This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Please see the update to this story here. This ad has been withdrawn.
A York University advertising campaign falsely implies that Roger Pulwarty has won a Nobel Peace Prize.
A leaked climate document made the front page of the New York Times a week ago today, and has since been covered by Der Spiegel, the Guardian, the New Yorker, and others. What none of those accounts told you is that one of that document’s authors is part of a misleading advertising campaign.
In 2010, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put Roger Pulwarty in charge of a chapter examining global warming and adaptation strategies. Later, it recruited him to help write the summary document that has since been leaked.
Pulwarty is a senior official with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He earned a PhD in climatology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, following a Bachelor of Science from Toronto’s York University.
Seven weeks ago, York U launched an ad campaign aimed at high school students and their parents. These students are being encouraged to believe that Pulwarty is a member of one of the world’s most eminent and exclusive clubs.
A poster featuring a photo of Pulwarty declares: “From a prized education at York to a Nobel Peace Prize.” A detailed, in house article about the ad campaign declares that Pulwarty is a “Nobel Laureate.” (Back in 2008, another York U publication described him as “York’s first alumnus to become a Nobel laureate.”)
But this is nonsense. In 2007, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to an individual (Al Gore) and to an organization (the IPCC). Please note that Peace Prizes have nothing to do with scientific merit. Gore – who received dismal grades in college science courses (a D and a C+) – would never have won one otherwise.
Over the years, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, and UN peacekeeping forces have also received the Peace Prize. Just as this didn’t transform every peacekeeping soldier into a Nobel laureate, the approximately 9,000 people who’ve helped the IPCC write reports over the past 25 years didn’t become nobelists, either.
When you win a Nobel Prize you receive a personal telephone call from a Nobel official – and a cheque for a significant amount of money. Al Gore got the telephone call and the cheque. Roger Pulwarty did not.
The NobelPrize.org website lists the names of every individual who can legitimately claim to have won a Peace Prize. Gore’s name appears there. Pulwarty’s doesn’t.
It is, therefore, inaccurate, incorrect, and fallacious for York University to imply that Pulwarty has won a Peace Prize. It’s even worse for York personnel to blithely claim that he is a “Nobel laureate” – as though he’d won one of those prestigious science Nobels.
Part of the responsibility for this mess lies with Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC’s chairman. When the initial Peace Prize announcement occurred, Pachauri misled his troops. In a flourish of excitement, he told thousands of IPCC-associated academics: “This makes each of you Nobel Laureates.” He was wrong.
In October 2012, a court document declared that another IPCC author, meteorologist Michael Mann, was “a Nobel prize recipient.” When journalist Thomas Richard attempted to verify this claim, a Nobel official didn’t mince words: “Michael Mann has never been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize,” he responded via e-mail.
Shortly afterward, the IPCC issued a statement that leaves no room for doubt. The Peace Prize, it says,
was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.
The IPCC posted the statement on its website, but it didn’t send a copy to the same list of people who received Pachauri’s earlier, erroneous message. Nor did it issue a press release.
Had it done so, York University, Roger Pulwarty, and the IPCC itself mightn’t be looking so sleazy right now.
hat tip to Redmond Weissenberger