Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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

The IPCC’s Post-Paris Political Rallying Cry

IPCC official Chris Field claims the latest IPCC report set the stage for a Paris climate deal. An e-mail he sent colleagues three days ago is pure politics.


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You know that urban myth, the one about how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an objective, policy-neutral, wholly scientific body staffed by experts with impeccable judgment? You know how we’re endlessly assured that the individuals who write IPCC reports are disinterested professionals who merely let the evidence speak for itself?

Here’s an e-mail Christopher Field, the person in charge of the Working Group 2 section of the latest IPCC report, sent three days ago to everyone involved in his section:

Dear Colleagues,

I hope all of you share my excitement about today’s outcome in Paris.  Finally, we have the foundation for a coordinated, ambitious approach to climate change.  There is still much to do.  The Paris agreement is more a starting point than an end.  But it is a license for nations, states, cities, firms, and individuals to step up to the challenge.  Collectively, we need to seize this moment to start building the energy system of the 21st century, advancing inclusive thoughtful adaptation, and integrating climate solutions with sustainable development.

As you know, WGII topics are at the heart of the agreement.  A clear focus on impacts that have already occurred or are just over the horizon is perhaps the most prominent and galvanizing feature. The strength of the WGII report was a clear enabler.  Recognition of the potential for adaptation and opportunities for adaptation/mitigation interactions is another strong thread.

Congratulations to everyone for an invaluable role in setting the stage for a turning point in history!


Christopher Field
Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution for Science
260 Panama Street
Stanford, CA 94305

First, a senior IPCC official declares his “excitement about a matter entirely unrelated to science. He’s happy about a political agreement reached by politicians.

Second, in his estimation “all” of his hundreds of IPCC colleagues are political animals like himself, rather than aloof scientists. Having worked closely with these people for years, he imagines they’ll react en masse exactly as he does to the Paris deal. They’ll feel positively celebratory about a political document comprising 32 pages of dense, fine print. Independent thinking isn’t something he expects from this group.

Third, he declares that the section of the IPCC report they collectively produced served as “a clear enabler” to the politicians in Paris. His team did nothing less than set “the stage for a turning point in history!” And I thought its job was merely to summarize already-published scientific research.

This is what science has come to in the early 21st century. A prominent official at Stanford’s Carnegie Institution for Science thinks it’s OK to write e-mails to other scientists that talk about about starting points, seizing the moment, stepping up to the challenge, and how much yet needs to be done. The project on which Field is so keen has nothing to do with science. It’s political and economic, involving nothing less than a total re-design of the global energy system.

As far I know neither Field nor his IPCC colleagues have any business pursuing such a goal. They haven’t been elected to positions of authority. They’ve sought no democratic mandate from anyone. Let us be quite clear about this: they were recruited by the IPCC to write a report. That’s it, that’s all.

Where do these delusions of grandeur come from?



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