Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

Why Taking WWF Money Matters

If the IPCC had done the sensible thing and banned activist publications, would the institute run by its chairman still be receiving activist cash?


photo by Mikhail Evstafiev, courtesy of Wikipedia

Rajendra Pachauri is not a private citizen. To quote page 64 of a 2010 report, he is “the leader and the face” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Every six years, the IPCC holds the equivalent of a criminal trial. It examines the evidence (climate change research) and decides whether or not human-produced carbon dioxide emissions are interfering in a dangerous way with normal background climate.

The IPCC’s verdict, contained in a hefty report, is accepted by governments around the world.

To be clear, therefore: CO2 emissions are on trial – and Pachauri is the head judge.

If people such as UN leader Ban Ki-moon are correct, climate change is the “defining challenge of our age.” It is the issue that trumps all others.

It is vitally important, therefore, that we all have confidence in the process by which CO2 emissions have been convicted of being Public Enemy Number One. Justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done. The process must appear impartial to a reasonable person.

The IPCC’s last major report contained an embarrassing error about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are expected to melt. There’s no mystery as to the origin of that error (see p. 10 here). It occurred because the IPCC – which claims to be a scientific body – based its conclusions on statements appearing in a publication produced by an activist organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Last month, I made public three IPCC data sticks, received from a whistleblower concerned about what is going on behind closed doors. They show that the IPCC has learned nothing from the Himalayan debacle.

Newspapers may have called for the resignation of its chairman. The damning report mentioned in the first paragraph line of this post may have been commissioned. But despite all that grief, the IPCC refuses to change its ways.

To me, this is beyond peculiar. Why won’t the IPCC blacklist publications produced by the WWF, Greenpeace, and similar organizations? Why does its three-page policy on the use of Grey Literature contain not the slightest acknowledgment that activist literature is dubious literature?

Here’s the relevant section:

Non-published/non-peer-reviewed sources are often called grey literature. Although highly relevant information can be contained in the grey literature, use of this literature brings with it an extra responsibility for the author teams to ensure the quality and validity of cited sources and information. Authors need to be clear why a particular source is used and in some circumstances may need to explain this in the text.

Considering the following questions will help ensure that the principles underlying the IPCC Rules and Procedures are properly implemented.
a) Who (e.g., what organization) is the source of the grey literature citation?
b) What information does the citation add to the assessment?
c) Is the information cited available from a peer-reviewed journal source? If yes, is the citation needed?
d) Are there lines of evidence from other (peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed) sources that support the citation or reach different conclusions? If yes, is the citation needed?
e) What are the qualifications of the author(s) of the document?
f) Was there any review of the material presented? If so, how wide or extensive was that review? How credible are the reviewers?
g) Why was the document written? How was the research funded? Could the researcher and/or publisher of the document be perceived as having a particular bias or agenda? If yes, what caveats are needed?
h) Why wasn’t the information published in a peer-reviewed journal?

The bolding was added by me. Those were the obvious places where the IPCC should have declared that activist organizations are unreliable sources of information.

Why did the officials who authored that policy let the opportunity pass by? In other words: why did they behave so irrationally?

I try hard not to jump to conclusions, not to be cynical, not to think the worst of people. I try hard to understand the phenomenon I observe.

Which brings us back to the IPCC’s chairman. Rajendra Pachauri isn’t just the “the leader and the face” of the IPCC. For more than three decades, he has also been the Chief Executive of TERI – an institute based in India. For all intents and purposes, he is TERI.

Since 2001, TERI has organized an annual sustainability summit. This is Pachauri’s show. He is the conductor of the orchestra, the person who presides, who hobnobs with the senior government officials in attendance.

If we stop to think about it, that, in itself, is highly troubling. How can we have confidence in the impartiality of a trial when the chief judge, while performing his other job, actively promotes a worldview hostile to the accused? (According to the sustainability crowd, CO2-producing Western lifestyles are unsustainable, case closed.)

Yesterday I reported that one of the official sponsors of TERI’s summit this year was the WWF. Which raises an awkward question: If the IPCC had banned the WWF, would Pachauri’s institute still have received that funding?

Context, as they say, is everything. Well here’s our current context:

Over the past few years, a great deal of concern has been expressed about the role that organizations such as the WWF play in the IPCC. That concern is not hypothetical or theoretical. The Himalayan glacier incident is a real-life, concrete example of why activist literature is bad news for the IPCC.

Nevertheless, this body cannot bring itself to ban activist literature. Moreover, as I’ve explained elsewhere, it still permits employees of activist groups to serve among its pose as “scientific expert reviewers.”

And now, mere months from the release of Part One of its the IPCC’s brand new report, an institute run by its chairman is found to be funding its activities with activist money.

No reasonable person can look at these facts and conclude that the IPCC cares about appearing impartial.

No reasonable person can credit its chairman with sound judgment.




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