Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
There was a time when I believed the marketing spin. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was comprised of the world’s top scientists. These men and women were providing a service to humanity. Rather than golfing or sailing they were volunteering their weekends. Objectively assessing the available scientific evidence, they were writing careful, impartial reports on whose integrity we could all depend.
But that was before I did some basic fact-checking. Before I discovered that this organization is riddled with activists.
For every circumspect scholar who behaves in an upright and professional manner there’s another whose judgment is impaired. Blatantly and obviously so. Any scientist who gets into bed with lobby groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is not a scientist who should expect the public to trust him.
Sorry, folks, but this is too important. We’re being told that, in order to save the planet, we have to restructure our economies, diminish our lifestyles, and even change our values. Well before I do any of those things I need to be assured that the people who’ve arrived at these conclusions are above reproach. I need to know there’s no funny business going on.
People who expect me to trust their judgment on something this momentous should be clean as a whistle. They should conduct themselves in a manner one would expect of genuinely impartial intellects working on concerns this consequential. But that’s not what has been happening.
IPCC assessments are really three smaller reports bundled together. Each is written by a different working group. Here we’ll examine the first five chapters of the Working Group 2 portion of the 2007 Climate Bible.
Three of the lead authors for Chapter 1 are formally affiliated with the WWF. These scientists belong to its Climate Witness Scientific Advisory Panel – which the WWF shortens to SAP. According to Dictionary.com, sap is a slang term for a fool or a dupe.
Chapter 1‘s SAPs are:
One of that chapter’s contributing authors is also a SAP – Dena P. MacMynowski (USA).
Shifting our attention to Chapter 2, we discover that one of its most senior personnel – coordinating lead author Roger Jones (from Australia) – is a SAP.
I’ve written about one of Chapter 2’s contributing authors, Malte Meinshausen, previously. His link is to Greenpeace. Yet another contributing author is Michael Oppenheimer. I’ve similarly blogged about his 20-year gig with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – a US activist organization that he continues to advise.
In a single IPCC chapter, therefore, we find the WWF, Greenpeace, and the EDF. Sure, this is a scientific document.
Chapter 3, which examines the rather important topic of fresh water, is also led by a SAP – Zbigniew Kundzewicz, a Polish professor whose online bio tells us that he is a member of “the inner circle of the IPCC.”
Is he formally affiliated with the WWF? Check. Is he part of the IPCC’s inner circle? Check. Did the IPCC put him in charge of one of its chapters? Check.
Chapter 4 is in a league of its own. This is the species extinction chapter – the source of the IPCC’s dramatic claim that 20-30% of all plants and animals could perish if we don’t do something fast about climate change. Both of its coordinating lead authors – Andreas Fischlin (Switzerland) and Guy Midgley (South Africa) – are SAPs.
Lead author Jeff Price is employed by the WWF. Fellow lead authors Brij Gopal (from India) and Rik Leemans (from The Netherlands) are SAPs. So, too, are contributing authors Antoine Guisan (Switzerland), Lesley Hughes (Australia) and Christian Körner (Switzerland).
That makes a grand total of eight personnel. Now tell me, if you were striving for a rigorously neutral, above reproach examination of how at risk flora and fauna may be due to climate change would you really stack your team with eight WWF-affiliated personnel? Would you put two of them in charge?
Chapter 5, which examined Food, Fibre, and Forest Products, has two lead authors who are SAPs – Punsalmaa Batima from Mongolia and Lin Erda from China. Contributing author Sophie des Clers (UK) is also a SAP. So is that chapter’s Review Editor, John Sweeney (Ireland).
Reviews editors have a special role at the IPCC. They’re supposed to help insure that all comments submitted by the IPCC’s expert reviewers are properly addressed. Expert reviewers are one of the mechanisms by which the IPCC tells us it ensures its reports reflect a broad spectrum of scientific opinion.
In other words, a review editor is expected to be especially neutral and above-the-fray. If it were me, and if I were serious about impartiality, I wouldn’t be appointing WWF-affiliated personnel to that role.
Chapter 5 is only one instance. We’ll see more soon.
UPDATE: 28 September 2011, 8:25 am – when I posted this late last night I neglected to include direct links to each IPCC chapter under discussion. That oversight has now been corrected. Click each navy-coloured chapter heading and you can verify the presence of these folks for yourself on the IPCC’s website.
The link to the WWF’s SAP panel has also been corrected. Sorry about that.
h/t Hilary Ostrov