14 October 2010

IPCC Reform? Transparency Needed

[UPDATE 10/15: More from Tol.]

Richard Tol offers his views of decisions that may have been made about the future of the IPCC in response to the IAC Review:
The IPCC meeting in Busan is over.

The first message was from Chris Field, co-chair of WG2, reassuring all authors that the decisions made were in the best interest of the IPCC -- without even explaining what those decisions were. Although one could interpret this as a classic example of paternalism, let's give Chris the benefit of doubt and assume that he was tired after an intense meeting and in a rush to the airport.

BBC and Reuters offer some detail into the decisions made: a committee was formed to look into the matter.

Another day, another farce in climate land.

Cheers in all the wrong places.
It would be extremely useful for the IPCC to provide a simple report indicating its response to each of the IAC recommendations. For those who may have missed it, here is a list of those recommendations.  Perhaps an intrepid reporter will ask the IPCC to provide this information.

In my opinion, absent this information, along with a justification for why the IPCC decided to ignore advice that the IAC provided, the institution will remain deeply troubled.


  1. We're talking about an international political organization that has received a set of recommendations, amongst which is the suggestion that some oversight responsibilities be delegated to a new executive committee.

    In my opinion it was utterly unrealistic to expect these recommendations to be immediately adopted.

    Were the IPCC an effective and well managed international political organization, instead of the compromised and ineffective mess that it is today, the expectation of immediate change would still have been unreasonable.

    [Nice picture and caption, BTW]

  2. -1-Jason S

    I don't disagree with anything that you have written. The IPCC clearly accepted some recommendations, rejected others and sent many to a committee.

    At this point I'd simply like a scorecard of what happened at the meeting. In due course the IPCC should provide a comprehensive reply to the IAC.

  3. hro001 writes in with these very useful pointers:

    ""It would be extremely useful for the IPCC to provide a simple report [...]"

    A "simple report" from the IPCC?! Surely you jest! They can't even put together a website that makes it easy to retrace one's steps!

    But here's a link to the documentation supposedly reviewed during the meeting:


    There are 2 docs in which delegation comments/responses to IAC recommendations have been compiled:




    In skimming the first of these two, there's considerable variety in quality (and/or indication that the IAC report was actually read/understood)

    Perhaps the most significant set of comments one might examine for signs of things (not) to come is that "Submitted by the IPCC Chair on behalf of the E-team":


  4. From hro001's final link (Eteam):

    2.4 Handling the Full Range of Views

    IAC recommendation: Lead Authors should explicitly document that a range of scientific viewpoints has been considered, and Coordinating Lead Authors and Review Editors should satisfy themselves that due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views.

    The IPCC procedures clearly require the representation of differing scientific viewpoints and this has been done in previous assessment reports. Implementation is the responsibility of the CLAs with the guidance of the REs.

    Would you agree that "the representation of differing scientific viewpoints ... has been done in previous assessment reports"?

  5. -4-Howard

    Ha! I think a legalistic reading of the text that you cite would find that statement to be true. A common sense reading? Not so much.

  6. -5- Roger,
    Well, you've got me there. You're quite right, I wasn't thinking as a lawyer.

    Speaking of legalistic readings, I'm surprised that the IPCC didn't point out that the 2nd part of this IAC recommendation is certainly already achieved: I'm sure that the CLAs and REs of AR4 were quite satisfied that they had given due consideration to alternative views. It's just that their satisfaction is not a guarantor of objectivity.

  7. Hi Roger, I think it's excellent that you keep a close watch on what's happening with the IPCC, but I think it would be helpful to distinguish more clearly between the various parts of the IPCC. The IPCC Bureau (which includes the chair), the authors, and the 194 governments that are the actual members of the IPCC have quite different roles and responsibilities (each of which can of course be assessed and criticised).

    This Plenary Session in Busan was a meeting of the governments, to discuss, among other things, the IAC recommendations. In preparation for this discussion, governments had already submitted their views on the recommendations. All information considered at the Plenary is available online here.

    The decisions made in Busan were therefore decisions by governments. I mention this because the impression might have arisen that it was either Pachauri and other Bureau members or a small group of scientists who 'decided to ignore advice that the IAC provided', in the words of Richard Tol.

    I wasn't in Busan but I'm actually not aware of any IAC recommendation that has been rejected. Governments agreed that some recommendations should be followed up immediately (by the Bureau and the authors). These relate in particular to procedures around the preparation of the IPCC reports (role of review editors, use of grey literature etc). The recommendations that have been deferred to a task group (consisting of government representatives) are recommendations whose implementation would have consequences for governments themselves.

    For example, to strengthen the Secretariat and to set up an Executive Committee requires an increase in the budget of IPCC, which in turn would mean higher financial contributions from governments. However, the fact that these issues are now discussed in task groups doesn't mean they're off the table. The task groups will report and propose options at a next Plenary, and decisions will be made.

    It is easy to stand on the sidelines and do the 'IPCC is evil and can't be trusted' handwaving, but it would be more honest to make clear that in this case the responsibility to act lies with governments, not with the authors or Pachauri.

    By the way, Jason, the picture (and caption) is from the IPCC homepage.

  8. You can't criticise sceptical bloggers if they rejoice in such news that the IPCC cannot or will not resolve the many internal issues that beset the IPCC and damages its credibility.

    This was all self-inflicted and proves that the IPCC cannot heal itself.

    I suspect the international community will soon put the IPCC out of its own misery. Its scare-mongering days are over.

  9. Malcolm, I don't criticise Roger, and I don't consider him a sceptic. I just point out that 'the IPCC' can mean different things: authors, governments, the Bureau.

    What is the 'international community'? Governments? It was governments that met in Busan and made the decisions reported here.

  10. There is a bit more information on what was decided here: http://ipccar5wg2ch10.blogspot.com/2010/10/ipcc-reform-okay-little-bit.html

    For a recent example of the IPCC's manner of dealing with alleged errors, see here: http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/10/still-no-reaction-to-richard-tols.html

  11. @rjtklein
    If the IPCC Bureau had wanted reform, they would have led the Plenary to adopt reform.

  12. -12- Richard Tol

    And be criticised by countries (and bloggers?) for attempting to set and influence the agenda? The Bureau is not the governing body of the IPCC, it is the Plenary (i.e. the governments). The Bureau should do its work according to its mandate without prejudice to any decisions by the IPCC Plenary.

    Wasn't much of the criticism of Pachauri that he didn't stick to his mandate? Whether or not the IPCC Bureau wants reform, it is not their job to tell governments what to decide.

  13. -13- Klein
    Sure. Let the Bureau hide behind the rules when it suits.

  14. I'd rather see the Bureau, and everybody else in IPCC, play by the rules irrespective of whether it suits or not. Do you?

  15. -15
    The sophistry of an old IPCC hand

  16. I still think we'd be better off if people spent their time doing something about climate rather than endless bureaucratizing and conflict about how to do another international roundup of studies. If, as Roger says in the Climate Fix, we know what we need to know to act, why do we need another IPCC?

  17. What we see in these comments is so similar to the party line at the UN. Every success - self-considered - is a great victory for the UN. Every failure is due to the nation states. Classic bureaucrat self-defense.

    Regarding 'all the wrong places:' depends on your viewpoint. I couldn't agree more with the post at EU Referendum. Keep Pachuri right where he is. He truly represents the entire effort. If he didn't, all those honorable climate scientists from around the world would have risen up in one voice and demanded his resignation. They didn't, so he does.

  18. Government delegations consist of civil servants, agency workers, research scientists and sundry observers. A plethora of diverse views and not a coherent body of radical thought with any revolutionary seal.

  19. Reasonable alarmist, Michael Tobis, says this:

    "Good news: Pachauri is reappointed for another term as head of IPCC. Whether or not this would have been a good idea under ordinary circumstances, it was pretty much necessary. Anything else would have just encouraged the jackals squealing for blood."

    So, it was 'necessary' to hide the IPCC chairman to save him from jackals? Is that all there was, in the end then?

    I did not think of Harold Shapiro as a jackal.

  20. Michael Tobis probably recognizes a lot of himself in Pachauri.

  21. @20 nigguraths:

    "Reasonable alarmist, Michael Tobis ..."

    'Reasonable alarmist" ... excuse me but, is this not an oxymoron of the highest order?!

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but my recollection is that while Tobis may well *think* he's "reasonable", his self-depiction is that of "moderate" who “believes” that the “risks are severe” and that “carbon emissions must stop”. (Presumably “now”, one suspects – if not sooner).

    Some examples of Tobis in "moderate" (or reasonable if that's your preference) mode are available at:


    "I did not think of Harold Shapiro as a jackal"

    And you were quite correct not to think so ... he's Canadian, eh ... and we're not jackals ;-)

    Kidding aside, I'm inclined to think that the "jackals" of whom Tobis speaks are those who disagree with his primary pontification to the effect that 'the risks are severe ... and carbon dioxide emissions must stop now'

  22. Richard Tol wrote:

    "Michael Tobis probably recognizes a lot of himself in Pachauri."

    Pachauri is probably the only person on the planet with hair as dorky as yours, Richard, so I would assume you recognize alot of yourself in him too.

  23. HRO, the "reasonable alarmist" was an intended oxymoron. In any case, it is hard to digest Tobis' view that Pachauri has to be retained just so the climate establishment can save face. If that is indeed true, it only shows how weak their case is.

    Dr Pielke,
    Your question about the mystery is partially answered.

    " The plenary agreed to form a task group to address the issue of whether the IPCC needs an executive director and whether the term of its chairman should be limited to one assessment.

    The task group will report to the IPCC’s plenary which, at its next session in May 2011, may or may not implement the proposed new policies."

    -from Nature Blog

    This means the plenary only put off addressing thorny issues until next year.

  24. Mark B has posted the most pertinent comment here.
    "He truly represents the entire effort."
    Pachuri's selection, output and now defence and extension of tenure truly demonstrates the abject inability of the IPCC to manage and correct itself.