The Delinquent Teenager who was mistaken for the world's top climate expert
by Donna Laframboise
This summary started as a series of posts on the blog Catallaxy, as did the summary of The Climate Caper by Garth Paltridge, the policies of the Australian Greens and some background on anti-uranium activism in the past which put in place the infrastructure required to sustain the current scandal of politicised "climate science". Donna Laframboise comes with a first-rate track record in human rights, non-conformism and feminism (she supports father's rights). The book contains 36 short chapters plus extensive documentation to ensure that her claims can be checked.
Chapter 1 is "A closer look at the world's leading climate body". It is essential to realise that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political body, created by that most political organization, the United Nations to do the work of two of their subsidiary bodies, one concerned with weather and the other with the environment.
Every country in the world sends delegates to its occasional meetings: these are political representatives, not scientists. It is a little over 20 years old, strictly speaking not a teenager any more, but you could say it suffers from arrested development because it is driven by a particular political agenda, which has nothing to do with science and it is not restrained by democratic accountability.
Chapter 2 "Showered with Praise" runs through some of the glowing accolades that the IPCC has received from its political boosters and the mainstream media.
Chapter 3 "The Top Scientists & Best Experts?" takes up the claim by the longserving Chairman Rajendra Pachauri that the authors of the IPCC "Climate Bible" are "people who have been chosen on the basis of their track record, on their record of publications, on the research that they have done...They are people who are at the top of their profession".
How many times have we been told that all the thousands of legitimate climate scientists have reached a consensus and the only dissenters are unqualified outsiders, ideologues, cranks, or doing it for money from Big Oil?
So what do we find when we examine the processes which convert data and the raw material of science into IPCC papers? Who are the key people who control the process? What the the checks on the quality of the input to the reports? How are the thousands of legitimate climate scientists used in this process, especially if they have concerns about the quality of the data or the processes involved in writing and reviewing the papers?
And what do we find about the background and qualifications of the insiders who turn out to have far more influence on the final reports than the most eminent and experienced scientists in the relevant fields if they are not key figures on the report-writing teams?
Cutting to the chase, the insider circles are dominated by bureaucrats and ideologues. Science and the scientists are used and abused to fit the agenda of the insiders. You can get a hint of the way this works from the experience of some scientists during the campaign against uranium mining years ago.
The UN has been penetrated by people dedicated to the anti-nuclear doctrine, as demonstrated by the sabotage of papers that scientists submitted to the UN Environmental Programme conference on nuclear energy at Geneva in November 1978. Over 20 consultants submitted papers in advance and when they arrived in town they found that the conference report had been printed and the conclusions could be read in the local press. The report did not represent the material that was submitted. It was heavily edited with anti-nuclear bias. A running battle ensued with letters from the Chairman of the panel of scientists demanding a re-write. This effort was stonewalled by the Secretariat, led by a Mr El Hinawai, who gave out press releases which continued to misrepresent the situation, prompting more letters from the Chair of the panel, to no avail. The message of the scientists did not get officially accepted but Grover reported that an article by Mr Hinawai on the dangers of nuclear waste appeared in the official journal of the International Atomic Energy Agency and was quoted by an anti-nuclear letter writer in an Australian newspaper not long after. Bad news travels fast and far!
The chapters "Twenty-something Graduate Students", and "Activists" describe the number of senior authors who are not at the top of their professions, are young, and experienced mostly in political roles as environmental activists. Later chapters detail many cases of genuine "top of the tree professionals" who have been snubbed and marginalized by the IPCC.
If you have key people inside the organization you can run rings around scientists outside who have other things to do apart from dealing with obstructive ideologues. Laframboise found that this kind of thing happens all the time in the IPCC. Nothing is easy to find out due to the lack of transparency but with persistence some patterns emerge, of which the most significant include the selection of key people in report-writing, the handling of material which is not peer-reviewed (given the emphasis on peer review), the experience and qualifications of many key people (given the emphasis on the role of the very best and brightest climate scientists), the way that rules on quality control and deadlines are manipulated and the way that efforts to improve quality control are blocked.
Lack of transparency
On page 26 there are quotes about the superb transparence of the IPCC processes including a statement by over 250 US scientists but the evidence is clear from other sources that lack of transparency (and the failure of journalists and science writers) is a major problem.
The Climate Bible authors are chosen by a secretive process for starters (p 27). The IPCC receives nominations from governments (that should be a warning!). The names are not made public (another warning!). Finally the only information given out about the selected authors is their country of origin (never mind about qualifications and experience, that is assumed in such a reputable scientific organization). Resumes are submitted as part of the nomination process, why not put them on the website?
The key people producing the reports
There are three classes of writers (p 10). Coordinating lead authors (usually 2) are in charge of each chapter. Lead authors, ranging in number from a handful to dozens, do the bulk of the writing. Contributing authors provide material, usually on very specific topics, to be incorporated, cited or re-worked. Depending on the chapter there may be no contributing authors or as many as 20. Typically they do not attend the meetings of the other authors.
Obviously the coordinating lead authors are overwhelmingly the really key figures, followed by the lead authors. Some of these are incredibly unlikely figures, in terms of experience, qualifications and background. Like Richard Kline who achieved the status of a top world expert and coordinating lead author long before completing his doctorate. And Lisa Alexander, who in 2008 was still completing her PhD at Monash after she had been a contributing author to the 2001 Bible and a lead author in 2007.
Climate modelers are under the microscope in chapter 7. All of the scary scenarios come from models and so the modelers represent a very specialised, very influential and very closed shop. For some balance on models check out Garth Paltridge in The Climate Caper, especially the story about the "worst case" selection of the model for the Garnaut report which was used to craft our tax on carbon dioxide. Of course the details of the Australian modeling are yet to be revealed.
We are told that the science has been settled on the basis of "an immense edifice of painstaking studies published in the world's leading peer-reviewed journals...vetted and documented in excruciating detail..." And a climate modeler claims that the input to the reports "has been scrutinized to the highest level possible" (p 33). And "A core principle of the IPCC is that only peer-reviewed literature is cited" (p 41).
The Chairman himself made that claim in a speech to the legislators of North Carolina.
Leaving aside what we have learned about the corruption of the peer-review process, claims about the exclusive use of peer-reviewed literature are bogus. In a chapter on "the peer review fairy tale" Laframboise described a collaborative project involving a worldwide team of helpers who checked all the cited references in the 44 chapters of the 2007 report, counting how many were peer-reviewed and how many came from the "grey" literature.
Her suspicions were aroused by reports from IPCC expert reviewers (not insiders to the writing) that some items were being submitted which did not have scientific status. These even included some press releases, however their concerns were dismissed and the reports were listed as input to the final report (p46).
The final score for 18,531 references in the 2007 report was 5,587 (one third) not peer reviewed. In 21 of the 44 chapters the score for peer reviewed references did not reach 60%. This would not be so bad if it was admitted up front and in public, also if there were clearly defined and properly policed rules for vetting the grey matter (not peer-reviewed) for use by the inner circle of authors.
Among the sources used to support IPCC recommendations were newspapers and magazine articles, unpublished theses, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund documents, and yes, press releases.
"While Chairman Pachauri had declared an Indian government discussion paper fit only for the rubbish bin, we found that the Climate Bible cites dozens of discussion papers. In one case the decument relied on by the IPCC was clearly labelled as 'version one' of a draft." (p 48)
After the release the Chairman wrote a piece referring to "approximately 18,000 peer-reviewed publications", with the concession that "a limited amount of grey literature" was used "in cases where peer-reviewed literature was unavailable". One third is a limited amount? And what happened to planning and consultation with the profession? How did all the thousands of climate scientists in the world leave the IPCC short of peer-reviewed material for vital parts of the report?
This discovery suggests that the great mass of journalists and environmental commentators have been irresponsible and unprofessional in failing to report on this situation so the myth of universal peer-review remains alive.
The rules for using "grey" literature
Apart from the "rule" that limited quantities of non peer-reviewed material are used in special circumstances, there was a rule that such items have to be clearly identified in the list of references. One of the helpers found that a total of 6 (six) of almost 6,000 grey items were flagged.
Some people close to the action suggested that more efforts should be made, perhaps using a different colour to flag grey material. After some internal discussion there was a policy statement that peer-reviewed material should have priority and all mention of flagging grey matter has vanished (p. 53).
A glimmering of insight
In 2010 the InterAcademic Council which consists of science bodies around the world set up a committee to investigate the policies and procedures of the IPCC. They put up a website where people who had dealings with the IPCC could record their experiences. The information was posted without names attached, but it stated their role in the IPCC and/or their relationship to it. The responses amounted to almost 700 pages.
More on the review can be found here, including the 150 page final report. It was obviously written by friends of the IPCC and I don't imagine that Laframboise would endorse their conclusions, apart from the need for fundamental changes. Clearly it was not written to frighten the horses, the authors might want to work there one day.
"Through its unique partnership between scientists and governments, the IPCC has heightened public awareness of climate change, raised the level of scientific debate, and influenced the science agendas of many nations. However, despite these successes, some fundamental changes to the process and the management structure are essential."
The devil is in the details which Laframboise found among the responses. "People with direct experience of this organization were remarkably frank in their feedback. According to them, scientific excellence isn't the only reason individuals are invited to participate in the IPCC".
Someone writes "some of the lead authors...are clearly not qualified to be lead authors".
"There are far too many poliltically correct appointments [from] developing countries. This is reasonable as a learning experience but in my chapter half of the [lead authors] were not competent."
"The whole process is flawed by an excessive concern for geographical balance. All decisions are political before they are scientific."
"Half the authors are there for simply representing different parts of the world."
"The team members from the developing countries (including myself) were made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the team. In reality we were out of our intellectual depth as meaningful contributors to the process."
Laframboise reports that "In the view of at least one person, every IPCC personnel decision is influenced by concerns unrelated to science".
This is the organization that is supposed to represent the peak of scientific excellence, directing governments to spend billions of dollars to save the planet. It is claimed that the IPCC has one purpose – to summarise the extant scientific literature on the topic of human caused climate change. That may be the role of the scientific reports but everyone knows that the report that matters is the one on the policy (political) implications of the findings in the scientific reports. See Garth Paltridge's description of the function of the various committees and reports, he was close enough to see how things really work, similarly with the Australian Academy of Science.
Inflated claims of scientific rigor
Huge claims have been made about the scientific rigor of processes in the IPCC, especially by the longserving chairman Rajendra Pachauri. These have been repeated by gullible and scientifically illiterate journalists and by politicians who want us to believe that "the science is settled". The credibility of science and scientists has taken a huge hit because so many people who should have known better have been prepared to endorse the scam, including the Chief Scientist of Australia.
Claims were made about the use of peer-reviewed literature, when these claims were found to be bogus the defence was to claim that the process of internal review would ensure that only "high quality" information in the "grey" literature would be used in the reports.
The Steve McIntyre case
McIntyre has a track record of his own, with his demolition of the "hockey stick" claim about global warming. So it is surprising that he was selected to be an expert reviewer for the documents feeding into the 2007 reports. Laframboise reports that McIntyre noticed that the arguments in one of the major reports were based on two papers which had not yet been published. He was suspicious of the results so he asked to see the raw data. According to the IPCC rules the support units are supposed to provide expert reviewers with material that is not readily available. They have fulltime staff and the reviewers mostly do the work pro bono. The head of the unit was Martin Manning, now head of a research institute in a NZ university. Twice he refused to help McIntyre. His second email read:
"Let me repeat - If you wish to obtain data used in a paper you should make a direct request to the original authors yourself. It would be inappropriate for the IPCC to become involved in that communication and I have no intention of allowing the IPCC support unit to provide you with what would in effect be a secretarial service. There are over 1200 other scientists on our list of reviewers and we simply cannot get involved in providing special services for each...I will not be responding to further correspondence on this matter."
He probably could have emailed the two scientists in the time he took to reply to McIntyre and the request for the raw data would have had an official imprint, demonstrating a committment to quality review in the organization. In the event, the two authors refused to provide the data to McIntyre when he contacted them.
He reported this to Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist who had a senior role in assembling the 2007 report. In 2008 Time magazine named her as one of the world's most influential people due to her work on the 2007 Climate Bible.
Solomon's own response could hardly have been less helpful. IPCC rules, she said, "only oblige the technical support units to provide copies of unpublished papers. The IPCC does not, said Solomon, concern itself with the raw data on which papers - published or otherwise - are based."
In case that is not strange enough, Solomon then accused McIntyre of behaving improperly. In her view by contacting the journal, as he'd been told to do by the author, McIntyre was interfering with that journal's internal decisions. She stated that McIntyre had been granted access to the unpublished papers for one purpose only: to read them. She suggested that in seeking more information, he was violating IPCC confidentiality provisions. For this reason he could be struck from the official list of IPCC reviewers. She wrote to McIntyre:
"We must insist that from now on you honor all conditions of access to unpublished, and therefore confidential, material...The IPCC rules...have served the scientific and political communities well for numerous past international assessment rounds. If there is further evidence that you cannot accept them, or if your intent is to challenge them...then we will not be able to continue to treat you as an expert reviewer for the IPCC."[my emphasis]
So in what respect have the procedures of the IPCC "served the scientific and political communities well"? To conceal the bogus "science" generated by green activists and self-serving scientists with their thumbs on the scales of the equipment that has been allowed to bias the reports?
One of the authors who refused to make her data available to McIntyre was Gabriele Hegerl. She has a key role in the organization, indeed serveral key roles, as befits an ideological activist. She has a background in models, one of the softest but also most significant "foundations" of the dire predictions for the future. She also had key roles in writing parts of the 2007 "bible".
Warning, solutioneers at work!
Solutioneering is a term invented to describe the standard practice of ideologues and bureaucrats empowered by Big Government. James Gordon described the process thus: 1 The Solutioneer (S) identifies a Problem (practically any problem will do). 2 It is designated as a Very Big Problem. 3 The Solution is announced. 4 S advises that the rather steep price is not a worry because it is not really a cost, it is an Investment and also it will Cost More to Fix Later. 5 It is a Very Urgent Problem so there can be no delay. 6 Carping critics who claim (a) it is not such a serious problem and (b) there are better and cheaper ways to go are scolded for (a) not knowing anything and (b) being wicked ideologues (and criminally irrresponsible).
In a nutshell, solutioneering is a solution in search of a problem.
Consider the IPCC and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
At a speech celebrating the 20th birthdayof the IPCC the chairman stated "The UNFCCC is our main customer, if I could label them as such, and our interaction with them enriches the relevance of our work" (Laframboise p 79).
The UNFCCC convened in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and it turns out that they are the Arch Solutioneers behind the whole climate scam. Nearly 20 years ago they decided that greenhouse gasses are The Problem and 154 nations signed up in principle, followed in due course by the Kyoto Protocol which is a key component of the UNFCCC process.
So for 20 years the UNFCCC had a brief to reduce human emissions and failing to do so would be "nothing less than criminal irresponsibility". The IPCC is the device to recruit scientists to support the agenda. Observe the steps:
Step one was the political decision that a greenhouse gas treaty was a worthy and achieveable goal. Step two was the recognition that before such a treaty could be negotiated, certain documents - representing a common understanding - were required. Step three involved enlisting scientists to help produce such documents. (p.80)
Laframboise's point is that the UN did not wait for climate science to mature, 19 years ago political operators in the organization decided on the solution to a problem that legitimate climate scientists never depicted in alarming terms.
She notes that the shortest version of the Climate Bible appeard in 1990. Its findings were tentative. Yet by June 1992, aided by environmental activists, the UN had successfully convinced a majority of the world's governments to sign a framework document that declared greenhouse gases to be arch villains. ( p 81)
Bending the rules
Four chapters - 14 "The Stern Review Scandal", 15 "Cutoff Dates, What Cutoff Dates?", 16 "This is Called Cheating" and 17 "Cross-examination" report on some of the ways the rules on deadlines, peer review and the like are bent to suit the agenda.
The tone is set from the top and chapter 25 is "Pachauri's Cause", specifically "rapid transformation of the economic system" redefining cultural patterns and major lifestyle changes everywhere.
"We have been so drunk with this desire to produce and consume more and more...we are on an environmentally unsustainable course..I am not going to rest until I have articulated in every possible forum the need to bring about major structural changes in economic growth and development. That is the real issue, climate change is just a part of it." (my emphasis)
Chapter 26 "Follow the Leader" describes the way that the cause of climate change and "extreme weather" meant that the leading hurricane expert Chris Landsea had to be sidelined by Kevin Trenbath who was in charge of the relevant chapter in the Climate Bible. The following chapter takes that case further to describe the role of Susan Solomon, the co-chair of that working group, who was named in another chapter for threatening to dismiss Steve McIntyre when he tried to do a proper job as an expert reviewer. Chapter 28 follows the story about pseudo-scientific data on hurricanes that became part of the Climate Bible.
So a dubious finding that originated in a paper written by an insurance company was included in the Climate Bible in 2001. It then made its way into the peer-reviewed scientific literature in 2005. By 2009 it was being regarded as gospel by the US Government.
One of the expert reviewers asked an appropriate question about some papers that were accepted which contradicted the views of a leading expert in the field. What did the expert think about these papers? He was not asked. One of the graphs in a key paper was criticized by an expert reviewer, a different graph appeared in the final report, making the same (alarming) point.
Finally, in Febuary 2010, a contributing author of the chapter admitted he had drawn up the new graph "informally". [run that past me again!]. In the words of the (excluded) expert "The IPCC created a graph that did not exist in the peer reviewed literature or in the grey literature to suggest a relationship between increasing temperatures and rising disaster costs".
Nice work if you have enough control over the production to get that kind of result.
Chapters 29 and 30 run through one of the most scandalous beatups on the IPCC record, the malaria scare, suggesting that warming will massively increase the prevalence of malaria. Among other things malaria is not especially a warm climate illness. On top of that we find the domination of non-experts in the field, abuse of non-peer reviewed literature and uncritical channeling of the beat-ups by the obliging press.
Chapter 31 "Extinction Fiction" charts the abuse of pseudo-scientific findings to predict alarming species losses. One of the two key papers was written by Chris Thomas and 14 co-authors. Enter Daniel Botkin, one of the leading figures in the field. He described the Thomas paper as "the worst paper I have ever read in a major scientific journal".
"Is there any way you can cite the findings of the Thomas paper but not tell your readers about the controversy it generated? Is it honest to neglect to mention that the same journal that published the paper followed up six months later with not one, not two but three critiques? Is it scientific to fail to discuss the fact that another harsh appraisal of some 6000 words in length was authored by a scholar at Oxford [an Oxford scholar!] Yet that is precisely what happened."
Conclusion: Disband the IPCC
It is clear from the domination of people with special agendas in the administration of the ogranization and especially the final report writing , that the membership and procedures of the organization need to be completely revised to achieve any hope of scientific credibility. The only sensible way to move forward is to conduct a top to bottom review with complete transparency, then either to wind it up or to put the procedures on a completely different and much more scientific footing. Good luck to any Government that tries to get that ball rolling.