Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

Van Ypersele: A Terrible Choice for IPCC Chairman

The second-in-command at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants a promotion, but has no intention of addressing critics’ concerns.


Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (courtesy of Wikipedia; click for original)

The Guardian has published a statement today by Jean-Pascal van Ypersele. Having been an IPCC vice-chair since 2008, he’s now looking for a promotion.

Aiming to fill the shoes of the recently-departed, scandal-plagued Rajendra Pachauri, van Ypersele’s 700-word statement explains why he is “standing for election as the next IPCC chair.” On three occasions he says approximately the same thing (bolding added by me):

  • “the IPCC must continue to offer scientifically rigorous, yet policy neutral, assessments…”
  • the “IPCC mandate is to assess, in the most rigorous, inclusive, and transparent way…”
  • the IPCC must continue to behave “in a scientifically rigorous, but policy neutral, way…”

Having written two books about this dismal organization, I consider it beyond redemption. I also expect that, as the sex scandal involving Pachauri unfolds over the coming weeks, the IPCC won’t survive the toxic association.

But let us suppose I’m wrong and it continues to clunk along. The above quotations make it clear that van Ypersele is as oblivious as was Pachauri to critics’ concerns.

An organization that puts activists in charge of entire chapters is not conducting rigorous science. I mean, how difficult is this to understand?

Yet this occurred while van Ypersele was second-in-command, and nothing in today’s statement suggests he appreciates the degree to which decisions such as these have undermined the public’s trust. He fails to acknowledge the long list of IPCC missteps during Pachauri’s 13-year reign – and provides no indication that he sees a need to shake things up, to steer this organization in a new direction.

Like Pachauri, Van Ypersele thinks being more inclusive means “involving more scientists from developing countries.” Engaging with climate skeptics in a serious, professional, and respectful manner hasn’t crossed his mind.

Like Pachauri, he’s fond of using the phrase ‘policy-neutral’ but hasn’t the first clue what it actually means. An entity that is policy neutral doesn’t advocate any particular response to a given situation. Yet twice in this statement Van Ypersele makes it clear he doesn’t think the public is entitled to choose from a menu of possible responses.

Sounding like a bureaucrat’s bureaucrat, he implies that since emissions reduction targets have been written down on paper, all 7 billion of us have no option but to comply. This is a package deal. The man who would be IPCC chairman is not only determined to convince us there’s a climate problem, he’s adamant that we need to pursue one particular course of action in response.

To make things worse, Van Ypersele claims to speak for all of us. Humanity, he says, “knows it must stop ignoring the ‘inconvenient truth’ of climate change.”

That’s what we call wishful thinking. A year ago, I explained at some length that ordinary people often rank climate change dead last whenever we’re invited to indicate which issues matter most to us.

The UN has been running a poll that demonstrates this beautifully. As of today, 7.2 million people have cast votes on a website that invites us to pick the six topics (out of a possible 14) we consider most important.


click to enlarge

What are the public’s top three concerns? Education, health care, and jobs. Where, among this list of 14 possible priorities, does climate change fall? At the extreme bottom – in spot number fourteen. Taking action to combat climate change is the issue people across the world rank lowest.

Van Ypersele’s insistence that the public agrees that we “must stop ignoring” climate change is nonsense. Did no one ever tell him that scientists aren’t supposed to make unsubstantiated statements?

This man says he has “worked as a climate scientist for the last 35 years.” That explains a few things, doesn’t it?


  • in Is Climate Change Like Gravity? I discuss the fact that Van Ypersele is “an honourary member of that granddaddy of alarmist environmental organizations, the Club of Rome.”
  • in  IPCC Officials Keen to Remake the World I cover similar ground, observing: “Apparently it has never occurred to anyone that having a vice chair who hangs out with the Club of Rome might cast doubt on the IPCC’s neutrality and intellectual rigour.”



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