At the beginning of September, I was copied an email discussion reporting the online publication in Climatic Change of a paper by Warwick McKibbin, David Pearce, and Alison Stegman. What was notable about this paper was that it was submitted in September 2005. What for readers of this site, perhaps, was unremarkable was that it supported criticisms by David Henderson and Ian Castles of IPCC SRES scenarios for their choice of market exchange rates rather than PPP-adjusted GDPs. The paper suggested a serious overestimation of emissions by 2100 from this error alone.
Also unremarkable to CA readers was the fact that a paper on some of the same issues by two members of the IPCC SRES team (“PPP versus MER: Searching for Answers in a Multi-dimensional Debate”, authored by Detlef van Vuuren and Knut Alfsen, both of whom were lead authors of Chapter 3 of the AR4 WGIII report) was received by Climatic Change on 15 November 2005 (over two months AFTER the MPS paper); accepted on 14 December 2005, less than a month later; published online by Climatic Change on 4 May 2006; and published in the journal itself in the March 2006 issue. Clearly, it was suggested, Climatic Change can move with despatch when it wants to.
The email exchanges reminded me that on this site I reported that IPCC Working Group III who deal with these scenarios had published the Expert Reviewer’s Comments and perhaps over optimistically suggested that if asked the TSU in the Netherlands would release the Review Editors’ reports. In fact they did not. Nor did they ever publish the Lead Authors’ responses to the Expert Reviewers’ Comments as eventually had WGI, with a little persuasion, and (credit where credit is due) the Met Office responsible for WGII did before being asked.
A week ago I asked the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency where I could find the “open archive” required by Appendix A to Principles Governing IPCC Work as it was felt there were some questions that still needed answers and the Dutch site had disappeared. I also asked for access to the various WGIII documents under the European Directive which incorporated into European Law the Aarhus Convention. The answer from Dr Meyer was that all the files had been transferred to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) to whom he copied my requests.
Dr Matschoss, at PIK, responded today that he would raise the question at the meeting of the IPCC Bureau on 17/18 September and get back to me in 1 -2 weeks. Remember that at this point I had only asked for the AR4 documents which according to the ‘Principles’ should have been in an “open archive”. I believe however this is an important issue that the IPCC can no longer prevaricate upon and replied with the open letter I reproduce below.
Dear Dr Matschoss,
Participation, Openness and Transparency
I agree that the meeting of the IPCC Bureau tomorrow and Friday is the right forum to discuss the points I raised with Dr Meyer and I hope that you might present this open letter which outlines what I believe many observers and commentators on the IPCC process believe should happen in the fifth assessment.
From its inception the IPCC has required the Working Groups to undertake their assessments on an open and transparent basis. This is contained in the second Principle Governing IPCC Work which has been successively reviewed and reconfirmed. It is an overarching principle, and the fact that the detailed procedures in Appendix A only prescribe few detailed requirements of documents to be archived does not limit the generality of the second Principle.
In calling for the first Freedom of Information Conference UN Resolution 59 in 1947 began:
“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and is the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated”
Since the first IPCC Assessment Report there have been dramatic increases in communication technology which in turn have lead to an ease with which information can be disseminated and shared inexpensively. At the same time the Internet has more recently given voice to the latent interest in many areas such as climate change and I do not believe the IPCC’s approach to disclosure, evidenced by the Working Groups in AR4, conforms to the requirements of openness and transparency as originally understood by the IPCC’s founders let alone in our modern world.
I have detailed many examples from WGI in a published paper and in a letter, sent last year to Dr Christ, which was neither answered nor acknowledged, and I asked for various information including the unpublished WGIII Expert Reviewers’ Comments and the Review Editors’ Reports.
PIK appear to have a well constructed TSU web site, but it requires a user name and password. The working group and TSU clearly should not have to allow for an unlimited number of unofficial, even if expert, members of the public commenting upon the drafts and other documents. However, to be open and transparent as is required by the Principles, I would ask you to provide a “guest” login to allow the public to follow the assessment.
Clearly, for the IPCC to be open and transparent, timetables, instructions, the intermediate drafts, Reviewers’ Comments and Lead Authors’ responses should be open to public inspection at the same time that the many hundreds of world wide IPCC participants have access to them. The Internet discussion groups and the media generally provide a good forum for the public to discuss the forthcoming assessment and through the media and their political representatives can if necessary make their views felt and participate in the assessment. None of this need impede the work of the TSU. In the same way the Lead Author’s meetings and Working Group plenary sessions should, in this 21st century, be webcast if you are to persuade the public that you are genuinely open and transparent.
Finally I would ask that the Bureau require that the Review Editors’ reports should be published when they are received and should meet the reasonable expectation of the public that they be as Appendix A requires. They should be a “written report” as were several AR4 WGII reports rather than a bland “sign off” of WGI, which were published, and those of WGIII which along with their Expert Reviewer’s comments were not.
While I will accept the foregoing is a departure from previous Working Group practices and may be unwelcome, I would point out that it is no more than PIK should find itself obliged to require of the TSU under the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (“the Aarhus Convention”).
I will report back on this matter. I hope that the IPCC Bureau will recognise not only the IPCC Principles but European Law under which WGIII must operate. If so I hope that they will also accept that as a sister UN body to the UNECE they should fully adopt the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and require the WGI and II to also provide unrestricted access to the AR5 working documents.