28 February 2010

Two IPCC SREX Authors Discuss Inclusiveness

Last week Andy Revkin documented the fact that the IPCC decided to leave me off its committee on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). That I was left off is less troubling that there is no way to discern why I was left off, as the IPCC functions as a black box.

Perhaps there is some insight to be gained from one of the committee's members? One of the report's lead authors, Sabrina McCormick, responds to Revkin and justifies the IPCC's empanelment decisions on her blog as follows:
The IPCC is not meant to be a reflection of the work and perceptions of the same scientists year after year. It is a living, breathing entity whose strength is partially derived from the new talent that is represented across disciplines and generations of researchers. One essential piece of that is drawing from a pool of researchers who are not all old white men or from particular disciplines. So, if certain stalwart scientists are passed up because there are new views on critical subjects, so be it. I respect their work and the many years they have devoted to this subject. Such contributions are not to be denied. However, neither are the bright, new ideas of scientists not traditionally involved in the IPCC, like sociologists such as myself. Maybe we have the answers to solve the most pressing problem of our time.
Richard J. T. Klein, who is also on the SREX committee and an experienced IPCC author, shows up in the comments with this corrective:
Sabrina, in principle you're right. Except that Roger Pielke Jr., the person Andrew Revkin writes about, isn't old stalwart blood. He's never been an IPCC author before either, so his inclusion in the author team would have been just as innovative.
The black box remains unopened.


  1. Perhaps the better metaphor for the IPCC process is the curtain in the audience chamber of the great Oz?

  2. Take this development in context with Gore's "with us or against us" attitude, and it is NO surprise. I just don't see how the IPCC can be reformed to be a scientific organization. The picture of the scientist looks like he took a sip and found a little of nature's natural ammonia in the corn liquor.

  3. "One essential piece of that is drawing from a pool of researchers who are not all old white men or from particular disciplines."

    That is an astonishing admission of a blatantly political agenda.

  4. I've been called many things before, but I have to admit "old white man" is a new one to me ;-)

  5. Sounds like this committee be more concerned about using climate change as an excuse to promote the 'social justice' rather than the issue itself.

    I wonder how much of a connection there is between this committee's work and the $100 billion/year adaptation fund which was demanded at Copenhagen. Will this committee's review of the science be touted as the justication for this money?

    If so then it will be another committee dedicated to finding the science that supports the predetermined policy objectives. Roger is likely better off not being on the committee.

  6. Regarding Ms McCormick:

    "As a Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, she is studying one of
    the most pressing public health issues of the twenty-first century – illnesses induced by
    climate change..."

    So if there are no illnesses induced by climate change, she's wasting her time, no?

    On one of these blogs, I just read that the IPCC has a gender requirement. Apparently, Ms McCormick is one of the affirmative action token women. Now Roger isn't just a denier, he's a patriarchal sexist denying women a place at the table. ;-)

  7. Roger Pielke, Jr. said...
    I've been called many things before, but I have to admit "old white man" is a new one to me ;-)

    "Richard J. T. Klein, who is ... an experienced IPCC author"

    Oi, are you calling me an old man?

  8. -7-Richard

    Ha! An all along I've I thought 40 was the new 30! ;-)

  9. A standard test I apply to statements like Ms. McCormick's is to repeat the statement, but substituting personal descriptors to see how it reads.

    The modified statement now reads "One essential piece of that is drawing from a pool of researchers who are not all young black women or from particular disciplines."

    This revised statement is just _barely_ acceptable in polite society.

  10. -9-Charlie

    The issues of diversity aside, what is interesting here is that extensive expertise is asserted as a disqualifying characteristic to serve on this expert advisory committee, at least in my case and with respect to this committee member.

    Is that really the message that the IPCC wants to send?

  11. Let's be clear here, just as much as I am not the IPCC, neither is Sabrina McCormick. Out of a list of nominees she has been selected by the IPCC Bureau as a lead author for this particular report. Thus, she is part of the author team (where does the word "committee" come from?).

    She, like me, has had no influence on who else were or weren't selected, and the allegations of some commentators above (e.g. concerning the adaptation finance mentioned in the Copenhagen Accord) are uninformed and tending towards slanderous.

  12. Roger... Your picture suggests you are a white man. Over time, people age. Maybe Sabrina is younger than you are? :)

  13. -12-lucia

    I have just learned this morning that I am on old white man. It will take some time getting used to ... please be patient ;-)

  14. The next iteration will have dirty in front old.

  15. No matter whom you pick for the team, the results are still an "opinion poll of scientists" rather than "science." Don't know why the world needs this group, regardless of who is on it.
    The key scientific discipline involved to understand this seems to be the politics and sociology (and organizational dynamics) of the scientific enterprise itself.

  16. rjtklein,

    1) The title of the report suggests that it may be involved in preparing the advice used to recommend and/or justify spending related to adaptation.

    2) The language that McCormick uses is typical of the NGOs who see the adaption fund as means to transfer massive amount of wealth from developed world to the developing countries. These NGOs want the money transferred - the excuse is not that important to them.

    3) The IPCC has already been caught juicing its reports in order to promote the desired policies.

    4) A moderate and pragmatic voice like Roger was left off the committee.

    It is perfectly reasonable to look at the evidence and wonder whether the IPCC has learned nothing and will continue to be a political advocacy organization masquerading as a science organization.

    Keep in mind that the onus is on the IPCC to demonstrate its trustworthiness and it no longer can demand the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Roger:
    From one OWM to another OWM, my sympathy. I guess this makes your Dad a GOWM!

    I am frankly more put out after having just wasted one of the rapidly declining hours that are left to me by reading Sabrina's paper Hot or Not?: Recognizing and Managing the Health Impacts of Climate Change found here: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=sabrina_mccormick

    I see nothing here that would qualify Dr. McCormack as a lead author - except for her rather naive acceptance of the severity of climate change. I see absolutley no evidence that she has sufficient statistical/quantitative background to justify her inclusion. Finally, she writes like Talcott Parsons - need I say more? For example in this 6800 word essay she used the word frame, frames, framework or framing 37 times!! God help us!

  18. Raven:
    It is worse than you think.

  19. Raven,

    I speak here as myself, not on behalf of the IPCC. As for your comments:

    1) You can see here what the report is about, including a report of the scoping meeting and the government-approved outline. The mandate of the IPCC explicitly does not allow it to make recommendations to policy, let alone justify spending decisions. If there is anything governments are allergic to during the government review process, it is even the slightest hint of a policy prescription.

    2) Sabrina McCormick also speaks in her own capacity and not on behalf of the IPCC. It is not up to me to either challenge or defend her here. I left a comment on her blog, and that's all I have to say about it.

    3) Errors have been found in the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and this matter will now be subject to independent investigation. Until then the use of value-laden words like "juicing up" is based on assumptions and cannot be substantiated by what is known.

    4) I told Andrew Revkin that I regret that Roger is not on the author team. Being a moderate and pragmatic voice, however, is not a selection criterion. Having an academic track record in a relevant discipline is. Roger does have such a track record. I cannot say why he was not selected.

    I will continue to contribute to the IPCC in the spirit in which I have always contributed to it. You can read this in Revkin's piece. Nobody in the IPCC demands the benefit of the doubt. What would be valuable though, is if everybody could apply the same standards they expect from the IPCC in their interpretations of the scientific knowledge base. Including on blogs.

  20. rjtklein,

    I appreciate your willingness to speak out on the question of Roger's omission but that actually concerns me less than the comments by Ms. McCormick.

    The CRU emails and other the IPCC errors make it clear that even if the IPCC does not officially make policy recommendations the lead authors spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to ensure they have a 'tidy story' that happens to support a very specific political agenda.

    I will apply the standards that I expect of the IPCC to blogs if/when my government representatives start using blogs as a justification for a complete reorganization of the world economy. Until then the people who participate in the IPCC will have to accept that they will be held to higher standards than their critics on blogs and talk radio and that is the way it should be.

    One constructive suggestion I have for the IPCC would be the introduction of a minority report which is similar to the dissenting judgements produced by the supreme court when they cannot achieve unanimity. This ensures the counter arguments are aired and would eliminate any question on whether they were unreasonably suppressed or minimized.

  21. Dr. Klein, telling your regrets to Revkin is rather meaningless. If you were to hand the committee your resignation unless Dr. Pielke is included is saying something. Until there are demonstrable acts of "reform," the IPCC is headed for the rocks. Someone needs to take a real stand.

  22. Sabrina McCormick implies that Roger is an "old white man". That tells me that she doesn't even recognize Roger. And yet she's one of the lead authors of "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation."

    As ol' ;-) Roger would write, "Not good."

  23. Sabrina McCormick definitely brings a fresh perspective to "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation". She's never published anything that comes near.

  24. Dr. Klein:
    I am loathe to spend too much time on Joe Romm's blog. There you said,
    "Bernie, if you are the same Bernie who commented on Pielke’s blog here, then I don’t quite understand what you’re getting at. Joe’s post here is not about McCormick, and I already said on Pielke’s blog that I have nothing to add to what I wrote elsewhere."

    You also noted in your response to Raven that ...
    "4) I told Andrew Revkin that I regret that Roger is not on the author team. Being a moderate and pragmatic voice, however, is not a selection criterion. Having an academic track record in a relevant discipline is. Roger does have such a track record. I cannot say why he was not selected. (Emphasis added)

    My point is simple, IMHO based on her published papers, Dr. McCormick does not have the requisite track record to be a lead author on this report. I am open to evidence that suggests that she is.

    I am in agreement with Richard Tol.

  25. Bernie, you cite me correctly. I commented on Roger's track record. I didn't comment on McCormick's.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Dr McCormick appears to be thin-skinned. Comments are now closed. I was hoping for a substantive response.

  28. Dr. Klein:
    I am reluctant to take up more of your time so please do not feel obliged to respond. (I omitted the "not" in my earlier version of this comment. My apologies.)
    I do recognize that you did not comment on Dr. McCormick's track record. However, I feel free to do so because (a) she made a rather silly and provocative statement that implies that her views are innovative; (b) the selection of lead authors implies that some demonstrable and relevant competence is needed such that it would justify the inclusion of A at the expense of B; and, (c) I will not have to work with her.

    Because McCormick is so lacking in obvious qualifications to be a lead author it is extremely difficult for me to see what demonstrable and relevant competences were being used to make the decision. It seems OK to me if Roger is not included because someone with a different relevant specialty and equivalent track record is. Since, IMHO, Dr. McCormick has no meaningful track recors, my fear is that the criteria are more political than scientific. Clearly this does not help the general reputation of the IPCC.

    Is my assessment of Dr. McCormick's paper Hot or Not?: Recognizing and Managing the Health Impacts of Climate Change ( http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=sabrina_mccormick ) unjustified?

  29. McCormick's blog is not just closed for comments, she has even removed comments that were there.

    One of the characteristics of an effective IPCC lead author is a thick skin.

  30. Richard - This silly and intellectually cowardly move is hardly suggestive of the objectivity and rigor needed from a lead author.