, assessing continental-scale impacts, and other tasks. Of the many impressions I have from these years, one of the strongest is how IPCC has long and hard asserted itself on the turbulent frontier between climate science and climate policy.

My impression is also that this frontier will not be getting any quieter over the coming years. Yet despite the ongoing turbulence, the IPCC needs to engage itself even more energetically at the science-policy interface. Why? Because as policymakers and the public begin to grasp the multi-billion dollar price tag for mitigating and adapting to climate change, we should expect a sharper questioning of the science behind climate policy. [emphases added -hro]

Also not mentioned in this June 4 press release on Alcamo’s new, improved role, was his very instrumental role in the production of the 1997 (pre-Kyoto) Climate Consensus Co-ordinators’ Cookbook wherein one finds such gems from Alcamo (to fellow co-ordinators, Mike Hulme and Rob Swartz) as:

Sounds like you guys have been busy doing good things for the cause.

I would like to weigh in on two important questions –

Distribution for Endorsements –

I am very strongly in favor of as wide and rapid a distribution as possible for endorsements. I think the only thing that counts is numbers. The media is going to say “1000 scientists signed” or “1500 signed”. No one is going to check if it is 600 with PhDs versus 2000 without. They will mention the prominent ones, but that is a different story.

Conclusion — Forget the screening, forget asking them about their last publication (most will ignore you.) Get those names!

Timing — I feel strongly that the week of 24 November is too late.

1. We wanted to announce the Statement in the period when there was a sag in related news, but in the week before Kyoto we should expect that we will have to crowd out many other articles about climate.

2. If the Statement comes out just a few days before Kyoto I am afraid that the delegates who we want to influence will not have any time to pay attention to it. We should give them a few weeks to hear about it.

3. If Greenpeace is having an event the week before, we should have it a week before them so that they and other NGOs can further spread the word about the Statement. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be so bad to release the Statement in the same week, but on a diffeent day. The media might enjoy hearing the message from two very different directions.

Just so “objective” and “honest” and “transformative”, eh?! Oh, one other note of interest regarding Alcamo. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but according to the IISD (source of the above June 4 item), Alcamo also:

“played a key role in the founding of Future Earth, an international framework for global change research”.

Future Earth, as you will no doubt recall, is one of the newer kids on the climate change block. As I had noted in that post, Future Earth wants to “create knowledge” then “translate” their “creations” into “action”.

Amazing, eh?!


11 thoughts on “Old-hand Alcamo picked to rescue “tinkerbell” Figueres?

  1. There’s a video on YouTube called “Why do we need Future Earth?”, in which Joseph Alcamo says:

    “More than ever, the communication between science and society has nearly broken down. There’s very little communication, just at a time when we need science more than ever to protect the climate, to do something about water scarcity, to address the basic questions having to do with development.”

    If there has been some sort of rift between science and society, perhaps Future Earth-style agenda-driven science has had a part to play in that…

    • Fascinating find, Alex! What’s really interesting about this video (at least to me LOL) – apart from the fact that it was made in Oct. 2012 (while futurearth™ was still in the “germination” stage, and attached to the International Council for Science) – is more what the speakers do not say than what they do!

      While “climate” does get an honourable mention from one speaker, who – particularly any Uninformed Lay Person (ULP)’s – would even know that there are such oh-so-important bodies as the IPCC and the UNFCCC, eh?! futurearth’s tagline “research for global sustainability” says it all, does it not?!

      Their choice of speakers in this – far from viral – video is also interesting; particularly Rockstrom (aka Mr. Anthropocene) and Mooney don’t you think?!

      Anyway, I think this short video is definitely worth a watch! So without further ado (and a prayer that it will actually show in this comment!) …

      P.S. There’s also a “pre-natal” video with Watson and Alcamo (and a different cast of other characters) which appears to have predated the above. See: What is the vision of Future Earth?

    • Hilary, this is fascinating stuff. It’s interesting that Future Earth is presented in those videos as a brand-new thing that’s timely and essential (Harold Mooney: “it’s a new way of doing science…”). On the ICSU website, it is described as an organisation that “will build on the success of existing global environmental change programmes”, and they’re listed at the bottom of the page:

      Some of these existing entities have been around for a long time – IGBP was launched in 1987, the IHDP (International Human Dimensions Programme), which is closing down this month to make way for Future Earth, was established in 1996, and the WCRP in 1980. The ESSP (Earth System Science Partnership), also listed, was actually an umbrella organisation, fulfiling presumably a role similar to that of Future Earth, coming into being some time after 2001 and ending in 2012.

      The old ESSP site (essp.org) is still available in the Internet Archive, and in the “About” section (circa 2006), it says, in wording that is very familiar:

      “Our planet is a complex and sensitive system regulated by physical, chemical and biological processes – and is influenced, as never before, by human factors. A new system of global environmental science is required to compile the essential knowledge base and develop sustainable strategies for our Earth in the face of global change.”

      And: “ESSP’s scientific activities are supported by active science communication efforts, which are an essential aspect of the Partnership’s overarching goals of generating, disseminating, and applying new knowledge.”

      If that was the message almost a decade ago, and communication “has nearly broken down” between science and society since then, as Joseph Alcamo is saying, you have to wonder just what the success is, that Future Earth is meant to be building on.

      On a different note, I read with interest today that Venezuela “plans to canvass civil society for their views on climate change during a four-day meeting in July – an attempt to rejuvenate “boring” UN talks, according to the country’s chief climate negotiator”:

      Claudia Salerno is making the important distinction, of course, between “civil society” (people from influential NGOs, who are to be courted) and plain old “society” (ordinary Venezuelans, for example, who are being beaten, shot and terrorised at will, by their own government.)

      “She added that the government had hired two anthropologists to translate the UN’s notoriously complex jargon into everyday language that will allow the general public to engage more effectively with the process.”

      This stuff’s becoming increasingly difficult to parody.

    • If that was the message almost a decade ago, and communication “has nearly broken down” between science and society since then, as Joseph Alcamo is saying, you have to wonder just what the success is, that Future Earth is meant to be building on.

      Well, never let it be said that the UN fraternity is not into “recycling” (with a little help from their “friends”)!

      Perhaps the powers that be (whoever they might be) at the IPCC/UNFCCC thought that they could simply continue blithely on their merry way, resting on their (unearned) laurels. Not the least of which, of course, was the IPCC’s receipt of (half of) the 2007 “Nobel Peace Prize” 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”.

      Maybe it was the awarding of this laurel which had led Pachauri (or his speech-writer) to declare (as he did in Venice, circa July 2009, while he was articulating his “vision” for AR5) that:

      [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.

      Perhaps somewhere along the way, someone has … uh … redefined “success”, if not “all time high”;-)

      Bottom line? UNEP is desperately scrambling (via Watson, Alcamo and other old-hands?!) to recover its (previously – for all intents and purposes – uncontested) place in the sun. YMMV, but that’s the view from here!

    • I watched a few of those videos. They don’t say anything — it’s promo-babble.

      However, I expect that every crackpot research idea will be funded. Feed the poor? …used all the money on “vital research” sorry!

  2. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 9 June 2014 | grumpydenier

  3. Ref the comment about Venezuela by Alexjc: I lived in the country and gave extensive travel experience. Travel conditions are extremely dangerous, and I would advise a foreigner not to travel there under ANY circumstances. Travel direct to Margarita island is less exposed, but even in Margarita the degree of danger is fairly high.

    The country is experiencing a crime wave the likes of which you can’t imagine. Two days ago a German visitor was shot and killed at the entrance to a prestigious hotel in Caracas in spite of having three body guards (the foolish man had gold cuff links and an expensive watch).

    On the environmental emissions side Venezuela is a joke. They give away gasoline to the public, had a program to install hundreds of diesel powered generators when they have large natural gas reserves, they vent methane in large quantities, and have plans to develop enormous heavy oil reserves which will require steam injection.

    On top of that Venezuela is a gross human rights violator, and it’s undergoing extensive protests by the population. At this time there are food and medicine shortages. And a visitor can’t count on ambulance services or a half equipped hospital or clinic. Right now Venezuela is a very hard country to visit, and a socioeconomic basket case.

  4. I have some old notes on Diane Liverman:

    She is a former Head of the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at Oxford, and was a Professor of Environmental Science in the School of Geography. ECI is also home to Myles Allen.

    In 2009 she left to set up the afore mentioned Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, with Jonathan Overpeck, http://uanews.org/story/ua-establishes-institute-environment-and-society. Co-incidentally, the ubiquitous Crispin Tickell has been advisor-at-large to the president of the University of Arizona, since 2004, https://sustainability.asu.edu/people/our-board-of-directors.php?pid=4809. I wonder if he put in a word?

    He is also on the advisory board of the Oxford Martin School with Nick Stern and some other well known names, http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/about/people/advisory/ and also on the ECI advisory board, http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/information/advisory.php

    Liverman was appointed, also in 2009, to the committee on America’s Climate Choices, convened by the US National Academies at the request of Congress, to advise the US Government on responses to climate change. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/email/html/cen_87_i15_8715gov1.html

    She was Vice-Chair of the panel on ˜Informing Effective Decisions and Actions Related to Climate Change”.

    This is from her on-line diary at the time:

    “Spent 3 days in Boulder, Colorado this last week at one of the National Academy of Sciences Panels. We met at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, occasioning massive nostalgia on my part because I spent 3 years working on my PhD there – and it was an amazing place to live and work. My supervisor was Steve Schneider, fellow students and postdocs included global change luminaries like Susan Solomon (queen of IPCC) and Eric Barron (now NCAR director), and I lived with Sallie Marston and Linda Mearns in a 19th farmhouse on the edge of the plains with views of the mountains.”

    “..flew to Washington DC for the America’s Climate Summit at the National Academy of Sciences. The summit was OK. Not as many of the senior Obama admin people came although new NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco spoke and reminded me that we now have real scientists who really care about the environment in Washington now.”

    She says about herself, “My personal research has focused on the human dimensions of global environmental change including climate change policy and impacts, the social causes and consequences of land use change, and environmental management in the context of globalisation, especially in the Americas.”

    She was also a member of the Global Environmental Change and Food Security Project and on the steering committee of the 2009 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change http://www.earthsystemgovernance.org/ac2009/, no recent update.

    Alex has mentioned these above:
    “The Earth System Governance Project also reflects recent developments within the Earth System Science Partnership, which unites the World Climate Research Programme, the International Biosphere-Geosphere Programme, the DIVERSITAS programme, and the IHDP.”

    How do these people ever get to do any research when they are on so many of each other’s committees and how about their carbon footprints?

    Carbon offsetting of the travel of all conference participants: Certificate for saved greenhouse gas emissions and climate protection → view certificate (pdf), http://www.earthsystemgovernance.org/ac2009/

    “Your contribution of 10673,00 Euro goes to emission saving projects chosen by atmosfair. These
    are subject to the rules and procedures set out in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto protocol and the “Gold Standard” established by the international environmental NGO community and are controlled by UN accredited organisations.”

    Look who’s a patron of atmosfair, Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer no less, https://www.atmosfair.de/en/schirmherren-beirat

  5. Thanks, Dennis!

    Look who’s a patron of atmosfair, Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer no less

    Sheesh, I hadn’t even heard of “atmosfair”. These organizations seem to multiply – and/or reinvent themselves – at a faster rate than rabbits!

    Seems that they’re very much into:

    Climate protection: the inevitable great transformation

    With our increasingly globalised society comes more mobility, both in business as well as in private life. With all of globalisation’s advantages, its climate impact cannot be ignored: until the year 2100, Earth’s atmosphere can only handle a limited amount of CO2. Since most modern means of transportation run on fossil fuels, further growth in mobility will quickly outstrip the bounds of climate compatibility.

    Talk about a “noble cause”! What could be more “noble” these days than the “inevitable great transformation,” eh?!

    As for Klaus Töpfer … his name rang a faint bell, but I see from your link that his authority derives from the fact that his primary “credential” rests in the fact the he is a:

    Former Executive-Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

    Seems that he was Achim Steiner’s immediate predecessor, according to Wikipedia. Evidently he served in this capacity from 1998 to 2006 and he must have given a rousing – and, no doubt, “transformative” speech in Copenhagen in 2009!

    Oh, well, never let it be said that the UNEP does not have a longstanding “tradition” of recycling their old-hands!

  6. The same crew repeating the same bumpf to each other, without end or interruption, and getting paid for it. Can you spell S-C-A-M?

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