This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
As a journal guest editor, IPCC lead author Andrew Challinor approved the publication of 9 research papers that are now being cited as evidence in his IPCC chapter.
The process by which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) writes its reports is fraught with conflict-of-interest. A startling example can be seen in Chapter 7 of the Working Group 2 report.
Scheduled to be released in a few weeks, this chapter explores how climate change might impact humanity’s food supply. You can download a leaked copy of it here.
Andrew Challinor is one of eight lead authors for Chapter 7. (There are also two chapter heads, 10 contributing authors, and two Review Editors.) According to the headline on a University of Leeds media release issued this week, Challinor’s latest, hot-off-the-press research paper demonstrates that Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than we thought.
The media release tells us that this new research
feeds directly into the Working Group II report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which is due to be published at the end of March 2014. [bold added]
It’s unclear what is meant by the “feeds directly into” claim. IPCC personnel aren’t supposed to be promoting their own careers or advancing pet hypotheses. Their job is to objectively examine the scientific literature already in existence.
But here’s where the conflict-of-interest comes in. Challinor, while serving as a guest editor for the March 2013 edition of the Agricultural and Forest Meteorology journal, decided that 20 research papers deserved to be published. Via this act of publication, these papers gained “peer-reviewed scientific literature” status.
As a lead author of the IPCC’s Chapter 7, Challlinor then decided that nine of these 20 papers were crucial to Chapter 7’s conclusions. In other words, the person passing judgment on the merits of these papers was not independent. He had an agenda. He was an IPCC lead author who wished to cite these papers in his IPCC chapter.
But it gets better. Challinor is himself the co-author of three of these 20 papers (see here, here, and here). So first he writes three papers. Then, wearing his journal editor hat, he decides that all three of them are worthy of publication in the very same edition of a peer-reviewed journal. Then, wearing his IPCC lead author hat, he arranges for two of his own works to be cited in the IPCC’s Chapter 7.
Another Chapter 7 lead author is David Lobell. While he and Challinor were working closely together on the IPCC report, Challinor decided that a paper written by Lobell also merited publication in the journal he was guest-editing.
We’ll never know how many of the following nine papers (all being cited as evidence in Chapter 7), would have made the cut if the journal editor had been someone unconnected to the IPCC:
- Crop science experiments designed to inform crop modeling Peter Q. Craufurd, Vincent Vadez, S.V. Krishna Jagadish, P.V. Vara Prasad, M. Zaman-Allah
- Calibration and bias correction of climate projections for crop modelling: An idealised case study over Europe Ed Hawkins, Thomas M. Osborne, Chun Kit Ho, Andrew J. Challinor
- The relative importance of rainfall, temperature and yield data for a regional-scale crop model James Watson, Andrew Challinor
- Projections of climate change impacts on potential C4 crop productivity over tropical regions A. Berg, N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, B. Sultan, M. Lengaigne, M. Guimberteau
- Ensemble modelling of climate change risks and opportunities for managed grasslands in France Anne-Isabelle Graux, Gianni Bellocchi, Romain Lardy, Jean-François Soussana
- Climate change impact uncertainties for maize in Panama: Farm information, climate projections, and yield sensitivities Alex C. Ruane, L. DeWayne Cecil, Radley M. Horton, Román Gordón, Raymond McCollum, Douglas Brown, Brian Killough, Richard Goldberg, Adam P. Greeley, Cynthia Rosenzweig
- The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP): Protocols and pilot studies C. Rosenzweig, J.W. Jones, J.L. Hatfield, A.C. Ruane, K.J. Boote, P. Thorburn, J.M. Antle, G.C. Nelson, C. Porter, S. Janssen, S. Asseng, B. Basso, F. Ewert, D. Wallach, G. Baigorria, J.M. Winter
- Variation in the global-scale impacts of climate change on crop productivity due to climate model uncertainty and adaptation Tom Osborne, Gillian Rose, Tim Wheeler
- Global hot-spots of heat stress on agricultural crops due to climate change Edmar I. Teixeira, Guenther Fischer, Harrij van Velthuizen, Christof Walter, Frank Ewert
It’s also worth noting that the Challinor paper in the news this week was co-written with five others. Every last one of these people served with Challinor as an IPCC Chapter 7 author.
The IPCC wants us to believe these people discharged their IPCC duties in an objective, rigorous, and neutral manner. But Challinor and company look an awful lot like an incestuous cabal.