I was mulling over the IPCC release schedule, which has a procedure that is, shall we say, unprecedented in my experience with public disclosure documents. The schedule has been available for some time, but, to my knowledge, no one has commented on its combination of absurdity and condescension.
On February 2, 2007, they are releasing the Summary for Policy-Makers to great fanfare. But the actual WG1 Report will not be published on Feb 2, 2007. Amazingly, the actual release of the 4AR (Fourth Assessment Report) does not come until a few months later in May 2007. Thus, there will be no possibility for external readers to verify what IPCC insiders say will be an “iconic statement” against the actual WG1 report during that period.
By making access available only to insiders, IPCC has created a structure where IPCC insiders will try to shape perceptions of the WG1 report for 3 months before any critical appraisal of the final report (available since October 2006) is possible.
Here’s what the schedule at the IPCC-UCAR website says:
It is expected that the approved text of the Summary for Policymakers will be released at a press conference in Paris on February 2, 2007, and that it will also be available on this web site from that date.
Prior to its final approval on February 2, the content of the report is embargoed in order to allow the final stages of review and revision to be carried out in a balanced way. Speculation as to the content of the report has been inaccurate and unhelpful. All those interested in this new assessment of climate science are asked to accept the need to wait for the report to be completed according to normal IPCC procedures.
The full Working Group I report will be available online from May 2007. It will also be published by Cambridge University Press and is expected to be available in book form by late June 2007.
In an electronic era, it is completely trivial to post chapter pdf’s online. Indeed, that’s what IPCC WG1 did during the review process and plans to do in May 2007. The Second Draft was distributed in April 2006.
The Fourth Assessment Report should be released online on Feb 2, 2007 concurrently with the Summary for Policy-Makers.
Update (p.m.): If you’re wondering about this procedure which, to my knowledge, is unprecedented in public commission reporting, here’s what IPCC procedures (section 4) say about Technical Report acceptance:
Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.
So the purpose of the three-month delay between the publication of the Summary for Policy-Makers and the release of the actual WG1 is to enable them to make any “necessary” adjustments to the technical report to match the policy summary. Unbelievable. Can you imagine what securities commissions would say if business promoters issued a big promotion and then the promoters made the “necessary” adjustments to the qualifying reports and financial statements so that they matched the promotion. Words fail me.
IPCC insiders should not be allowed to change a comma of the WG1 Report after Feb 2, 2007 to “ensure consistency” with the Summary. If the two are inconsistent, let the chips fall where they may.