Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele: The Activist Who Wants to Run the IPCC

A Belgian activist scientist seeking leadership of the UN climate panel flies to Pakistan – and is fawned over by the media.

An article published yesterday in a Pakistan financial newspaper is a good example of the wretched state of climate change journalism. Since 2002, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele has been an official with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Now keen to become its next chairman, he flew to Islamabad earlier this month “to gain support for his candidature.”

His visit included a meeting with Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry and an interview (I use that term loosely) with an unidentified journalist employed by the Business Recorder. Unfortunately, no serious journalism took place. The account published by the newspaper makes the occasion sound like a tea party in which pals sat around and mutually decried the stupidity of the rest of humanity.

Van Ypersele approaches climate change not as a dispassionate scholar, but as a committed environmental activist. He is an honourary member of that granddaddy of green groups, the Club of Rome. Recently, I wrote about how he accepted financing from Greenpeace and produced a report for that organization at the very same time he was serving as an IPCC official. This is outrageous behaviour. If a judge in a murder trial were writing reports for the prosecutor’s office, no one would believe for a second that he was impartial. He’d be dismissed.

Journalists are supposed to hold officials to account. They’re supposed to ask tough questions, to poke and prod. But instead of confronting van Ypersele regarding this blatant bias, instead of asking why anyone in their right mind would place the IPCC in his hands, the Business Recorder journalist also behaved like an environmental activist. The article airily declares that “precious little is being done to address the climate change problem.” It repeats the thoroughly-debunked notion that the IPCC consists of “2500 of [the] world’s top climate change scientists” (see here, here, here, and here). It promotes the dubious idea that an entirely new form of economics is feasible in the real world just because academics in ivory towers believe this to be the case. It blathers on about the evil of “unabated consumerism” and “the obsession with GDP” without acknowledging that economic growth has made a larger percentage of the world’s population healthier and wealthier than at any other time in human history.

But enough about the journalist. What did van Ypersele say to his fawning audience? Sounding indistinguishable from a  Greenpeace campaigner, he declared that an absence of political will – rather than technological know-how – is holding back climate change action. He insisted that “humanity needs to reduce its emissions to zero” before the end of the century. Yes, he really said zero. We’re dealing with an extremist, here.

Worst of all, however, is van Ypersele’s towering self-regard. Somehow, this physicist imagines he is invested with moral authority – that it’s his job to scold the rest of us. Our civilization, our economic system, our political leaders are all wrong. We suffer from a “mindset problem.” Changes in “human behaviour” are required. The world needs to be re-designed according to his specifications.

There are many labels one might attach to such thinking. Megalomania. Religious zeal. Messianic delusion. But at the end of the day, what’s clear is that Van Ypersele is just another green activist.

Who thinks he should be running the world’s most important climate change body.

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