Pachauri: No Conflict of Interest Policy for AR5

Yesterday, IPCC chairman Pachauri told Oliver Morton of The Economist at an IPCC event in Brussels that conflict of interest policies would not not apply to AR5 authors. IPCC thereby sabotaged recommendations from the Interacademy Council and announced its plans to evade the conflict of interest policies passed at the 33rd IPCC plenary only a month ago.

The Pachauri Interview
Here’s what Pachauri said in response to Oliver Morton – see Morton’s interesting blog article here:

B: Are you happy with the IPCC’s new conflict-of-interest policy? [adopted at the panel’s recent plenary]

RP: Absolutely. I must say that was a very heartening piece of work. People put in a lot of effort to come up with what I think is a very robust policy in terms of conflict of interest.

B: At what point should it start to apply?

RP: It’s applicable right away. Of course if you look at conflict of interest with respect to authors who are there in the 5th Assessment Report we’ve already selected them and therefore it wouldn’t be fair to impose anything that sort of applies retrospectively.

All sorts of editorial responses spring to mind (one of which is that, in transcription, Pachauri sure sounds like Acton of East Anglia.) But first let’s follow some backstory – through the IAC Report and the COI policy adopted at the 33rd IPCC plenary.

IAC Report
Last summer, the Interacademy Panel (in rather sharp terms) recommended that IPCC adopt a Conflict of Interest policy, first noting that many institutions had conflict of interest policies and reporting on the IPCC situation as follows:

The IPCC does not have a conflict-of-interest or disclosure policy for its
senior leadership (i.e., IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), Working Group
Co-chairs and authors, or the staff of the Technical Support Units. The
professional staff members of the IPCC Secretariat are employees of
WMO and/or UNEP and are subject to their disclosure and ethics policies.
In particular, all IPCC Secretariat staff in Geneva, except for the Deputy
Secretary, are WMO employees and therefore are required to follow the
WMO code of ethics; the IPCC Deputy Secretary follows UN staff regulations;
and the IPCC Secretary must comply with the rules for both UN and
WMO staff because the Secretary is seconded from UNEP and WMO.

The lack of a conflict-of-interest and disclosure policy for IPCC leaders
and Lead Authors was a concern raised by a number of individuals who
were interviewed by the Committee or provided written input. Questions
about potential conflicts of interest, for example, have been raised about
the IPCC Chair’s service as an adviser to, and board member of, for-profit
energy companies (Pielke, 2010b), and about the practice of scientists
responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work. The
Committee did not investigate the basis of these claims, which is beyond
the mandate of this review. However, the Committee believes that the
nature of the IPCC’s task (i.e., in presenting a series of expert judgments
on issues of great societal relevance) demands that the IPCC pay special
attention to issues of independence and bias to maintain the integrity of,
and public confidence in, its results.

Note that the IAC drew specific attention to the problem of authors assessing their own work – one of the issues involved with the current Greenpeace situation and obviously not dealt with yet. In response, the IPCC said that they would discuss it at the next Plenary session – the 32nd session last October:

The IPCC Secretariat informed the Committee that the Panel will be
discussing options for conflict-of-interest and disclosure policies for the
various actors in the IPCC process (e.g., members of the Bureau, non-UN
staff, non-WMO staff, and authors) at its next Plenary session.


IPCC Conflict of Interest Policy

I haven’t yet parsed the minutes of the 32nd session, but the minutes of the 33rd session(May 2011 in Abu Dhabi) indicate that they formed a Task Group on Conflict of Interest Policy, which reported prior to the 33rd session at which a conflict of interest policy was adopted. Conflict of interest is defined in the policy passed in May 2011 as follows:

11. A “conflict of interest” refers to any current professional, financial or other interest which could: i) significantly impair the individual’s objectivity in carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities for the IPCC, or ii) create an unfair advantage for any person or organization. For the purposes of this policy, circumstances that could lead a reasonable person to question an individual’s objectivity, or whether an unfair advantage has been created, constitute a potential conflict of interest. These potential conflicts are subject to disclosure.

The policy distinguished between conflict of interest and bias, an important distinction. In respect to bias, the new policy requires;

Those involved in selecting authors will need to strive for an author team composition that reflects a balance of expertise and perspectives, such that IPCC products are comprehensive, objective, and neutral with respect to policy. In selecting these individuals, care must be taken to ensure that biases can be balanced where they
exist.

While our attention to WG3 has been attracted by conflict of interest, WG3′s ability to function as a source of trustworthy information is arguably prejudiced even more greatly by its failure to comply with bias policies – a point neatly put by Morton as follows (see original post for more discussion)

The real problem for the IPCC is not that Greenpeace infiltrated it; it is that when it comes to the world of renewables Greenpeace didn’t really need to.

The opening sections of the IPCC policy on conflict of interest state the purpose of the policy very clearly:

2. The role of the IPCC demands that it pay special attention to issues of independence and bias in order to maintain the integrity of, and public confidence in, its products and processes. It is essential that the work of IPCC is not compromised by any conflict of interest for those who execute it….

4. The IPCC Conflict of Interest Policy is designed to ensure that conflicts of interest are identified, communicated to the relevant parties, and managed to avoid any adverse impact on IPCC balance, products and processes, thereby protecting the individual, the IPCC, and the public interest. The individual and the IPCC should not be placed in a situation that could lead a reasonable person to question, and perhaps discount or dismiss, the work of the IPCC simply because of the existence of a conflict of interest.

Quite so. This states about as clearly as possible why the policy recommended by IAC and adopted by the 33rd Plenary should apply immediately to AR5. But instead, Pachauri says that these limited and sensible policies will not apply to AR5 because application of these sensible policies would not be ‘fair’ to the conflicted authors.

What isn’t ‘fair’ – either to the non-conflicted authors and, more importantly, to policy-makers and the public – is the refusal of Pachauri and other IPCC plenipotentiaries to forthwith implement the policy – not just on conflict of interest, but on bias.

Had IPCC not sabotaged the IAC recommendation for independent members of the Executive Committee, it would have been possible to notify them of the problem. However, as noted earlier today, IPCC sabotaged that IAC recommendation as well.


33 Comments

  1. Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    He’s saying AR5 is so utterly corrupt there’s no way to salvage it before it’s time to write AR6. Nice to agree with Pachauri at least once.

  2. Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Reply

    hey, this is all out of the Sepp Blatter school for running INTERNATIONAL organisations.

  3. Hector M.
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

    When lead authors for AR5 were selected, the IAC assessment was already underway or finished. The IPCC leadership hurried to appoint lead and other authors in the (apparently successful) hope of avoiding much of IAC recommendations as regards AR5. Regarding AR6, they may have thought, there is plenty of time to do further mischief.

    • JEM
      Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 1:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Or they regard AR5 as the last hurrah, the last effort at pushing the whole smelly mess over the goal line.

  4. Douglas Hoyt
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 1:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    AR5 may very well say that AGW is 100% certain and therefore there is no need for AR6. A good way for them to avoid conflict of interest rules.

  5. pesadia
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Essentially this means that for AR5 the IPCC will maintain their LACK of integrity.
    You cannot maintain integrity that you do not possess, only that which you have.

  6. Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Of course, Dr R K ‘I really don’t know what my salary is’ Pachauri is funded by an organization (TERI) financed on the basis of AGW fear. So, what could he be expected to do about conflicts of interest?

  7. Dagfinn
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s perfect. They can flaunt their conflict of interest policy and not have to implement it.

    • Alan Esworthy
      Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 1:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Do you mean to say that they can flaunt it and flout it simultaneously?

  8. Grant
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Their actions will undoubtedly place the AR5 report under a higher level of scrutiny than previous reports received. Dr. Pachauri apparently does not believe, or will not acknowledge, that the IPCC has a crediblity problem.
    This may well be the last IPCC report presented by Dr. Pachauri or anyone else- and that may not be a good thing.

  9. Mark in Oz
    Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am actually pleased that it’s just Business As Usual with this bunch.

    As Napoleon is reputed to have said:

    “Never disturb your enemies while they are busy making blunders”.

    • John Tofflemire
      Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 12:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Brilliantly stated.

  10. Posted Jun 18, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The IPCC reminds me of the Peoples Democratic Socialist Republics of the Cold War. They always professed the highest commitment to democratic principles, while violating them with impunity. When you sit in judgment of yourself, you always find your conduct exemplary.

  11. Bill Hunter
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 12:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Simple solution – pull their funding

    If its broke and can’t be fixed its time to toss it.

  12. GixxerBoy
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 12:38 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve – What do you think is the best approach from here? Aside from continuing to raise the issue of deliberate avoidance of a Conflict of Interest policy, ever time AR5 is mentioned.

  13. Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 1:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “Of course if you look at conflict of interest with respect to authors who are there in the 5th Assessment Report we’ve already selected them and therefore it wouldn’t be fair to impose anything that sort of applies retrospectively”

    It would only not be fair if they have embarassing conflicts of interest. All the more reason, surely, that they should be disclosed. If that means some of the authors need to rewrite what they’ve written or have it excluded, surely that’s the point.

  14. Phillip Bratby
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 1:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is there anybody out there who could succinctly put the history of all the errors, corruption, ignoring AIC recommendations and conflict of interest etc that Steve has revealed about the IPCC into say a couple of pages? In the UK, for example we could send it to our MPs and get questions asked in parliament about why our Government still believes in the IPCC and why it should base its policies on the IPCC reports.

    There is no point in us all separately spending hours pulling something together.

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 7:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Phillip Bratbry Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 1:16 AM

      Yes, I’m starting to gather the impressions of others on whether we can get an investigation by our Federal Auditor-General. It is plain awful that a Government relies so much on a single, unaudited body like the IPCC, with blind faith.

  15. geronimo
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 2:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “Those involved in selecting authors will need to strive for an author team composition that reflects a balance of expertise and perspectives, such that IPCC products are comprehensive, objective, and neutral with respect to policy.”

    If I’m reading this correctly it means that any organisation, or scientist that has expressed views on policy should be excluded from preparing IPCC reports if they aren’t “neutral with respect to policy”. While it is a welcome statement, I doubt very much that Pachy intends to apply it, else he’d lose the majority of the personnel of WG1, and a good proportion of WG2 and possibly all of WG3.

    • Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 7:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

      It is quite possible to have a bias or policy interest and write an objective report. You simply take care to cite your critics. Every time one submits a paper to a journal, if you don’t objectively describe the state of the art (even if you disagree) the reviewers will be happy to point this out for you, and do. And in the discussion section one is obliged to discuss why other studies and yours may not agree. This practice of making opposing views simply vanish by fiat is rather novel to climate science.

  16. Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 4:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Re “Gixxer Boy” comment above, since you have widespread acceptance for impartiality (however grudging and qualified from the Warmists) it it possible that you could act as a collecting and reporting body for compiling conflicts of interest and potential bias among AR5 authors? You could well become an outlet for whistleblowers within IPCC (would it be tecnically possible to offer them anonymity, whilst still declaring themselves to you?).
    If you then publish the list in “up to now” form from time to time, it might lead to pressure from IPCC’s backers for action to be taken to prevent AR5 becoming devalued even before it is published? Allowing Climate Change to be dealt with in an adult and responsible manner this time around, to the benefit of all (barring a few vested interests, of course).

  17. Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 5:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

    IMHO, the most telling part of this so-called conflict of interest policy lies in:

    The individual and the IPCC should not be placed in a situation that could lead a reasonable person to question, and perhaps discount or dismiss, the work of the IPCC simply because of the existence of a conflict of interest. [emphasis added -hro]

    As I had noted when I wrote about this last month, inclusion of the word “simply” strongly suggests that (in their view!) those who might “question … discount or dismiss” their work on such grounds are a damn nuisance!

    Note that the IAC drew specific attention to the problem of authors assessing their own work – one of the issues involved with the current Greenpeace situation and obviously not dealt with yet.

    Ah but they have dealt with it, using the “team-work side-step” (used by Muir Russell in absolving Jones and Briffa from any responsibilty for their respective actions):

    9. The policy will be executed to reflect the various roles, responsibilities and levels of authority, of participants in the IPCC process. In particular, consideration should be given to whether responsibility is held at an individual level or shared within a team; to the level of influence held over the content of IPCC products.

    Seems to me, from what I’ve read, that they’re already using this “team-work side-step” as cover for Teske’s obvious conflict of interest.

  18. chris1958
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 5:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Sir Humphrey lives on.

  19. oneuniverse
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 6:47 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Pachauri : “Of course if you look at conflict of interest with respect to authors who are there in the 5th Assessment Report we’ve already selected them and therefore it wouldn’t be fair to impose anything that sort of applies retrospectively.”

    This is ridiculous – Morton needs to ask Pachauri how he has arrived at his decision of fairness.

    On the one hand, there’s the goal of not knowingly employing individuals with conflicts-of-interest, so adhering to the IPCC’s CoI policy to ensure that “the work of IPCC is not compromised by any conflict of interest for those who execute it” (an “essential” goal according to the policy).

    On the other hand, there’s the goal of not disappointing and inconveniencing the handful of IPCC authors who would be told that they’re disqualified according to the CoI policy.

    The first goal will benefit everyone who will be potentially affected by the IPCC’s report – that would at minimum be the inhabitants of nations with carbon policies informed by the IPCC. The second goal is trivial and limited in comparison, yet according to Pachauri it’s the more important of the two.

    • ChE
      Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

      If this were Steve’s proverbial mining report, and an important policy change were adopted, they’d delay the project in order to accommodate the policy change. But remember that Pachauri is a railroad engineer, and his train has to pull out on time, whether the passengers are loaded or not.

      • oneuniverse
        Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Pachauri has a record of not discharging his duties truthfully or responsibly:

        Judgement of Delhi High Court Judge K. Ramamoorthy (unearthed by Ricahrd North @ EU Referendum)
        “Old World Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. vs India Habitat Centre” – 23/8/1996

        In the light of these facts I have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that these three Officers Mr. Bhatnagar, Mr. [sic] Pachauri and Mr. Dinesh Mehta have suppressed material facts and they have sworn to false affidavits.

        And I am afraid, that the affairs and the efficient management of the Centre are not safe in the hands of officers like Mr. K. K. Bhatnagar, Dr. R.K. Pachauri arid [sic] Mr. Dinesh Mehta and they had ignored that the officers have to function as a public functionaries within the parameters of the Constitution.

        • matthu
          Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Permalink

          Those quotations from Judgement of Delhi High Court Judge K. Ramamoorthy “Old World Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. vs India Habitat Centre” – 23/8/1996 might on the face of it serve to disqualify a lesser individual from any public office. I wonder what justification Western governments can have for continuing to place any value at all in what the IPCC says?

  20. oMan
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

    hro001: “team-work side-step” is exactly right. That’s what they seem to be doing with Teske and the Greenpeace mess. And it is an infinitely flexible tool to deceive and evade criticism. So long as they have teams, they need not assign “ownership” of COI or bias at all. Because if Author A standing alone would be guilty of COI or bias, the inclusion of (puppets and placeholders) authors B, C…N will somehow alleviate that. We will not be told how authors B,C…N actually exercised any intellectual or editorial discipline over author A. That would be tedious and overly intrusive. Net effect: much smoke, blinding display of mirrors, all done, thank you, good night.

  21. Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 8:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Has the IPCC ever been fair and open?

    Why do we still have the organization hang around anyway?

    If it is disbanded.Climate research will regain some independence.

  22. ferd berple
    Posted Jun 19, 2011 at 8:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The IPCC previously announced that it would not implement the IAC recommendation to flag non peer reviewed work. Now the IPCC will not implement the IAC recommendation on conflict of interest.

    What this really means is that the IPCC holds itself above that IAC.

  23. Matt Skaggs
    Posted Jun 20, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Responding to criticism requires a strategy, and so now we have a Game. In Game Theory, at the highest strategic level, the only choices are to cooperate or defect. Unable to instill objectivity and still keep their 95% certainty, the IPCC has chosen defection. Since defectors must posture as cooperators to obscure the duplicity, we get new policies on conflict of interest. What they are hoping, of course, is that the new policy will provide cover for…more of the same.

  24. Athelstan.
    Posted Jun 21, 2011 at 7:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

    NEW AD!

    “Forget about your old whitewash!”

    “Buy new improved IPCC AR5 whitewash, better than the old version, will wash whiter than white!”

    “Our chairman says so, you know he speaks sense.”

    “Would we lie to you?”

    N.B. Only at the UN climate dissemblance outlets.

  25. Brian Hills
    Posted Aug 10, 2011 at 2:30 AM | Permalink | Reply

    No true professional should need a written guideline regarding declaration of conflict of interest.

    EXPRO

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