February 05, 2007 | Graham

IPCC ought to be feeling the heat.

Imagine the outcry if BHP published the executive summary of its results, but kept the accounts under wraps for another couple of months. ASIC and the stock exchange would both issue notices, financial journalists would release thunderbolts from their op-ed columns and the shares would take a tumble, that’s if they weren’t suspended.
Well, that’s exactly what the IPCC has done with the 4th Assessment Report on Climate Change, yet the world’s journalists appear indifferent. The document which has been reported by the world’s media as the report can be downloaded from here (pdf >2mb). It is a “Summary for Policy Makers” and doesn’t appear to reference a single scientific report by name (although it refers to a few in general terms).
One can only guess at the reasons for this. One is that they want to escape any scrutiny of the accuracy of their summary. Another is that this is a planned public relations assault. After the initial uncritical reviews they can expect another eddy of activity each time one of the reports of each of the three working bodies is subsequently released.
What trust can we put in this “Summary” if we aren’t allowed to see how they arrived there? What’s wrong with all those budding Woodward and Bernsteins? And when is someone going to put some real heat on the IPCC?

Posted by Graham at 3:17 am | Comments (11) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. And what about those black helicopters? And flouridation?
    Sheesh. How about you find out why and post a correction?

    Comment by Tim Lambert — February 5, 2007 @ 11:47 pm

  2. Tim, you’re as abusive and innacurate as ever. I won’t be going across to check out your link, for two reasons.
    First, if you can’t summarise what’s on the Real Climate site I’m not going to waste my time checking it out. I’ve had plenty of experience ploughing through documents that you link to that purport to show something only to be disappointed.
    Second, Real Climate is the site that spent much of its time until recently barracking for the Hockey Stick Graph – the Piltdown Man of climate science. They don’t have a lot of credibility.

    Comment by Graham Young — February 6, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  3. I think that we have more to worry about now, than the delay in the IPCC final report. How about the campaign being waged against it? We need to worry about the shabby manouverings of the fossil fuel companies. The Guardian (UK) reports that scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies, to undermine the report
    Letters sent by an American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered. Another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report.
    No doubt the same sort of stuff is being done by the nuclear industry -with a different slant. Christina http://www.antinuclearaustralia.com

    Comment by Christina Macpherson — February 6, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  4. From the Tim Lambert link:
    “The process of finalising the SPM …is something that can seem a little odd.
    Government representatives from all participating nations take the draft summary (as written by the lead authors of the individual chapters) and discuss whether the text truly reflects the underlying science in the main report.
    The key here is to note that what the lead authors originally came up with is not necessarily the clearest or least ambiguous language, and so the governments (for whom the report is being written) are perfectly entitled to insist that the language be modified so that the conclusions are correctly understood by them and the scientists.”
    So governments now have an opportunity/obligation to approve the language used by scientists!
    I think Graham makes some good point.
    And where are all the investigative journalists!

    Comment by Jennifer — February 6, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  5. Super-duper-pathological Denial

    There’s pathological denial and there’s super-duper-pathological denial. In comments to my post at On Line Opinion OLO editor Graham Young has now written 20 comments denying that Peiser admitted to making multiple errors. This Media Watch report? “And…

    Comment by Deltoid — February 7, 2007 @ 7:17 pm

  6. Hey Jennifer, you missed a bit. I followed the link, and I’m glad I did because I read the bit beyond your selective quoting. Here it is:
    “The SPM process also serves a very useful political purpose. Specifically, it allows the governments involved to feel as though they ‘own’ part of the report. This makes it very difficult to later turn around and dismiss it on the basis that it was all written by someone else. This gives the governments a vested interest in making this report as good as it can be (given the uncertainties). There are in fact plenty of safeguards (not least the scientists present) to ensure that the report is not slanted in any one preferred direction. However, the downside is that it can mistakenly appear as if the whole summary is simply up for negotiation. *That would be a false conclusion – the negotiations, such as they are, are in fact heavily constrained by the underlying science.*” [My emphasis]
    The language gets changed so that everyone can understand it and that it’s clear so that there’s no room for maneouveur with semnatics. There’s even more too which seems to contradict what you’re saying.
    These guys might know a bit about the process because they helped write some of the document.

    Comment by Paul — February 7, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  7. Graham – allow me to save you the trouble:-
    From the Real Climate link:-
    “Finally, a few people have asked why the SPM is being released now while the main report is not due to be published for a couple of months. There are a number of reasons – firstly, the Paris meeting has been such a public affair that holding back the SPM until the main report is ready is probably pointless. For the main report itself, it had not yet been proof-read, and there has not yet been enough time to include observational data up until the end of 2006. One final point is that improvements in the clarity of the language from the SPM should be propagated back to the individual chapters in order to remove any superficial ambiguity. The science content will not change.
    Had it been up to us, we’d have tried to get everything together so that they could be released at the same time, but maybe that would have been impossible. We note that Arctic Climate Impact Assessment in 2004 also had a similar procedure – which lead to some confusion initially since statements in the summary were not referenced.”

    Comment by David — February 8, 2007 @ 12:14 am

  8. Imagine the outcry if BHP published its results only once every six years. Well, that’s exactly what the IPCC has done.
    Believe it or not Graham, the IPCC and BHP are not the same type of organization.

    Comment by Chris O'Neill — February 8, 2007 @ 2:08 am

  9. Paul and Jennifer, I think you’re arguing about side issues – it doesn’t matter what the guys at Real Climate say the process is and why, they’re not spokespeople for the IPCC and they’re not unbiased. What is important is the effect.
    And that remains that debate occurs without access to the data, which is unreasonable. If the OECD can manage to consult with governments _before_ they release reports, so can climate scientists. What sort of ownership could a government have of this report when it has just been dropped in their lap? It would seem to me that rather than giving governments increased ownership, as claimed by RC this process is designed to railroad them into agreeing with conclusions they haven’t had a chance to scrutinise properly.
    Just looks like Real Climate trying to spin a thoroughly unsatisfactory process.

    Comment by Graham Young — February 8, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  10. You’re right Chris. So what are you saying – that we should only expect accountability from organisations we don’t like, not ones we do?
    You might like to clarify.

    Comment by Graham Young — February 8, 2007 @ 9:35 am

  11. “Real Climate is the site that spent much of its time until recently barracking for the Hockey Stick Graph”
    And still does: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/02/the-ipcc-fourth-assessment-summary-for-policy-makers/#more-394
    “many of us were curious to see what the new report would have to say about paleoclimate reconstructions of the past 1000 years. Contrarians will no doubt be disappointed here. The conclusions have been significantly strengthened relative to what was in the TAR, something that of course should have been expected given the numerous additional studies that have since been done that all point in the same direction. The conclusion that large-scale recent warmth likely exceeds the range seen in past centuries has been extended from the past 1000 years in the TAR, to the past 1300 years in the current report, and the confidence in this conclusion has been upped from “likely” in the TAR to “very likely” in the current report for the past half millennium.”
    “the Piltdown Man of climate science”
    That would be Steven McIntyre. This man has put up argument after argument, every one of which has been torn down. Every time he tries and fails, his credibility gets shredded a little bit more. That doesn’t stop him from acting like he knows what he’s talking about, however.

    Comment by Chris O'Neill — February 9, 2007 @ 4:12 am

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