Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

‘Nature’ Spin Elevates Third-Tier IPCC Official to Chair

With attention focused on the IPCC’s imminent Working Group 1 report, a prestigious science journal has published a misleadingly-headlined profile of Working Group 3 co-chair, Ottmar Edenhofer.


the top of the IPCC’s org chart – click to enlarge

A curious article has appeared in Nature, the German-owned, British-based science journal. Days before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases installment #1 of its massive new climate report, this prestigious journal has published a 2,300-word profile of an IPCC official.

Please note that Ottmar Edenhofer isn’t a climate scientist. He is, instead, the chief economist at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. (Hardly a neutral organization, the head of that institute thinks that using fossil fuels amounts to “a lifestyle of mass destruction.”)

The non-paywalled article is titled IPCC: The climate chairman. But Edenhofer isn’t the IPCC’s chairman. He’s merely a co-chair of Working Group 3.

A glance at the IPCC’s org chart (click the ‘Current Bureau’ button on this page) shows Rajendra Pachauri at the top of the pyramid. Next come the IPCC’s three vice-chairs. The third layer on the org chart is comprised of nine individuals, each of whom is a working group co-chair. That is where we find Edenhofer.

Why has Nature chosen to run a headline that suggests Edenhofer is in charge of the whole enchilada? Let’s read that headline again: IPCC: The Climate Chairman.

It doesn’t say Edenhofer is a chairman. Rather, three words after mentioning the IPCC, it says he’s the chairman. If the profile were of Rajendra Pachauri, this headline would make perfect sense. But it’s not. So what’s going on here?

Edenhofer’s section of the new climate assessment won’t be released until next April. Why profile him now, when everyone’s attention is on Working Group 1?

It’s also worth observing that Quirin Schiermeier, who wrote the article, tries hard to portray Edenhoffer as someone struggling mightily to ensure that science and politics remain separate. For example, we’re told that “Edenhofer has strived to keep his group focused on a strictly scholarly agenda.” Elsewhere, we read that his report won’t “take sides” and that Edenhofer is treading a “neutral line.”

But if the IPCC in general and Edenhofer’s working group in particular is all about scholarly science untainted by politics, why were activists invited into the deliberation room? Back in March I called attention to a press release issued by Edenhofer himself. It explicitly invited “NGO representatives” to provide feedback on a draft version of his group’s report.

In the context of the IPCC, NGO representatives are people who work for activist lobby groups such as Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

In January, thanks to three data sticks from an IPCC whistleblower, I revealed that the activists who provided feedback to a draft of another IPCC working group report spent much of their time urging the IPCC’s authors to cite activist-generated literature. These were bald-faced attempts to embed activist perspectives into a scientific document (see the discussion below the subheading WWF PERSONNEL URGE THE IPCC TO CITE WWF PUBLICATIONS, here).

If Edenhofer were truly trying to keep science and politics separate, would he himself have rolled out the red carpet for activists? Would he have flung open the door and offered NGO employees an opportunity to lobby IPCC authors under the guise of being expert scientific reviewers?

I think not.



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