Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just announced the names of 831 people who will write the next edition of the United Nations’ climate bible (Assessment Report 5 or AR5). Three lists – representing each of the IPCC working groups – may be downloaded here.
The first thing to notice is that these documents reveal a great deal about what the UN considers most important. And that is definitely not the scientific credentials of the folks involved. Rather, it’s what country they happen to reside in. According to the Associated Press we’re also supposed to be impressed by the fact that:
…the new list of authors is more diverse compared with the last report, with almost a third coming from developing countries and a quarter being women. Over 60 percent of the scientists are working with the IPCC for the first time…
Now this is exactly the problem with United Nations’ efforts. On the one hand, the public is told IPCC reports are the considered opinion of “the world’s top climate experts.” On the other hand, those orchestrating its next edition have spent a great deal of time worrying about nationalities and gender when selecting who gets a voice. Those two concepts are in direct conflict.
Of the more than 3,000 people who were nominated, only 831 have ended up on the final list (I haven’t counted yet, but that’s the total being reported). Which means the IPCC has been through a process in which credentials were examined. Which means they have CVs on file for every one of these 831 people.
If the names on this list truly represent the crème de la crème, why is the CV of every one of these people not available online and linked to from within these lists of names – so that members of the public can examine these credentials for themselves?
The Associated Press blithely labels these 831 people “scientists” but the IPCC provides no info to support such a claim. Moreover, it takes no work at all to pierce this smokescreen. I have a great deal of respect for Richard Tol, who has been named a Coordinating Lead Author (see page 4 of the Working Group 2 list), but he is an economist – not a scientist in the normal sense of the word. The Associated Press has, therefore, already begun misinforming the public about who will be writing the IPCC’s next report.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no common template here. Each working group has done its own thing in terms of assembling its list of names. Working Group 2 provides bonus material, relatively speaking, in that it indicates the institution with which the person is associated. Why haven’t the other two working groups done this, also?
The time is long past when we, the public, are prepared to take the IPCC’s word for anything. Well before the AR5 report is finalized we have a right to know a great deal more about the credentials of these authors.
The IPCC can provide this information by making authors’ CVs publicly available, or the online community can begin assembling such information ourselves.
h/t Tom Nelson