Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

The IPCC’s Activist Chairman

At first glance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounds impressive. Its website says its mission is “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change.” We are further advised that it:

  • provides “rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers”
  • writes reports that are “objective and complete”
  • is “policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive”

But claiming to be objective is one thing – actually behaving that way is other. If the above statements were true those who participate in the IPCC – and especially those who lead it – wouldn’t dream of associating with activist groups. This is because activists are neither objective nor neutral. They’ve already decided that climate change is caused by humans, that it is dangerous, and that we should be moving Heaven and Earth to do something about it.

A judge in a murder trial cannot pal around with the prosecutorial team during lunch hour and still expect us to believe he’s a neutral party. Yet that is precisely how the IPCC behaves. Moreover, this improper behaviour starts with the person who has been its chairman since 2002.

I’ve blogged previously about the fact that, in 2007, Rajendra Pachauri authored a foreword to a Greenpeace publication in which his IPCC affiliation was made explicit. This was no isolated incident. The following year he wrote another foreword to another Greenpeace document (complete 212-page PDF here). News outlets made a point of mentioning Pachauri’s involvement, and quoted him with respect to the quality of the Greenpeace document (see here, here and here) in the following manner:

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N. Climate Panel which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with ex-U.S. Vice President Al Gore, called Monday’s study “comprehensive and rigorous.”

What no journalist covering that event seems to have grasped is that, by involving himself in this matter, Pachauri compromised the integrity of the scientific body he leads. If the head of the IPCC is prepared to vouch for the comprehensive and rigorous nature of Greenpeace publications, his standards would seem to be alarmingly low. The next time he uses similar language to describe IPCC documents we need to remember that comprehensive and rigorous may simply be code for: I personally agree with what this report says.

Some of the publications with which Pachauri has chosen to associate the IPCC’s good name are eyebrow-raising. One is a 2008 report titled Eating Our Future. Published by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, it boasts on its front cover that Pachauri, in his capacity as IPCC chair, has written the foreword (7-page PDF here, complete 32-page PDF here).

On page five, this organization reveals a desire to meddle in the affairs of both individuals and businesses:

…consumers who eat large amounts of meat and other animal products [eggs, butter, cheese] should eat less of those products. The animal products that consumers buy should be sourced locally and reared in humane and environmentally and socially responsible ways.

…the current acceleration in meat and milk production cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.

In his foreword, Pachauri says governments should:

…place a price on carbon, which would then be added to the cost of meat…

Got that? The head of the IPCC thinks food should cost more. He believes certain trends “should be arrested” and that consumers everywhere should “rethink their diets.” He also supports regulations that would ensure that a greater proportion of our food is “produced within a small radius from the point of consumption.”

These ideas may sound attractive to left-wing activists eager to reshape the world, but they are wholly out-of-bounds for the chairman of a body that claims to be balanced, rigorous, scientific – and policy neutral.

Another recent Pachauri foreword appears in a report published by the New Economics Foundation. According to that organization’s website, it too has grandiose plans to redesign society:

Our aim is a new economy based on social justice, environmental sustainability and collective well-being.

The 2007 report, titled Up in smoke? Asia and the Pacific The threat from climate change to human development and the environment, is a joint project involving, among others, Greenpeace contingents from four countries, Friends of the Earth contingents from three countries, and World Wildlife Fund contingents from two (7-page PDF here, complete 96-page PDF here).

In his foreword, Pachauri acknowledges that he earlier:

…had the privilege of writing the foreword for the first Up in smoke report published in 2004 by a group of NGOs focusing on climate change and development.

He says he hopes the current publication (which, let’s be honest, was authored by activist groups advancing a particular worldview), will be read carefully by policymakers (aka governments) in order to gain insight into “the steps required to tackle” climate change. Need I add that, on the front cover of this publication, we’re informed that the foreword has been written by none other than the chairman of the IPCC?

Then there’s the document released by a group called RespondingToClimate (RTCC). It isn’t clear who these people are, exactly. A Mapping Climate Change Action page on their website says “the organizations taking part in RTCC” include 49 businesses, 20 governments and 13 NGOs.

In any event, the RTCC document for which Pachauri has written a foreword is titled Responding to Climate Change 2010. It appears to have been assembled prior to the Copenhagen climate summit that took place in December 2009. In the text of his foreword we see a prime example of Pachauri the activist rather than Pachauri the chairman-concerned-about-safeguarding-the-reputation-of-the-influential-body-for-which-he-is-the-public face. He writes:

It is now abundantly clear that climate change is unequivocal and, over the last five decades, it is human actions that have been dominant in determining the pace and nature of climate change across the globe.

Groan. If the chair of the IPCC himself cannot be counted on to represent the findings of its reports accurately, all is surely lost. In 2007, having observed a gentle, gradual increase in recorded temperatures since 1850 (the end of the Little Ice Age), the IPCC concluded that warming was, indeed unequivocal.

It did not, however, state that it is a known, established, and uncontestable fact that humans are to blame. Rather, in the opinion of IPCC authors, most of the warming during the last 50 years was very likely (90% likely) due to human activities (see here). As atmospheric scientist John Christy has observed:

I do not know of any context in which a 10% probability of being incorrect would be considered a “fact”.

Claims as to how much of the change is due to humans are found only in model assumptions and simulations … not in direct observation. [3-page PDF here, complete 60-page PDF here]

This is not a trivial distinction. The chairman of the IPCC is telling the world it’s abundantly clear that humans are responsible for the past 50 years of climate change. But his own organization’s report does not say that.

The final phrasing of IPCC summary documents is agonized over. All those in attendance must agree to the exact wording. Nothing is included (or excluded) by accident.

In this foreword, set down in black and white by Pachauri, we don’t see anything like the aloof, dispassionate demeanour the term “scientist” traditionally evokes.  We see someone advancing an activist agenda, pushing the envelope, exaggerating the findings of the very body whose integrity he is supposed to ensure.

In his private life, Pachauri is entitled to his personal political views. But no one in their right mind should trust the scientific judgment of a scientific body when its chairman indiscriminately lends that body’s good name to publications involving Greenpeace, animals rights activists, Friends of the Earth, and the World Wildlife Fund


My next blog post will examine Pachauri’s relationship to yet another activist organization, the Worldwatch Institute.



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