IPCC Procedures

There’s a description of IPCC procedures for adopting reports here. There are a number of policies on "disparate views" or "different views" For example, section 4.2.3 says that, in the preparation of a report draft:

In preparing the first draft, and at subsequent stages of revision after review, Lead Authors should clearly identify disparate views for which there is significant scientific or technical support, together with the relevant arguments.

Section 4.2.5 says in connection with the Preparation of Final Draft Report:

It is important that Reports describe different (possibly controversial) scientific, technical, and socio-economic views on a subject, particularly if they are relevant to the policy debate.

Section 4.3 says of the Summaries for Policymakers that it should be:

consistent with the factual material contained in the full scientific, technical and socioeconomic assessment or Special Report accepted by the Working Group.

Any obligation to disclose disparate or different views does not seem to exist formally for writers of the SPM. Section 4.4.1 describes the process for a Synthesis Report which is to be written by the IPCC Chair and is to be written in a crash program at a Panel session:

This approach will take 5-7 working days of a Session of the Panel.

Annex 1 section 1 says that:

Lead Authors are required to record in the Report views which cannot be reconciled with a consensus view but which are nonethele ss scientifically or technically valid.

Annex 1 section 5 says that Review Editors should:

ensure that all substantive expert and government review comments are afforded appropriate consideration, advise lead authors on how to handle contentious/controversial issues and ensure genuine controversies are reflected adequately in the text of the Report. … ensure that where significant differences of opinion on scientific issues remain, such differences are described in an annex to the Report

For chapter 2 of TAR, the Coordinating Lead Authors were C. Folland of Climate Research Unit ( the sea surface bucket adjuster) and Thomas Karl of NOAA, both of whom had occupied a similar position for the same chapter in IPCC 1990. The Lead Authors were: J.R. Christy, R.A. Clarke, G.V. Gruza, J. Jouzel, M.E. Mann, J. Oerlemans, M.J. Salinger, S.-W. Wang. The Review Editors were: R. Hallgren, B. Nyenzi. Hallgren was at NOAA from 1970 to 1988. In browsing IPCC TAR, their efforts to identify and describe "different views" does not seem as diligent as seems to me to be mandated under their procedures. My very first impression of it was that it was highly oriented to advocacy and did not meet "full, true and plain disclosure" standards as I understood them. Merely reading these procedures suggests a couple of questions:

1) What steps did the IPCC take to ensure that WG1 complied with these procedures? For example, when you do a prospectus, lawyers actually do try to check this sort of stuff. Even though there were some somewhat subtle disclosure obligations, did IPCC take any steps to ensure that the Lead Authors, Coordinating Lead Authors etc. understood these duties? 2) Do these procedures rise to a "full, true and plain disclosure" standard? Should they? 3) Mere "consistency" for the SPMs is a pretty vague benchmark. Should the SPM have a "full, true and plain disclosure" criterion of some sort? 4) Is the crash schedule for making a Synthesis Report a good way of doing business?

There are lots of interesting issues. It will be fascinating to see what the House Energy and Commerce, who seem to have pretty broad experience with different sorts of organizations and institutions, make of this system. When you think about it, the IPCC has more or less morphed into a big feature on the political and scientific landscape with pretty unique ways of doing things. Maybe their methods are good, but it is surely long overdue for someone like the House Committee to look closely at these methods.

One Comment

  1. TCO
    Posted Sep 20, 2005 at 11:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Maybe the next IPCC will include a MM criticism of the hockey stick. If they don’t just scarp it outright?

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