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October 31st 2011 print

Tony Thomas

Delinquent science

Donna Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist and feminist. She smelt a rat about the IPCC two years ago. The more she investigated, the greater the stench.

Small book on IPCC: Big punch 

Donna Laframboise’s small study on IPCC processes has a clumsy title, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert.

The ‘delinquent’ is the IPCC. The study is a game-changer. 

It is not about the science of human-caused global warming, it is just the first serious publication on the organisational integrity of the IPCC, a somewhat influential body.

Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist and feminist. She smelt a rat about the IPCC two years ago. The more she investigated, the greater the stench. 

She got further clues from IPCC insiders who last year posted 678 pages of responses to a questionnaire put out by the InterAcademy Council (a sort of peak-of-peak science academy). The IAC had investigated how the IPCC could have made such egregious errors as the melting-Himalayan-glaciers howler.

Its report in August 2010 found “significant shortcomings in each major step of IPCC’s assessment process.” (Emphasis added). Thus Laframboise is no wild-eyed ranter; she’s in respectable company. 

Laframboise provides safeguarded hyperlinks to all her significant sources.

For example, IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri is quoted, in Nature, 19/12/2007, (no less): 

We have been so drunk with this desire to produce and consume more and more whatever the cost to the environment that we’re on a totally unsustainable path,” he says. “I am not going to rest easy until I have articulated in every possible forum the need to bring about major structural changes in economic growth and development. That’s the real issue. Climate change is just a part of it. (Emphasis added). 

I tested the link; it worked fine. No-one is making this stuff up.

Let’s get to her content: 

Peer Review and the IPCC 

In 2008, Pachauri addressed a committee of the North Carolina legislature:

…we carry out an assessment of climate change based on peer-reviewed literature, so everything that we look at and take into account in our assessments has to carry [the] credibility of peer-reviewed publications, we don’t settle for anything less than that.

The reality:

  • Of 18,531 citations in the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report, 5,587 or 30% were non-peer-reviewed material, including activist tracts, press releases, and in one amazing case, “Version One” of a Draft. 
  • Of the 44 chapters, 12 chapters involved a majority of non-peer-reviewed citations. Five chapters involved 71-85% non-peer-reviewed material. Overall, in 21 chapters 59% or less of the citations were peer-reviewed-material. Conversely, only eight chapters scored 90% or better for using peer-reviewed material.
  • Not one of hundreds or even thousands of in-the-know IPCC scientists sought to correct Pachauri’s misleading claim to legislators. 
  • In important instances, IPCC lead authors chose non-peer-reviewed material, or papers of low credibility, favoring their argument, in the face of prolific peer-reviewed material to the contrary. Instances include alleged climate relevance to malaria, hurricanes, species extinction, and sea levels. 
  • IPCC rules were that non-peer citations could indeed be used but should be flagged as such. But out of the 5,587 non-peer citations, a grand total of six, or 0.1% , were flagged as per IPCC rules. After the InterAcademy Council in 2010 demanded that the flagging be strengthened and enforced, the IPCC in May 2011 dispensed with the flagging rule altogether! 

The high stature of IPCC authors 

The IPCC constantly claims its scientists are pre-eminent, world-leading specialists.

The reality: 

  • Richard Klein, with a Master’s, became an IPCC lead author at the age of 25, after a stint as a Greenpeace campaigner. 
  • Laurens Bouwer in 1999-2000 was an IPCC lead author even before getting his Master’s in 2001. Although a specialist in water resources, he was lead author for the chapter on Insurance and Other Financial Services. Why? Apparently because during part of 2000, he was a trainee at Munich Reinsurance. It was not till a decade after his IPCC lead-authorship, that he finally got his PhD. 
  • Closer to home, Lisa Alexander was a research assistant at Monash in 2008, and got her PhD in 2009. Yet in 1999, a decade earlier, the IPCC had anointed her a contributing author for the 2001 report, and she was also a contributing author for the 2007 report.  

    UPDATE 1: Laframboise’s book is incorrect in asserting that Lisa Alexander was a lead author for the 2007 report.

    Alvin Stone, Communications Officer, Centre of Excellence Climate System Science, UNSW says she was a highly regarded researcher with the UK Hadley Centre from 1998-2006, and seconded to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology from 2004-2006.

    UPDATE 2: Donna Laframboise informs us that the error is the IPCC’s, not her’s. The IPCC lists Alexander as a lead author for the 2007 report. Laframboise comments:

    The IPCC published incorrect information. It has remained incorrect for the better part of four years. And yet when I, as a journalist, report on that information I’m accused of not checking properly.

IPCC scientists who wear Greenpeace and WWF hats

Are IPCC scientists independent, i.e. capable of objectively judging the literature and not open to any public perception of bias?

  • The tone was set from the top with Pachauri authoring prefaces to Greenpeace literature in 2007 and 2008.
  • Bill Hare has been a Greenpeace spokesman since 1992, its ‘chief climate negotiator’ in 2007, and a Greenpeace ‘legend’ – but also a 2007 IPCC report lead author, an expert reviewer on two out of three sections of that report, and one of only 40 people on the “core writing team” for the overall big-picture summary known as the Synthesis Report. He is a lead author for the 2014 report.
  • Australia’s marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg gets credits in nine chapters of the IPCC 2007 report. He was a contributing author and will be a ‘coordinating lead author’ for the 2014 Report. Laframboise says that he wrote four reports on coral reefs for Greenpeace between 1994 and 2000, and later, two for the World Wildlife Fund. He will lead a chapter for the 2014 IPCC report.

In the IPCC 2007 report:

  • 28 out of 44 chapters include at least one individual affiliated with the WWF.
  • 100% of the 20 chapters in Working Group 2 include at least one WWF-affiliated scientist.
  • 15 of 44 chapters are led by WWF-affiliated scientists.
  • In three instances, chapters were led by two WWF-affiliated lead authors.

The ‘rigorous’ IPCC review processes

The IPCC’s supposedly rigorous “Review” processes involve thousands of experts but is toothless and uninquiring.

  • The IPCC reviewers do not check papers underlying data – and one reviewer who sought a paper’s raw data, was threatened with the sack.
  • If a reviewer points out a flaw in a lead author’s summary, the lead author, as judge and jury of his/her own case, can simply respond, “Rejected”. There is no independent referee. (The Himalayan-glacier howler did get picked by IPCC reviewers at draft stage but the IPCC authors let the text stand.)
  • The UK published the contentious Stern report after all IPCC deadlines for the 2007 report had expired. Stern nonetheless got 26 references across 12 chapters of the IPCC report, subject neither to scientific peer review nor even IPCC reviewer review.

An upright IPCC scientist

In all this murk, only one IPCC scientist, Chris Landsea, a noted hurricane specialist, has resigned and gone public about unethical IPCC behavior.

Kevin Trenberth, a hurricane non-specialist, had gone to the press in 2004 claiming, with no science support, that recent hurricanes reflected global warming. He was lead author for the 2007 hurricane chapter. Not one other IPCC scientist stood up in agreement that Trenberth had compromised his objectivity as ‘judge’ on that chapter.

Two years later, the IPCC’s ‘moral midgets’ as Laframboise calls them, collected their Nobel Prize.

Buy The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert online:

Kindle edition here…

Pdf here…

Paperback here…

Tony Thomas is a retired economics/business journalist (Age, BRW) and author of Stolen Generations: The Pocket Windschuttle.