IPCC report: done well, could do better

The InterAcademy Council report on the IPCC — Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCCreleased yesterday, calls for “fundamental reforms” to the IPCC’s management structure and review processes. Climate Central provides a useful summary of the key findings:

  • The IPCC should create an Executive Committee to run the organization in between major conferences.
  • Rather than have the IPCC director serve for two six-year terms, a new director should be appointed for each major assessment report (there have been four so far). Since the IPCC is well into the fifth assessment, it isn’t clear whether Dr. Pachauri will step down (he’s evidently said that any decision will have to wait for the next IPCC meeting, in Korea in October).
  • The reviewers who decide what makes it into the final report and what doesn’t should work harder to address comments from authors, and to let dissenting views be reflected more fully in the finished product.
  • Statements about certainties and uncertainties about climate science need to be more explicit, need to be based on a more uniform set of criteria, and need to be clearer about how they were calculated.
  • The IPCC in general needs to be more open and transparent about how it goes about its business.
  • The IPCC needs to improve the way it deals with so-called “grey literature”– that is, non-peer-reviewed reports that contain valuable information, but which haven’t already been subjected to strict scientific scrutiny.

Professor Martin Manning, Director of the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington told the Science Media Centre that he welcomed the report:

The IAC has run a detailed review of the process used by the IPCC for assessing scientific understanding and this has produced a number of useful comments that I think most climate scientists will agree with. Their report accepts that scientific understanding of climate change is developing rapidly and this means that the process for assessing it for policymakers needs to become more dynamic.

More reaction: Roger Harrabin at the BBC, Guardian, New Scientist, plus the UN webcast of the press conference is here.

My take? It would be a miracle if a 22 year old organisation with minimal full-time staff that has seen its raison d’être move up to the top of the list of global priorities couldn’t be improved. The suggestions look sensible, and if they help to defuse the continuing attacks from the usual suspects, so much the better.

The secret migration

Acouple of weeks ago, a comment on carbon footprints and immigration kicked off a brief exchange of views on New Zealand’s vulnerability to climate-forced migration. It’s an interesting subject, worth more attention, and so in this post I’m going to set out how I see NZ’s position in the context of the likely future flows of climate-forced migration.

Let’s start by defining the probable sources of migrants. The first and most obvious are refugees forced to move by climate impacts. The horrendous situation in Pakistan gives some idea of the sheer scale of the problems likely to be faced by some of the world’s most populous and least-wealthy countries. Here’s how the New York Times describes the situation in Pakistan:

Initial estimates for the scale of damages and human suffering for Pakistan’s worst flooding in 80 years, is larger than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, 2005 Kashmir earthquake, 2008 Cyclone Nargis disaster in Burma and 2010 Haitian earthquake — combined.

Each of the great Asian megadeltas — in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China — could face similar problems if the Asian monsoon intensifies further, or if sea level rise picks up pace. The potential for tens of millions of people to be made homeless, to start a desperate search for dry land and food is obvious — but that’s not where New Zealand’s principal vulnerability lies.

Continue reading “The secret migration”


The Cognitive Science Lab at the University of Western Australia has put together an internet survey to test people’s attitudes to science. Prof Stephan Lewandowsky describes it thus: “the rationale behind the survey is to draw linkages between attitudes to climate science and other scientific propositions (eg HIV/AIDS) and to look at what skepticism might mean (in terms of endorsing a variety of propositions made in the media)”. He’s particularly interested in the views of people who follow science blogs, so please go along and give it a try. Anonymity assured, and the results will find their way into the literature eventually.

[Rutles, if only for the lyrics…]

Time to ring some changes

Climate protestors at Aberdeen The results of the first climate trial in Scotland’s history were declared a few days ago when the court imposed modest fines ranging from £300 to £700 on each of nine activists who had broken into the Aberdeen airport in protest against the soaring carbon dioxide emissions caused by aviation.

Dan Glass, one of the nine, has commented:

“We’re not terrorists, we’re people who believe delivering our message on climate change is worth being charged and fined…We are secretaries, parents, cooks, community workers, architects and saxophonists. We are part of a growing movement of concerned citizens who are prepared to put our bodies in the way of dangerous high-carbon developments.”

He spoke of their action as “justified, proportionate and necessary” in the face of catastrophic climate change, and quoted Michael Mansfield QC, one of Britain’s best-known defence barristers, who a couple of days prior to the sentencing said:

“As I write, one fifth of Pakistan, already blighted by earthquakes, is covered with flood waters threatening the health and safety of over six million people. Without conscientious and principled protest which focuses on the undoubted factors which contribute to this decimation of the environment, the urgency of the problem will not be addressed. I trust these entirely legitimate and selfless objectives will be reflected in the way the Climate 9 are judged by the court.”

It looks as if they were.

Continue reading “Time to ring some changes”

Report clears IPCC head Pachauri, UK paper apologises

Back in March I posted on IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri’s stout defence of the IPCC report against the attacks to which it was being subjected by hysterical denialism.  But he has also had to defend himself against accusations in an article by Christopher Booker and Richard North in the Sunday Telegraphin December which claimed that the UN climate chief was “making a fortune from his links with ‘carbon trading’ companies” and that payments from his work for other organisations “must run into millions of dollars”.

KPMG was engaged by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the non-profit organisation Pachauri heads, to conduct an independent review of personal financial records of Dr Pachauri and other records of TERI to confirm if there is any evidence that suggests that Dr Pachauri misused his position for personal benefit as alleged.

The KPMG report has now been made public.  The Guardian reports:


“The KPMG audit, completed in March, showed the allegation that Pachauri had made millions of dollars could not be further from the truth. In addition to his annual salary of £45,000, the auditors found that in the period 1 April 2008 – 31 December 2009, Pachauri received 20,000 rupees (£278) from two national power commissions in India, on which he serves as director; 35,880 rupees (£498) for articles and lectures; and a maximum of 100,000 rupees (£1,389) in the form of royalties from his books and awards.

“Any money paid as a result of work that Pachauri had done for other organisations went to TERI. The accounts also show that Pachauri also donated to the institute a lifetime achievement award from the Environment Partnership Summit – a 200,000 rupee prize he would have been entitled to keep.”

The Sunday Telegraph has removed the article from its website and apologised, hardly handsomely but apparently to avoid libel proceedings:

“[The article] was not intended to suggest that Dr Pachauri was corrupt or abusing his position as head of the IPCC and we accept KPMG found Dr Pachauri had not made ‘millions of dollars’ in recent years. We apologise to Dr Pachauri for any embarrassment caused.”

George Monbiot has made trenchant comment.

“Has anyone been as badly maligned as Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ?

“…The story immediately travelled around the world. It was reproduced on hundreds of blogs. The allegations it contained were widely aired in the media and generally believed. For a while, no discussion of climate change or the IPCC appeared complete without reference to Pachauri’s ‘dodgy’ business dealings and alleged conflicts of interest.

“There was just one problem: the story was untrue.

“It’s not just that Pachauri hadn’t been profiting from the help he has given to charities, businesses and institutions, his accounts show that he is scrupulous to the point of self-denial.”

The Sunday Telegraph article also complained that we don’t know “how much we all pay him” as chairman of the IPCC. The answer, as Monbiot reports, is nothing.  This was information that the journalists could easily have obtained but driven by their intention to malign preferred not to.

This won’t be the end of the matter for denialists of course. North on his blog puts the apology down to the paper’s need to avoid libel proceedings from an “unethical law firm” and continues undaunted:

“If you wish to believe that means Pachauri didn’t make millions of dollars, that is your affair. But the crucial thing is that the paper has not apologised for accusing Pachauri of making millions of dollars. That accusation stands uncorrected. The paper simply accepts that KPMG has a claim in this respect.”

Monbiot expects that the smear campaign will continue, and become ever more lurid as new charges are invented.

“The best we can do is to set out the facts and appeal to whatever decency the people spreading these lies might have, and ask them to consider the impact of what they have done to an innocent man. Will it work? I wouldn’t bet on it. As we have seen in the United States, where some people (often the same people) continue to insist that Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born abroad, certain views are impervious to evidence.”

If we need reminding, denialism will stop at nothing in its campaign to denigrate the science of climate change. That is what the attacks on Pachauri are about. He is chairman of the IPCC. Portray him as dishonest and hope thereby to spread doubt about the IPCC reports. It is determination to suppress the science which informs the attacks on him and on the scientists who have been falsely accused of various malpractices.