In December, the WG1 TSU of the IPCC sent me a formal notice asking me to remove Climate Audit discussion of the IPCC Zero Draft. In this notice, they stated:
It has come to our attention that several Chapters of the Zero Order Draft (ZOD) of WGI AR5 are being cited, quoted and discussed on the blog that you host, Climate Audit, despite the fact that each of these chapters is clearly marked “Do not cite, quote or distribute”. We would respectfully request that you remove the relevant parts with discussions of the ZOD from your blog and, furthermore, that this does not happen with the FOD.
I’ve been mulling over how to respond. I was not a reviewer of the Zero Draft and had not made any personal agreements with IPCC as a condition of receipt. I had registered as a First Draft reviewer but have not downloaded any documents in this capacity as yet.
In preparing a response, I’d been wondering what authority, if any, was possessed by WG1 or its TSU that entitled it to require or request removal of this discussion from Climate Audit. I’d looked at IPCC Policies and Procedures in connection with previous CRU requests. The procedures used in AR4 (see here) had said that the “review process should be objective, open and transparent” and did not contain any language that specifically granted authority to the TSU of a Working Group to prohibit discussion in public of its draft reports. If anything, the overriding objectives of openness and transparency would seem to support such discussion – a process that seems entirely healthy to me and one that would actually enhance the IPCC.
It turns out that Phil Jones and Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of AR5 WG1, both agreed with my interpretation of IPCC rules on this point i.e. that the Working Groups lacked specific IPCC authority to insist on confidentiality of their drafts, and that they had, behind the scenes, taken steps to change IPCC rules to authorize Working Groups to do so. Jones’ initial contacts with Stocker on this matter are documented in Climategate 2 and arose from Jones’ reading of Climate Audit posts advocating openness and transparency by IPCC – efforts that both Jones and Stocker opposed.
I only became aware of their actions recently as a result of an IPCC cease-and-desist letter to Galloping Camel, which had posted an excellent collection of WG1 and WG2 sources. To my considerable surprise, the IPCC letter to Galloping Camel contained a quotation from IPCC Policies and Procedures here (bolded below) that contained an endorsement of confidentiality that was absent in the AR4 polices. They wrote:
The IPCC Procedures in Article 4.2 of the Principles Governing IPCC Work state that “The IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.” (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principles/ipcc-principles-appendix-a-final.pdf). We therefore request the immediate removal of the ZOD chapters from your website.
This language was definitely not in the AR4 version. Indeed the document linked in the Galloping Camel letter was time stamped January 10, 2012(!). When had the new language been introduced? And by what authority? Tracing the language led to a remarkable story.
The language was almost singlehandedly introduced by Stocker (after being involved by Phil Jones.) Complicating Stocker’s efforts to obtain official sanction for enhanced confidentiality was the lack of interest in this topic by the Interacademy Panel, which had been commissioned by IPCC to review its policies and procedures. Not only did its report not contain the recommendations sought by Stocker and Phil Jones, it re-iterated the importance of openness and transparency. Nor had the language sought by Stocker been recommended in any of the numerous documents on IPCC procedures up to the second week of April 2011, less than four weeks before Stocker’s language was adopted at the Abu Dhabi IPCC meeting in May 2011.
Despite these obstacles, Stocker emerged from the IPCC plenary with his objective. It’s a long story.
On May 11, 2009, I reported my request for CRUTEM station data from the Met Office. In a comment, David Holland noted that the AR5 Working Group 1 TSU was in Switzerland and that Switzerland was in the process of adopting the Aarhus Convention on freedom of information.
Jones read this comment and became worried about the prospect of IPCC being subject to the Aarhus Convention. Jones immediately emailed Stocker (May 12 – 4778)
subject: Data access and IPCC
I hope you are enjoying your new job! Apologies in advance for upsetting your morning! Below there is a link to Climate Audit and their new thread with another attempt to gain access to the CRU station temperature data. I wouldn’t normally bother about this – but will deal with the FOI requests when they come. Despite WMO Resolution 40, I’ve signed agreements not to pass on some parts of the CRU land station data to third parties.
If you click on the link below and then on comments, look at # 17. [here] This refers to a number of appeals a Brit has made to the Information Commissioner in the UK. You can see various UK Universities and MOHC listed. For UEA these relate to who changed what and why in Ch 6 of AR4. We are dealing with these, but I wanted to alert you to few sentences about Switzerland, your University and AR5.
Having been through numerous of these as a result of AR4, I suspect thatsomeone will have a go at you at some point. What I think they might try later is the same issue:
Who changed what and why in various chapters of AR5?
When drafts of chapters come for AR5, we can’t review the chapter as we can’t get access to the data, or, the authors can’t refer to these papers as the data haven’t been made available for audit.
Neither of these is what I would call Environmental Information,as defined by the Aarhus Convention. You might want to check with the IPCC Bureau. I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody will remember to do it.
I also suspect that as national measures to reduce emissions begin to affect people’s lives, we are all going to get more of this. We can cope with op-ed pieces, but these FOI requests take time, as the whole process of how we all work has to be explained to FOI-responsible people at each institution.
Keep up the good work with AR5!
Jones also notified Peter Thorne of the Met Office that he had alerted Stocker to Holland’s comment.
The next day, Stocker (May 13 – 4378) replied, telling Jones (cc Pauline Midgeley) that allowing access to climate data under laws prescribing “open access to environmental data” would be a “perversion” (Stocker would have been an interesting witness in the EPA case, where an opposite position was taken by IPCC supporters):
subject: Re: Data access and IPCC
Dear Phil (cc to Pauline Midgley, Head TSU WGI)
Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. I knew about this when the first requests were placed on John Mitchell and Keith Briffa and they informed us. What I did not know is that they have already placed their focus on Bern (# 17)!
At that time I argued that in principle there are two interests to balance: (i) FOI, and (ii) your own privacy when it comes to opening emails or other mail. Obviously, I am not in the position to judge which one obtains and in fact I think a court would be needed to establish
exactly that balance.
However, the Arhus Resolution, it seems to me, had another motivation: open access to environmental data associated with damage, spills, pollution; the latter word is mentioned twice – “climate” never. So to take this convention and turn it around appears to me like a perversion. One important point to consider is whether Arhus really applies to the IPCC activities. In no way are we involved in decision making. We assess and provide scientific information. The decision makers are elsewhere.
More than ever need we be aware of this separation! We will discuss this in the TSU but then, this should be brought to the level of the Secretariat, at least, since it affects the very basis of our assessment work.
Thanks again and best regards,
A couple of weeks later, Jones wrote Santer and Wigley (May 22 – 2135)
They have found out that Switzerland has agreed to but not yet ratified some Environmental Information Regulations (Aarhus Convention), so are probably looking to have a go at the University of Bern and Thomas Stocker at somepoint. Never thought I would know so much about the Law!
Climate Audit Submission to EPA
On June 23, 2009, I posted up my submission to EPA. (Re-reading this submission, I thought that it has held up well.) The submission observed that neither EPA peer review procedures in the Endangerment Study nor IPCC peer review procedures complied with US federal standards for “highly influential scientific assessments or with EPA’s own procedures and policies. (Last year, the EPA Inspector General reported on part of this topic – EPA made the embarrassing argument that the Endangerment Study was not a “highly influential scientific assessment” and therefore did not have to comply with these federal standards. In their defence, EPA argued that it was IPCC that was the “highly influential scientific assessment” – an argument which made it all the more important for IPCC to exceed US standards if IPCC reports were to be used as authority for important policies.)
In my EPA submission, I documented various forms of non-compliance by IPCC, commenting at CA as follows”
Indeed, the various discussions that we’ve had over the past months over IPCC’s amorphous legal status – i.e. IPCC participants having dual status as government employees, with their IPCC affiliation being applied to yield a cone of darkness over activities which would be subject to FOI if they were “merely” government employees.
Evasion of transparency has been a long-running concern of this site and I’ve used this comment opportunity to place this and related concerns on the record.
The following day (June 24 – 2440), Jones sent a copy of my submission to Stocker and Midgeley. Jones did not suggest to Stocker that this was a carefully reasoned submission and that they should look closely at criticisms of IPCC transparency and reflect on whether they might be able to improve its processes so that they exceeded US standards:
subject: Re: Data access and IPCC
to: Thomas Stocker , wg1
Attached is a document that you should only bother to look at it you have time to spare – stuck on a train or long flight. It is a submission by a skeptic to EPA in the USA. [http://climateaudit.org/2009/06/23/climate-audit-submission-to-epa/] I’m sending it only for background. I wouldn’t want this issue to be raised at the Venice meeting, but I think you’ll likely to become more aware these people as AR5 advances. I was in Boulder last week and I spoke to Susan. We agreed that the only way IPCC can work is the collegiate way it did with AR4.
These people know they are losing (or have lost) on the science. They are now going for the process. All you need to do is to make sure all in AR5 are aware of the process and that they adhere to it. We all did with AR4, but these people read much more into the IPCC procedures.
See you in Venice
Stocker’s acknowledgement (June 24 – 4899) said that he was working on the problem:
subject: Re: Data access and IPCC
to: Phil Jones
Thanks Phil. We have not be inactive here at the TSU. I have approached a number of colleagues with the problem and expect more indications in the next few weeks to come. I hope that I will be able to have a clear view on the way forward by the time we think of nominations and when we like to inform our potential LAs and CLAs. Thanks and best regards and ’till Venice,
On July 15 (1526), Tim Osborn of CRU wrote to Stocker seeking support from IPCC against David Holland’s assertions that IPCC policies required them to be “open” and “transparent”.
On July 29 (Climategate 1- 991. 1248902393.txt), Jones wrote Peterson of NOAA saying that he had persuaded Stocker and the IPCC Secretariat to raise FOI issues with the IPCC Plenary in the next IPCC meeting (Bali):
I have got the IPCC Secretariat and Thomas to raise the FOI issues with the full IPCC Plenary, which meets in Bali in September or October. Thomas [Stocker] is fully aware of all the issues we’ve had here wrt Ch 6 last time, and others in the US have
Despite Jones’ optimism about Bali, the Bali IPCC Plenary session doesn’t appear to have done anything to implement Jones and Stocker’s secrecy ambitions.
The Interacademy Report
In March 2010, in response to Climategate, the IPCC commissioned a report from the Interacademy Council, the terms of reference of which specifically included a “review IPCC procedures for preparing reports”.
This was the forum that Stocker should have submitted his concerns about enhancing confidentiality in the Working Groups. Did he do so? At present, I don’t know. If he didn’t, he should have. If he did, the IAC disregarded his recommendations as, in the final IAC report, which appeared in late August 2010, there is nothing that comes close to a recommendation along the lines that Stocker sought.
On the contrary, the IAC Report re-iterated the position that processes and procedures be “as transparent as possible”:
it is essential that the processes and procedures used to produce assessment reports be as transparent as possible.
Transparency is an important principle for promoting trust by the public, the scientific community, and governments. Interviews and responses to the Committee’s questionnaire revealed a lack of transparency in several stages of the IPCC assessment process, including scoping and the selection of authors and reviewers, as well as in the selection of scientific and technical information considered in the chapters.
Nowhere did the IAC report recommend the sort of additional confidentiality sought by Stocker and Phil Jones.
Busan IPCC Meeting, October 2010
At the first IPCC meeting after the IAC report (Busan, October 2010) (see here), the IPCC stated that it “agreed to implement many of the recommendations immediately. On others, the Panel decided to form four Task Groups to undertake further work intersessionally, with a view to completing work on the IAC recommendations at the Panel’s next session.”
One of the four Task Groups was the Task Group on Procedures, the terms of reference of which were to examine the IAC recommendations and, for each of the issues, propose implementation, including amendments to the IPCC Policies and Procedures (Appendix A):
The Task Group should address the issues listed below as mentioned in the IAC recommendations (Chapters 2 and 3), IPCC responses at its 32nd Session and IPCCXXXII/Doc. 22. For each of the issues the Task Group should establish a timetable for action, consider resource implications and identify responsibilities for implementation. It should propose amendments to the Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work and relevant guidance documents if needed taking into account decisions made at IPCC-XXXII.
Geneva, February 2011
The IPCC Task Groups met in Geneva in February 2011 to review progress. The provisional report of the Task Group on Procedures is available here, included in an April 2011 document.
Sections 2-10 of this report discussed issues within their terms of reference i.e. arising from recommendations of the IAC panel. In addition, they included an “Addendum” discussing issues that did not arise from the IAC panel – an initiative that appears to have been opposed by some members, introduced as follows:
To some extent the Task Group also discussed some suggestions that were related to the IAC report recommendations but may be viewed as being not strictly within the mandate given by the 32nd session of the IPCC. The Task Group considered these suggestions useful for further discussion and includes them in this document under the Addendum “Issues for further discussion on Procedures” (section 11 of this document).. Please note that this addendum does not reflect any consensus by the Task Group.
The introduction to the Addendum (see page 10) re-iterated that the issues in the Addendum fell outside the mandate of the Task Group and did not reflect a consensus:
11. Addendum: Issues for further discussion on Procedures page 10
The Task Group noted that a number of issues were raised by Task Group members that maybe viewed as being not strictly within the mandate given by the 32nd session of the IPCC. However, the Task Group considered these issues useful for further discussion as part of an effort to further improving clarity of the Procedures, and the transparency and quality of the assessment process.
Please note that this Addendum does not reflect any consensus from the Task Group discussions at their meeting in Geneva 1-4 February 2011. The reviewers of this document may wish to give their viewpoints on the issues and thoughts below.
Section 11.3 of the Addendum contained a comment on confidentiality that was the first small wedge for the Jones-Stocker secrecy language. It stated that saying that guidance “may be needed” on citation of draft reports and “other documentation” “without contradicting the needed transparency and openness”. (Watch as this language morphs.)
11.3 Review process (sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Procedures)
Clear guidance may be needed on what the rules are for citation/publication of draft reports and other documentation during drafting and review and how the draft report need to be kept confidential without contradicting the needed transparency and openness, while different versions of the draft should be accessible after the completion of the report.
On February 9, 2011, this draft (with this very vague and buried reference to confidentiality) was circulated to governments with a four week period for review (see here). Invitations to the forthcoming meeting in Abu Dhabi were sent on Feb 23 by IPCC to governments and NGOs, together with a provisional agenda, item 5 of which was “Review of IPCC Processes and Procedures”.
Review comments on the “Geneva Draft” report are here, presumably dating from early March as scheduled. They include comments from both governments and Thomas Stocker (whose input is described as authorized under “P-32”).
No government commented that the TSUs needed greater powers to restrict discussion of draft reports. However, Stocker complained (see page 145; repeated on page 163 for good measure) that the Task Group took a “rather strict” view of its mandate and “missed the opportunity” to tighten up secrecy provisions. Stocker’s comments in this document are the first appearance of the language later used in the letter to Galloping Camel.
(2) The TG Procedures took a rather strict view of its mandate and did not make recommendations on topics that were not raised by the IAC Review. This means that some necessary adjustments to the Principles and Procedures to address other important issues such as confidentiality were not properly developed. This is potentially a missed opportunity.
(3) The draft makes an exception for Topic 10 Guidance Notes, a topic not raised by the IAC Review. WGI proposes that another exception should be made for confidentiality, which is a topic of great importance that was also discussed by the TG during its meeting in Geneva in February 2011. It is mentioned in the Addendum under the review process but clear guidance on confidentiality is needed in a broader context. It is part of the basic way in which IPCC goes about its work and is a necessary requirement for authors to be able to have a free and frank exchange of views. Interim discussions and communications during the preparation and finalisation of the assessment are *pre-decisional* information. As such, these remain confidential and related documents are not public, nor should they be cited, quoted or distributed, as is standard IPCC practice to indicate this on all documents under review. The ability of the WGs to produce an independent and unbiased assessment would be threatened if
material that is in the nature of a draft and/or incomplete information to be further developed were to be released prematurely. It is increasingly clear that this needs to be specified in the Procedures, also showing that it does not contradict the current Principles of IPCC, which state that the assessment is carried out on a “comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis”.
Therefore WGI proposes moving this topic into the first part of the TG report, between Topics 3 and 4. The preceding text in this comment can serve as the basis for the TG consideration and the recommendation would be as follows:
“Section 4 of the Procedures should be amended to discuss the notion of the confidentiality of drafts and other interim documentation. Suggested text could be the following: “Drafts of the reports, interim discussions and communications, and other documentation created during the drafting and review process are considered pre-decisional materials and as such are confidential. Drafts and other documentation may not be cited, quoted or distributed. “”
(4) The Addendum is not very helpful as presented because it is not clear to a reader who was not part of the discussions in February 2011 in Geneva whether all these suggestions have a similar status in terms of degree of support, depth of discussion, etc. They are in fact highly variable and most of these suggestions will need to be discussed properly by the TG first. [Thomas Stocker, Cochair,WG I]
As of early April 2011, a month before the IPCC was due to meet, the language long sought by Stocker and Phil Jones had not been recommended in any of the documents. It appears for the first time in a Report of the Task Group on Procedures included as Document 12 in the agenda for the Abu Dhabi meeting scheduled to begin on May 10.
Uniquely among the documents for the Abu Dhabi meeting, the online version of this document bears a time-stamp of May 12 (after the meeting); other documents linked from the agenda are dated April or earlier. It asked for government comments by May 5. This document was accompanied by a IPCC-XXXIII/INF. 1 , Review of the IPCC Processes and Procedures – Comments from Governments and IPCC Office Holders on the initial draft recommendations prepared by the Task Groups”.
Despite earlier concerns on the part of some members of the Task Group that they comply with their mandate to respond to IAC recommendations (which is what it was represented as having done to the IPCC plenary), in their revised report, the Task Group distinguished two classes of decision:
The Task Group on Procedures has dealt with two categories of proposed decisions:
I. Direct responses to IAC recommendations,
II. Indirect responses as a result of the IAC recommendations following the above mentioned
The language sought by Stocker was in section 6 bis4, the Task Group stated:
6bis 4 Confidentiality of draft reports
This issue was raised by the WG I co-chairs. Given the upcoming finalization of two Special Reports The Task Group deemed this issue important for consideration.
6bis 4.1 Task Group consideration
The Task Group noted that clear guidance is needed on what the rules are for the confidentiality of draft reports and other documentation during drafting and review. On one hand, there is a need for transparency and openness of the assessment process. On the other hand, publicizing drafts have serious drawbacks. There is a risk that drafts contain errors or statements that are still unbalanced and that have to be corrected at a later stage. These could prematurely circulate in the public domain, creating confusion, and that would be a bad service of IPCC to society. Therefore, the Task Group believes that drafts should be kept confidential until acceptance of the full report.
All drafts of IPCC assessment reports (including the final draft) will be considered to be confidential material, not for public distribution quotation, or citation until acceptance by the Panel of the final IPCC report. The first order draft, second order draft and the final draft, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments on both drafts will be made available on the IPCC open website on a clearly visible place, within xx weeks after the acceptance of the report by the Panel.
As always, one has to watch the pea. Stocker’s language was not an “indirect response” to IAC recommendations. Nor did it have anything to do with IAC. Stocker and Jones had sought to beef up rights of the Working Groups to demand confidentiality prior to the IAC report. Representing enhanced confidentiality as addressing an IAC recommendation was, so to speak, a “trick” (TM- climate science.)
Although the revised report of the Task Force (dated circa April 11) was distributed for comment, the distribution was very late in the process, less than a month before the IPCC meeting, and only one government (Netherlands) commented (in passing) on the language introduced by Stocker. See XXXIII/INF. 4 – Comments received from Governments and IPCC Office Holders by 6/05/2011 on the proposals by the Tasks Groups.
The only entity to comment at length on the language was Stocker himself. Stocker observed (accurately) that, despite its stated mandate of openness and transparency, “confidentiality is part of the basic way in which IPCC goes about its work”:
We are pleased that many of our comments on the draft in March were implemented in this proposal and in particular that the important point about confidentiality is now treated explicitly in section 6. Whilst this is clearly related to the review process, guidance on confidentiality is needed in a broader context, given that requests occur for access to working papers, emails, etc. Confidentiality is part of the basic way in which IPCC goes about its work and is a necessary requirement for authors to be able to have a free and frank exchange of views. Interim discussions and communications during the preparation and finalisation of the assessment are “pre-decisional” information. As such, these remain confidential and related documents are not public, nor should they be cited, quoted or distributed. It is standard IPCC practice to indicate this on all documents under review. The ability of the WGs to produce an independent and unbiased assessment would be jeopardised if material that is in the nature of a draft or incomplete information to be further developed were to be released prematurely. It is increasingly clear that this concept needs to be specified in the IPCC Procedures, also showing that this is not a contradiction of the current Principles of IPCC, which state that the assessment is carried out on a “comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis”.
Buoyed by his April success, Stocker proposed that the policy be expanded to include other documentation (a recommendation not adopted in the final resolution):
As well as discussing confidentiality of the report drafts, WGI proposes adding wording that discusses the confidentiality of other interim documentation, e.g., “Drafts of the reports, interim discussions and communications, and other documentation created during the drafting and review process are considered pre-decisional materials and as such are confidential. Drafts and other documentation may not be cited, quoted or distributed.”
Please find below our other comments for consideration in finalising the proposal:
The distinction between category I and category II proposals may require more explanation by the TG Co-Chairs. Priority should be given to the key decisions that were well supported by a
consensus in the TG, and those that immediately affect the next stages of the AR5 process.
6bis4. Confidentiality of draft reports: for the reasons described in our introductory comments, we very much welcome this new section and proposed decision in 6bis4.2. We again stress that the first sentence of the proposed decision text needs some editing in order to include the key term “pre-decisional” and to capture the other kinds of material in addition to the draft reports.
Stocker’s comments are worth reading in full as they touch on other interesting topics as well.
Although Stocker’s recommended language in no way “addressed” recommendations of the IAC Panel (and arguably was even antithetical to their reiterated support for openness and transparency) and although the Task Group had been well aware that these issues were outside the mandate set by the 32nd IPCC plenary, the resolution represented this (and other) recommendations as addressing recommendations of the IAC Panel:
The document presented here contains the decisions by the Panel based on consideration of the report of the IPCC Task Group on Procedures to the IPCC 33rd Session and building on the decisions of IPCC 32nd Session. The Task Group addressed the InterAcademy Council (IAC) recommendations as presented in the IAC report, chapter 2, “Evaluation of IPCC assessment process”…
8. Confidentiality of draft reports
The Panel noted that issues related to confidentiality of draft reports is important and that clear guidance is needed on what the rules for the confidentiality of draft reports during drafting and review.
At its 33rd Session, the Panel decided that the drafts of IPCC Reports and Technical Papers which have been submitted for formal expert and/or government review, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments will be made available on the IPCC website as soon as possible after the acceptance by the Panel and the finalization of the report.
IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.
A long story indeed. But Stocker (and Phil Jones) had gone to a lot of trouble to obtain the language used in the Galloping Camel letter.