Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The Missing Map

A number of blogs are currently discussing a scandal involving a map (see here, here, and here).

Earlier this week Gavin Atkins wrote a story headlined What happened to the climate refugees? He linked to a 2008 map supplied by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The map highlighted those parts of the world that are allegedly vulnerable to climate change and predicted that, within two years, 50 million people would be forced to flee their homeland due to global warming’s nasty repercussions.

The map in question now seems to have disappeared. Instead, an error page appears at that web address – the last half of which says it all:

The map still survives via Google cache and But it’s in a format that is difficult for some people to access. Here, therefore, is the map converted to a friendly .jpg format. Click and it will enlarge. Click again and it should get even bigger.

map credit: Emmanuelle Bournay


Remember, UNEP is one of two UN “parents” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It’s supposed to be the grown-up in the room. It’s supposed to set a good example for the IPCC to follow. But rather than being a reputable source of information on which the rest of the world can depend, UNEP appears to have devolved into a full-fledged activist organization.

Our first clue is that it has been led by a gentleman named Achim Steiner since 2006. Steiner’s previous job was Director General of the World Conservation Union. The IUCN isn’t a household name in the way that the World Wildlife Fund or Greenpeace is, but a peek at its website suggests it has much in common with these organizations. For example, it devotes entire sections to biodiversity, climate change, sustainable energy (there’s a photo of a windmill), and something called the green economy.

The IPCC may have admitted, in January 2010, to making an embarrassing mistake regarding the melting of Himalayan glaciers. An InterAcademy Council committee may have concluded that expert reviewers were ignored when they alerted the IPCC to this mistake prior to the IPCC’s report being published. But Steiner is sanguine about the matter. According to him, Glaciergate was simply a typo:

[The IPCC’s] 2007 report represents the best possible risk assessment available, notwithstanding an error – or, more precisely, a typographical error – in its statement of Himalayan glacial melt rates.

In 2008, on the occasion of the IPCC’s 20th anniversary, Steiner described what the IPCC does this way:

…thousands of scientists have selflessly come together to periodically sift, to weigh and to validate the scientific evidence on the links between rising greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the global climate. [bold added]

But as I explained in a blog post of some length in early February, the IPCC does not validate any scientific evidence. Comments made by those who answered an InterAcademy Council questionnaire make this quite plain. The IPCC believes quality control is the business of academic journals – prior to research papers appearing in such journals. Since reviewers for these journals usually don’t examine the raw data, it’s clear that research on which the IPCC is basing its conclusions has often not been validated by anyone.

Steiner heads one of the two UN bodies that is supposed to oversee the IPCC. Either he woefully misunderstands what the IPCC actually does, or he has chosen to deliberately mislead the world about these matters.

In either case, UNEP is now on my list of reasons why the IPCC – and the entire UN framework under which it operates – cannot be trusted.


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