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July 17th 2012 print

Philippa Martyr

Donna Laframboise in Australia

Laframboise represents a long and noble tradition of investigative journalism. Long may she prosper - and what a timely reminder of all the good reasons to attack the Finkelstein project here.

We have all heard of the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and its top scientists, all in consensus over truth of climate change and its disastrous impact on the planet. Thanks to the IPCC, the Australian government has introduced a carbon tax and has set ridiculously high emissions targets for 2020, which could be met by any one of the following methods: 

a) paving half the country with solar panels;

b) introducing a Nuclear Family Rebate, which will allow every Australian family with a sufficiently large block of land to purchase their own reactor (installed, of course, by qualified tradesmen);

c) throwing this government out of office and repealing all the legislation immediately. 

How did this happen? How was Australian government policy dictated by an organisation as opaque, troubled and patently untrustworthy as the IPCC? 

Investigative journalist Donna Laframboise – a quietly-spoken and more intelligent version of Susan Sarandon – has recently been here to tell us how. Her painstaking research into the makeup and credentials of the IPCC, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert (available here) was published last October to rave reviews on the blogosphere and the usual totschweigetaktik everywhere else. I attended the last of her speaking engagements in Perth on Sunday 15 July. 

You can hide behind a set of initials – anyone can do it: the KGB, the IRA, the ATO. That the IPCC has done the same is not in the least surprising, but it’s the people hiding behind the initials that Laframboise is interested in. There are graduate students in their 20s, and unqualified or barely-qualified scientists from developing countries. There was also an attractive young female called Sari Kovats, who was allowed to write a chapter in a major IPCC report in the 90s when she had no academic publication record and no higher degree. Laframboise noted that Kovats has now become an expert in writing IPCC reports, but the less charitable among us think she might also be an expert at something else. 

The IPCC, argues Laframboise, is not the respectable authority figure we might think. Instead of being a cross between Albert Einstein and Dr Science, the IPCC is actually a teenage drama queen. The analogy is a good one: like most teenage drama queens, the IPCC is actually 24 years old, has been given a good job, has purportedly signed up to a set of standards by which it absolutely refuses to perform, lies about everything, overspends, and blames other people when things go wrong. In real life the IPCC would have faced court for drink-related offences by now, but as this isn’t real life, it gets to dictate economic policy to sovereign nations headed by people who we hoped were grown-ups. 

The conflicts of interest are huge. Representatives from the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace are overrepresented on the IPCC’s panel of ‘experts’, and there is solid evidence of a two-way recruitment street as well. Imagine a UN body set up to police the links between smoking and lung cancer, and then stacked with professional lobbyists from the tobacco industry, a handful of PR people, and possibly Alfred Dunhill himself. That’s kind of it, really. 

The ‘top scientists’ aren’t, so any question of ‘consensus’ is a moot point. We actually don’t know what the ‘top scientists’ think, because we don’t know where they all are, and we haven’t asked them. Laframboise is very kind to the scientific community, positing that some of them are simply naïve and unaware that they are being duped, but again the less charitable among us think that all the media attention, fancy junkets to conferences and hot hippy chicks had something to do with it as well. 

Laframboise is right, and it’s hugely annoying for many people. Wisely, she spoke of the omertà surrounding the IPCC for years – the fact that thousands of people must have known that the IPCC was lying about itself and not meeting its own standards of practice and performance. Why did it take an outsider to expose this? For the same reason that it took Keith Windschuttle to call Henry Reynolds et al to task: someone who was prepared to go through the footnotes with a fine-toothed comb and to call their bluff. 

Laframboise represents a long and noble tradition of investigative journalism. Long may she prosper – and what a timely reminder of all the good reasons to attack the Finkelstein project here. 


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