Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The world’s most important climate body dedicates its new document to a rude, intolerant, highly politicized climate crusader.
Earlier today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the final installment of its latest tome. The 40-page summary of what is, itself, a summary of already-public material can be seen here.
Page two contains the following statement: “This report is dedicated to the memory of Stephen H. Schneider 1945-2010.”
That’s right. This supposedly scientific body, composed of supposedly dispassionate scientific experts discussing what many believe to be the world’s most pressing problem, have deliberately undercut their own case. They’ve chosen to contaminate their conclusions by linking them to a specific individual.
The late Stephen Schneider was no pillar of scientific integrity. He was not a role model any of us would wish our children to emulate. Indeed, the portrait of him that emerged via the climategate files is cringe-worthy.
I’ve previously discussed an e-mail he wrote to a lawyer employed by the activist group known as the Environmental Defense Fund, but cc’d to 14 now prominent climate actors (backed up here). Schneider, being significantly older than many of these individuals, was in a leadership position. It was his job to set an example of how scientists in his camp should behave toward those of a more skeptical frame of mind.
Rather than demonstrating grace, tolerance, humility, or patience he acted like a demented sports fan – the sort who riot and beat-up people when their team doesn’t win. (The metaphor isn’t mine. Schneider titled his 2009 book Science as a Contact Sport.)
When these kinds of riots take place, honourable ideas such as fair play and good sportsmanship are pushed aside by something uglier. That e-mail exposes Schneider as a sneering, smearing individiual – as someone who responds to critics by hurling insults, by calling them “idiots,” “incompetents,” and “bozos.” The lesson he taught these younger scientists had two components:
A second climategate e-mail makes it clear that Schneider was a dangerous enemy of free speech. As I explain here, when Schneider turned down an invitation to participate in a 2003 conference, it wasn’t for scientific reasons – but political ones. In the universe Schneider inhabited, a company that had the temerity to publish a book with which he disagreed – Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist – deserved to be bad-mouthed and boycotted.
In that e-mail (backed up here), Schneider refuses to attend the conference because material presented there will, afterward, be published by Cambridge University Press. He says the only way he’d consider associating himself with that publishing house is if it
For good measure, Schneider’s e-mail accuses an editor of being “dishonest” and of “wrapping him self up in an authors right to speak” (sic). Heaven forfend that anyone employed in the publishing industry should defend free and open debate.
But let us bring this discussion back to the IPCC – those geniuses who thought it was a good idea to link their findings to a rude, intolerant, highly politicized climate crusader. On page 125 of his above-mentioned book, Schneider confirms that the IPCC is just another old boys’ club.
Like hundreds of other people, he received a draft of the IPCC’s first report and was invited to provide feedback. This means he served as an external expert reviewer. The IPCC then lied to the public about his role. Here are Schneider’s own words:
They used some of my suggestions, and when the Assessment Report was published a year later, I was listed as a contributing author. It was flattering they thought to acknowledge me, since I spent only a dozen or so hours on it. [bold added]
At the IPCC, there is a huge difference between an expert reviewer and a contributing author. The two are not the same, and everyone knows it. Yet, from its earliest days the IPCC thought it was OK to indulge in this sort of sleight-of-hand.
Schneider, who later became an IPCC mover-and-shaker, saw nothing wrong with this. Rather than insisting that the record be corrected, his ego basked in the flattery. Rather than insisting on the unvarnished truth so that no one would have any reason to doubt the word of this UN-sponsored body, he went along with the lie.
Which is why the IPCC’s latest report belongs in the dustbin. After all the criticism that has been leveled against this organization in recent years, it still doesn’t get it. It doesn’t understand that its reputation is in tatters. It doesn’t recognize any need whatsoever for scrupulous, disinterested, and – above all – apolitical behaviour.
In that sense, the IPCC has done us all a favour by linking its latest document to a scientist whose legacy falls far short of admirable. Those two things do, indeed, belong together.