Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

The Missing Questionnaires

We’ve been told more than 400 people answered a questionnaire about the IPCC last year. So far, only 232 records have been made public. No one will explain why.

Canadian blogger Hilary Ostrov and I live three time zones apart. I value her friendship and admire her tenacity and good-humour. I also take profound offense, on her behalf, whenever people toss around the denier word in the climate debate. (See here and here for instances in which the link to Holocaust denial is explicitly made.)

You see, a few decades ago Hilary experienced employment discrimination firsthand as a young Jewish woman. Later she was involved in efforts such as the Nizkor Project, which keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in this Internet age. So the notion that anyone would dismiss her concerns about anything by equating her with a Holocaust denier is beyond repugnant.

But that is the world in which we currently live. In response, each of us must do our best to shine light into dark corners – to illuminate what some people would prefer to keep hidden.

Which brings me to Hilary’s lonely campaign to secure a satisfactory explanation regarding the missing submissions to last year’s InterAcademy Council (IAC) examination of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Please read her blog posts here and here.

The short version is that, when the IAC report appeared at the end of last August, it said that “more than 400 individuals” had responded to a questionnaire and that “a compilation of all of the responses, with identifiers removed, is available.”

Except that it wasn’t. Hilary asked about it and was advised the information would be released soon. Except that it wasn’t. In October she was once again told it would be soon. But that didn’t happen, either. During November and December her follow-up inquiries were ignored.

Finally, she wrote directly to Harold Shapiro, the head of the committee that authored the report. Neither he nor anyone else chose to respond to her directly, but a 678-page PDF was quietly added to the IAC website in late December.

In my view, the contents of that document rival Climategate in their significance (for further elaboration on that point, please see here). The problem, though, is that the submissions of only 232 people are included. Since we’ve been told there were more than 400 it would seem that nearly half have not yet seen the light of day.

Why not? And why won’t a single person respond to Hilary’s request for clarification? If the report was mistaken about the total number of submissions, why doesn’t someone just say so? Whatever the explanation turns out to be, it’s surely preferable to stonewalling.

The IAC report was a serious attempt to grapple with important IPCC deficiencies. The point of that exercise was to restore public trust and confidence. And let us not forget that it cost a million dollars.

It would be a shame if the entire endeavour were now to be discredited.

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The IAC website lists two contact people:

John P. Campbell, Executive Director, j.campbell AT iac.knaw.nl
Anne Muller, Program Coordinator, secretariat AT iac.knaw.nl

Readers may wish to send one of these people a note. If so, please honour Hilary’s efforts by being polite and professional.

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