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 IPCC on Renewable Energy

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just completed a report about renewable energy (press release here). Although the 26-page Summary for Policymakers was made public yesterday, the 1,000-page whole enchilada won’t be available for another three weeks.

This is standard IPCC procedure, and I can’t believe they’ve gotten away with it for so long. The Summary for Policymakers is a political document rather than a scientific one. The exact wording of this document is negotiated on a line-by-line basis. It must be agreed to unanimously by all the governments of the world who send representatives to the appropriate IPCC meetings.

And yet this politically massaged, highly selective version is what the IPCC feeds to the media. It’s what the media then writes its news stories about. (Trust me, when the full report is released on May 31st, the media will have moved on. Journalists won’t pay the real thing the slightest attention.)

It’s one thing to provide a handy summary of a report that is being released at the same time. In that case, journalists can readily compare the summary to the real deal and note any discrepancies when they produce / write their stories. It is another matter altogether to release the summary in isolation, weeks in advance.

There’s only one reason for the IPCC to behave in this manner. It expects everyone to take it on faith that its summary is an accurate representation of the full report. It expects everyone to trust that the summary highlights the most newsworthy aspects of the larger report and doesn’t overlook anything of significance.

This same “trust us” attitude is evident with respect to how the IPCC presents the authors of this report. It tells us these people are experts, but it doesn’t provide the slightest bit of evidence to back this up. As far as the IPCC is concerned, the most important piece of information about an author is what country he or she comes from. The only other detail it condescends to provide is the individual’s institutional affiliation.

Both of these are next-to-meaningless. Think about this for a moment. In what other employment / consultancy context are we told what country someone comes from but nothing about their specific credentials? As Hilary Ostrov points out, we’re entitled to know whether any of these people have any formal training in statistics, for example.

Just to repeat, though, nothing new is going on here. This is business-as-usual for the IPCC. The only thing that has changed is that, the last time the IPCC brazenly stage-managed the media coverage afforded to one of its reports, this blogger (and many others) weren’t yet paying attention.


Roger Pielke Jr. has two posts about this report (including discussion of media coverage) here and here.

Ben Pile, at, has dug up CVs and bios for many of the report’s lead authors here.

Hilary’s piece is here. As she observes, it appears that no one has yet breathed the term “peer-reviewed literature” in connection with this report.



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