04 February 2010

Pachauri: "I'm Not Aware of That"

The Economist interviews Rajendra Pachauri and asks him specifically about my claim that the IPCC lied about my views in the review process when it was challenged by an expert reviewer. Dr. Pachauri responds that he is unaware of this issue:

The Economist: There’s another case in which grey literature, in the form of a report from a meeting organised by Munich Re, was cited in preference to peer-reviewed literature on the same subject by Roger Pielke Jr.

Dr Pachauri: Actually, that particular piece of literature had been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal, but then the author decided to give it to a book—which also was peer reviewed, incidentally—because he had promised the editor of that book that he would make it available. At the time when it was accessed for the IPCC it had been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal … We have looked into this issue and I’ve been assured that that was the sequence of incidents that took place.

The Economist: In the review process on that, the authors’ response to some of the comments made by reviewers who brought up Dr Pielke’s work was that Dr Pielke had changed his mind, which he hadn’t done and they didn’t check and he had published literature that addressed exactly that point.

Dr Pachauri: I’m not aware of that. This is something that I have been told for the first time.

The Economist: If that were indeed the case, would you say that that was a mistake?

Dr Pachauri: I’ll have to look into it. I really would have nothing to say on that till I actually get into this issue.

The Economist: I would be interested if you do have anything to say at a later date.
For those interested in the issue involving the IPCC review misrepresentation of my views in the review process, see this post.

[UPDATE: Dr. Pachauri's claim to be unaware of the issue seems to contradict the new IPCC statement on its website about this issue:
Recent media interest has drawn attention to two so-called errors in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC, the first dealing with losses from disasters and the second on the subject of Amazon forests. The leadership of the IPCC has looked into both these instances and concluded that the challenges are without foundations.
I am happy for readers to evaluate for themselves whether the issues descried here are without foundations. More generally, how can the IPCC issue a blanket denial if its chairman is not even aware of the issues?]

On the IPCC grey literature, Dr. Pachauri is poorly informed (by contrast, The Economist gets it). The issue is not simply that the IPCC cited grey literature, which of course is necessary in many cases. The issue is that the IPCC included a figure that was "misleading" (according to an expert reviewer) and contrary to the scientific literature. Its reliance on the grey literature obscured this fact. The figure is shown below:

The reference for the figure is Muir-Wood 2006. The reference list shows this citation:
Muir Wood, R., S. Miller and A. Boissonnade, 2006: The search for trends in a global catalogue of normalized weather-related catastrophe losses. Workshop on Climate Change and Disaster Losses: Understanding and Attributing Trends and Projections. Hohenkammer, Munich, 188-194.
That paper was prepared for a workshop that I co-organized in 2006. Its text can be found online here in PDF. I encourage readers to actually look at the Muir-Wood paper and see if you can find anything remotely related to the figure above. You cannot, because there is no such figure.

Instead, the IPCC relied on a different paper, uncited in the IPCC report (as it was not published until 2008) but written by the same author team as Muir Wood et al., but a very different paper nonetheless -- Miller et al. 2008. Miller at al. did not include the above figure either, but presumably supplied the data which the IPCC smoothed as above to create the misleading figure. Remarkably, the analysis of Miller et al. concluded:
We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.
An expert reviewer of this section of the IPCC recommended removing the figure purporting to show a relationship of increasing temperatures and the rising costs of disasters, because it was "misleading":
I propose "Since 1970 the global normalized results do not show any statically significant correlationn with global temperatures." and to remove the end of the paragraph and the figure 1,5 because it can mislead a reader not familiar with correlation.
The issue here is not that the IPCC cited grey literature, as suggested by Dr. Pachauri. The issue is that the IPCC cited a study as being the source of a figure that did not actually appear in that study (which was a bit of misdirection to get around the IPCC deadline for publication). The unpublished study that the IPCC relied on said this:
"We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses."
The bottom line is that the IPCC indicated a relationship between increasing temperatures and the rising costs of disasters when no such relationship has been found in the literature -- in that literature cited by the IPCC or otherwise. This issue is not nuanced; it is not clouded by ambiguity.

Like the Economist, I look forward to hearing Dr. Pachauri's reactions when fully informed.

Meantime, do read the Economist interview in full, the exchange on glaciers is interesting to say the least.