Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

The Activist Economist & the IPCC (Part 2)

The author of a 2007 book on climate change failed to mention his own IPCC involvement while pointing to that body as an authority. This is called an undisclosed conflict-of-interest.

Mark Jaccard is a Canadian economist. Earlier this month he was arrested at an anti-coal protest (see Part 1 here).

Two days prior to that event, Jaccard issued a here’s-why-I’m-getting-arrested statement in which he dragged the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) into the picture by highlighting his affiliation with that body.

This was an improper thing to do because the IPCC is supposed to be a scientific organization. Its reports are supposed to be written by grownups – not activists who think it’s cool to break the law.

Jaccard’s CV contains plenty of other accomplishments and affiliations. He need not have mentioned the IPCC. But he did. And that’s a decision that looks decidedly odd when we consider another he made a few years ago.

The book Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge was published in 2007. It was co-authored by three people: Jeffrey Simpson (a senior political commentator/newspaper columnist here in Canada), Jaccard, and Nic Rivers (then one of Jaccard’s graduate students).

I own a copy of this book which, incidentally, has no index. But one can electronically search its contents via here.

Anyone who goes to the trouble to do so will discover that the IPCC is presented within these pages as the ultimate authority on climate change. For example, this is what it says on pages 10-11:

The most comprehensive and conclusive scientific assessment of the evidence has come from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body of scientists charged with summarizing evidence from the scientific community and reporting to the United Nations.

The passage continues on, claiming that the 2007 IPPC report “debunked the skeptics’ assertion that climate change came from some source other than human activities.”

My own opinion is that it did nothing of the sort, but never mind. The important point is that this book doesn’t tell us that Jaccard himself is an IPCC participant. It doesn’t acknowledge that he helped shape its conclusions. In other words, it fails to alert us to his conflict-of-interest.

If I point to a gardening report, presenting it as the most comprehensive and conclusive source available, surely I’m morally obligated to also mention any connection I might have to the organization that produced it.

But this didn’t happen. Instead, the IPCC is discussed in Jaccard’s book as though it’s an entirely separate, unrelated organization – up there on a pedestal, all-knowing, exempt from the shortcomings associated with ordinary human endeavor.

Below is a catalog of the book’s other IPCC references:

  • pp. 11-12 tells us that “IPCC scientists” have “forecast” a reduction is sea ice, a thawing of permafrost, increased heat waves, and “more violent storms”
  • p. 29 says that IPCC estimates “suggest that sea levels will likely rise by between 10 and 90 centimeters over the 21st century”
  • p. 45 says the first IPCC report, in 1988, caused a stir – and claims that the number of IPCC critics have dwindled over the years
  • p. 49 tells us that Margaret Thatcher embraced an IPCC report and pledged to slash the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in response
  • p. 104 says the fourth IPCC report, released in 2007, attracted “a standing-room-only crowd of reporters” when it was made public in Canada’s national capital
  • pp. 162-163 praises certain corporate executives for accepting “the scientific conclusions” of the IPCC
  • p. 165 tells us that successive IPCC reports “took account of new information” and therefore demonstrated “wisdom”
  • p. 224 talks about IPCC “recommendations” and tells us what that organization “recommends” – ignoring the fact that the IPCC  is supposed to be a “policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive” organization (see the last line on this page)
  • p. 226 ditto
  • p. 276 says that the 2007 IPCC report, published the same year that the Jaccard book appeared, may already be out of date
  • pp. 277 and 279 are devoted to footnotes, in which two IPCC reports are cited as source material

Now here’s a photo of Jaccard’s dust jacket bio. It contains not one word about the IPCC:

click to see all three bios

In other words, although the IPCC is mentioned numerous times in Hot Air, Jaccard’s connection to this organization is never revealed to readers. Not within the text of the book, and not within the additional biographical information supplied by the publisher.

Readers were invited to trust in the authority and eminence of the IPCC but weren’t told that Jaccard himself has played a role in that body. In effect, he was covertly pointing to his own work as being the last word. Yuck.

So what are we to make of this?

When Jaccard decides to get himself arrested he somehow thinks his IPCC participation is relevant.

And yet, when he co-authors an entire book about climate change he stays suspiciously mum. He decides that a matter entirely germaine to the conversation isn’t even worth mentioning.

This makes no sense.



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