Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

IPCC: Screw the Rules

We’ve been told the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a paragon of virtue. Rajendra Pachauri, its chairman, says he:

…can’t think of a better process. There is not a parallel on this planet, in any field of endeavour as you have in the IPCC.

I’m sure every chef considers the dishes produced by his own kitchen exceptional, but what really matters is what the customers – and the health inspectors – think.

When a committee investigated the IPCC last year, they weren’t nearly as impressed as its chairman. Indeed, they concluded that while the IPCC has rules and procedures, they often aren’t followed. In one instance in particular, the committee found that the rule that said non-peer-reviewed source material should be identified as such when listed among the IPCC’s references was being utterly ignored. (More info here.)

The committee therefore made a specific recommendation, which it expressed in rather clear language:

The IPCC should strengthen and enforce its procedure for the use of unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature…ensuring that unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature is appropriately flagged in the report. [bold added]

But as Hilary Ostrov tells us today, IPCC bureaucrats had other ideas – and these bureaucrats have now prevailed.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the rule has never been followed because the IPCC’s clerical and technical support staff have always considered it to be too much of a bother. Thus, it was simply disregarded. (In a reputable organization, one with real checks-and-balances, that would never have been allowed to happen.)

After the committee pointed out this lack of compliance and told the IPCC to pull up its socks, the bureaucrats chose to reject the committee’s very clear instructions and instead proposed that the business about flagging non-peer-reviewed sources be abandoned.

According to an internal document (spotted by Hilary a month ago), the IPCC’s clerical and bureaucratic staff felt the:

…flagging of unpublished and non-peer reviewed literature would not be practical. [bold added]

Without any discussion of why the rule was instituted in the first place or why, precisely, IPCC staff consider it so impractical, the internal IPCC document recommended that the flagging business be struck from the rulebook.

At an IPCC meeting earlier this week, this recommendation appears to have been approved. According to page 4 of this publication, the IPCC:

…agreed not to flag information derived from grey literature in the reports and focus instead on ensuring the high quality of all information, placing priority on peer-reviewed literature.

In other words, screw the rules. And screw the committee that investigated the IPCC last year which insisted the rules should be followed.

The IPCC is a bureaucracy. Which means it is governed, to a large degree, by people with a bureaucratic mindset. Rather than being responsive to the outside world, these people actually run the show. If there’s a rule they disagree with, their first response is to simply disregard it. When they’re called on this, they then arrange for the rule to disappear.

Transparency? Accountability? No better process on the planet? Yeah, right.


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