This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
What is the WWF?
In the United States and Canada the initials WWF stand for the World Wildlife Fund. Elsewhere, this organization calls itself the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The WWF is an activist lobby group. On its website one finds declarations such as:
WWF’s vision of an eco-friendly future includes an entirely new layer of regulation, bureaucracy, and international law. Or, as the WWF phrases it:
Members of the voting public have never been asked if they want to pay for this new layer of bureaucracy, if they want to live under its restrictions, or if they think it’s even a good idea. The WWF you see, knows what’s best for all of us.
It is important to understand that while the WWF might once have been a humble, shoestring operation this is no longer the case. It has grown into a business entity with offices in 30 countries that employs a staff of 5,000 (see the last page of this PDF). The US branch of the WWF alone employs:
That same branch also includes a:
In 2010, the WWF’s US arm had operating revenues of $224 million – just under a quarter of a billion dollars. Yes, that’s a B.
By way of comparison, operating revenues for Amnesty International’s US affiliate amounted to $36 million – one-sixth that amount (see page 29 here).
According to its 2010 annual report, the WWF’s international network had operating revenues of €524,963,000. Converted to US dollars that’s just shy of three-quarters of a billion. In one year.
When hiring someone new to lead its global climate initiative recently the WWF did what hedge funds and the International Monetary Fund do when seeking high-powered personnel – it took out a half-page advertisement in The Economist magazine.
In other words, the WWF is an obscenely wealthy organization. And money, as they say, talks. When one is in the lobbying business and cash is abundant, one treats one’s friends very well, indeed. Nice meals, nice hotel rooms, trips to exotic locales – and heaven only knows what else.
Which brings me to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The Recruitment Drive
In late 2004, around the time that work was beginning on what would become the IPCC’s landmark 2007 report, the WWF launched a recruitment drive. It established a parallel body – the Climate Witness Scientific Advisory Panel – and then systematically targeted IPCC-affiliated scientists.
It’s not clear what the courtship process involved, precisely – or who joined in what year or in what order – but by late 2008 the WWF says it had recruited 130
leading climate scientists mostly, but not exclusively, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… [see p. 2 of this PDF]
An eight-page document prepared in 2008 advised scientists whom the WWF was still wooing that there were “opportunities for further involvement in a number of other WWF activities” including “attendance at conferences, forums or workshops and interaction with the media.” Moreover, “future collaboration between WWF and research institutions” was a possibility.
It is difficult to believe that any self-respecting scientist would have anything to do with the Climate Witness Panel after reading those eight pages. The WWF states baldly, right up front, that the purpose of the panel is to heighten the public’s sense of urgency. That particular phrase is used four times on the final page.
In remarkably candid fashion the WWF says it wants to
inspire stronger action on climate change in the community. We aim to build a movement of individuals…who want to be active in addressing this threat.
No one, therefore, lied to these “leading climate scientists.” No one soft-peddled what was really going on. The WWF explicitly told them it wanted their help in frightening the public so that the WWF could build a movement.
Scientists who join the WWF’s panel are required to complete a form that indicates their willingness to evaluate testimonials the WWF collects from ordinary people who believe that they themselves have detected human-caused climate change.
The glorified public-opinion-poll the WWF uses to assemble these testimonials may be seen here. Declaring it an embarrassing, unscientific load of rubbish is putting it mildly.
People are asked if they have personally observed changes in rainfall, snowfall, sea water temperature, and ocean currents. But sensible inquiries – such as Have you kept a lengthy, careful, written record? – are nowhere to be found.
The WWF invites these people to assign “consequences” to the changes they believe they’ve personally witnessed. It poses all sorts of questions the average woman-on-the-street or grandma in a rural Third World village would hardly be in a position to answer reliably. Have there been changes in marine biodiversity? How about species distribution and migration?
Next the WWF invites its respondents to tick off which human health consequences they think are directly linked to the climate changes they believe they have witnessed. Has malaria increased? How about water-borne diseases? And here’s my personal favourite – has there been a change in ultraviolet radiation?
The WWF explains to the scientists it’s trying to recruit that the only thing they need do is “peer-review” these testimonials
for levels of consistency with current scientific knowledge of climate change impacts…The primary function of a [Scientific Advisory Panel] member is to verify the scientific basis of the Climate Witness stories WWF collects from around the world to ensure they are consistent with peer-reviewed literature about climate change impacts already happening today in a particular region.
The public fills out five pages of questions, but the scientists are informed they’ll be asked to evaluate
one-page ‘Climate Witness stories’ submitted to us by members of the public.
In other words, the data the scientists receive will first have been packaged by activists. This fact, on its own, invalidates the entire exercise.
The WWF advises these scientists that, for their trouble, they’ll receive a handsome reward:
Participation in the Climate Witness Programme is voluntary and in return we acknowledge your contribution on our global website as well as featuring your name below every Climate Witness stories [sic] you review.
So why can’t people who are smart enough to earn a PhD figure out that this is a spectacularly bad deal? Work for us for free and, in exchange we’ll take your pristine scientific reputation and link it to our scientifically bankrupt campaign to frighten and manipulate the public.
We’ll do you the great service of advertising, on our global website, that no one should ever again mistake you for someone with sound judgment. We’ll use our multi-million-dollar budget to announce to the world that you must either be a political hack or an unsophisticated rube.
Ah, but perhaps I’m not being entirely fair. There’s one more line to that paragraph. It reads:
WWF is also seeking opportunities to promote new climate change research so please feel free to contact the Climate Witness Manager for more information.
to be continued… read Part 2 here
While the WWF is shockingly cavalier about tarnishing the reputation of the scientists it recruits it is nevertheless keenly aware of the need to carefully manage its own image.
The 8-page recruitment document aimed at scientists includes a section that reads:
We ask that you seek prior consent from your…Liaison person if you wish to use the WWF or Climate Witness Programme logo or names, or make a reference to your participation in the Climate Witness Programme. [see p. 6]
How’s that for chutzpah?
On page one, the Climate Witness Interview Form asks members of the public two questions that give them enormous incentive to exaggerate their observations. First they are asked:
Are you prepared to travel to your capital for Climate Witness event if the costs were reimbursed? [sic]
Translation: How would you like a free trip to somewhere you might never get to visit otherwise?
Shamelessly, the WWF then ups the ante:
Are you prepared to travel internationally for a Climate Witness event if the costs were reimbursed?