IPCC Review Editor Comments

David Holland has written in raising an excellent point about the failure of IPCC WG1 to release the Review Editor comments.

In our examination of specific issues e.g. the Briffa truncation, the handling of trends, etc., the Author Responses (online through an earlier CA initiative) show that the IPCC authors often made unconvincing and tendentious responses to comments. IPCC policies provide that these exchanges should be considered by Review Editors. David observes that IPCC failed to place the Review Editor comments online (and, BTW, I did ask for Review Editor comments in my FOI request [to NOAA asking for IPCC Review Comments].)

David wrote:

Not only is there a lack of due diligence on the science but the IPCC does not seem too fussy about demonstrating that they operate as laid down in their Governing Principles, mentioned by Dan in #17, which call for a “comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis” etc. Clause 10 says “Differing views on matters of a scientific, technical or socio -economic nature shall, as appropriate in the context, be represented in the scientific, technical or socio-economic document concerned”

That Steve and Ross thought Wahl and Ammann was inappropriate, seeing as how the IPCC never considered the accepted version, is to be expected. However when the reviewer for the Government of the United States points out that it does really does not cut the mustard ( see reviewers comment ID #: 2023-415) one might expect some mention in the text. The umpire on Chapter 6 was a Brit, the Chief Scientist of the of our Met Office, sent, I presume, at the taxpayers expense to act in accordance with paragraph 5 of Annex 1 to Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work which say the Review Editors function is to “assist the Working Group/Task Force Bureaux in identifying reviewers for the expert review process, 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.”

Clearly the Review Editors’ advice would be interesting to read and paragraph 5 goes on to say that “Although responsibility for the final text remains with the Lead Authors, Review Editors will need to ensure that where significant differences of opinion on scientific issues remain, such differences are described in an annex to the Report. Review Editors must submit a written report to the Working Group Sessions or the Panel etc.”

From the reviewers’ comments it is clear that many areas are contentious in several of the chapters but I have seen no annexes. “Rejected” hardly seems “appropriate consideration”. Clearly the Review Editor’s written reports are something we would all like to see. In reply to my request to the British Chapter 6 Reviewer Editor I was directed to TSU who were said to be in the process of disbanding. Perhaps this is the Littauer hand off.

I shall, of course, be pressing to get see the review editors reports through FoI in the UK (did no one get sent a copy in the UK?) but in these matters some of you are in more congenial jurisdictions and I hope that someone might press to see these reports which must have been circulated to their governments – or the IPCC is even less in anyone’s control. Either the Review Editors’ reports say nothing because the umpires are biased which means the checks and balances are worthless or they were ignored. Either way the system does not work as specified.

I think that this is an excellent initiative and I would encourage other CA readers to make FOI requests for the Review Editor comments to relevant government agencies in the U.S., U.K, Canada and Australia. In the U.S., in response to our earlier FOI requests, NOAA mendaciously said that they had no IPCC review comments in their possession – given that Susan Solomon, Chairman of WG1, used NOAA email for her correspondence and NOAA praised many of their scientists for their contributions to IPCC, the idea that they were not in possession of any IPCC review comments defies credulity.

While readers can expect similar mendacious answers from government authorities, why not put them to the test? In the earlier instance, IPCC responded by putting the comments online, saving the national authorities from further examination. Maybe something similar can happen again.


  1. John Lish
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 11:53 AM | Permalink

    One thing worth noting for Geoff is that Dave King (chapter 6 Review editor) is retiring this year from the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government. Any pressing needs to be done quickly else it will disappear into the black hole that is Whitehall.

  2. David Holland
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    The Review Editors of Chapter 6 are Jean Jouzel (France) and John Mitchell (UK). The latter is the Chief Scientist of the of our Met Office.

    DEFRA is the sponsoring department of IPCC participants and they have a handy pdf form for information requests. I do not know if you have to be a UK citizen to use it.

    I filed a request when the Met Office did not reply to my request for Dr Mitchell’s email address and after I had not had a reply from the address I found for him. I have not heard from DEFRA but surprise, surprise, my email of 7th December to Dr Mitchell was answered on 4th January. He said,

    “Thank you for your email which unfortunately was addressed to the wrong John Mitchell. Any Official report or sign off by the Review Editors should have been retained by the TSU for the IPCC Working Group I. As I understand it the TSU is being disbanded so I do not have an email address which I can guarantee will reach team, so it may be better to write or fax them”

  3. Mike H.
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    This might not be the place for a link to something like this arm breaking self slap on the back for NASA. So bump it off to whatever bit bucket you have handy. I thought that it was beyond the pale.

  4. Smokey
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Mike H. is right. The NASA self-congratulation is disgusting. A sample [from the link]:

    The Nobel-winning IPCC reports have no parallel as the most authoritative source of climate science, says Wielicki. “When I give public lectures on climate, I tell my audience that there are three laws of solid information on climate change: IPCC, IPCC and IPCC.”

    Gag me with a spoon.

  5. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    Gag me with a bulldozer.

  6. Larry
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    Is there a such thing as organizational narcissism?

  7. SteveSadlov
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 1:44 PM | Permalink

    Gag me with a Space Shuttle. (Sorry, low, slow, and outside, had to swing at it …)

  8. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    Larry: Obviously, yes.

  9. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

    #3. David, did you ask for documents in U.K. possession pertaining to the Review Comments under FOI provisions? TSU status has nothing to do with that.

  10. David Holland
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 2:58 PM | Permalink

    This was my request to DEFRA on 11th December:

    I would like to see a copy the Report of the Review Editor, Dr John Mitchell, for Chapter 6 of the WGI contribution to the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

    DEFRA states on:
    “The UK plays a significant role in the IPCC. Hundreds of UK scientists were involved in the preparation of the Fourth Assessment Report and Defra supports lead authors and review editors to participate in IPCC writing groups.”

    At http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principales/ipcc-principales-appendix-a.pdf , clause 5 of Annex 1 to Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work says inter alia, “Review Editors must submit a written report to the Working Group Sessions or the Panel”.

    I would ask also for access to all the relevant documents relating to review comments by the Reviewer for the Govt. of the United Kingdom (Reviewer’s IPCC ID #:2022) on WGI and its SPM. It is my understanding that the WGI review process is electronically documented by the Technical Support Unit at UCAR and the full release of all pertinent communications should be at minimal cost and inconvenience.

    The Principles Governing IPCC Work say, “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change”.

  11. David Holland
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    I did not say in “UK possession”, because I presumed the first response would be to suggest that they do not have anything. That is why I think Dr Mitchell belatedly replied. Thats fine. I politely asked Dr Mitchell again to send me a copy – he surely has one. In a day or two I will email DEFRA who are now overdue. If the Information Commissioner believes them on appeal that leaves an interesting question to ask of my MP. Do we pay the salaries and expenses of experts to fly round the world to undertake specific tasks defined in international agreements and have no record that they did what they were paid for? What oversight does the British Government have over the process if it is not in possession of all the internal IPCC documents?

  12. Dev
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    From Mike H. #4 link (http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/climatechange_nobel.html)

    The Nobel-winning IPCC reports have no parallel as the most authoritative source of climate science, says Wielicki. “When I give public lectures on climate, I tell my audience that there are three laws of solid information on climate change: IPCC, IPCC and IPCC.”

    :Picks jaw from off floor and shakes head:

    There are simply no words…

  13. TonyA
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

    There are various charges applicable to Government FOI requests here in Australia. (A more cynical person would say that such fees work to discourage FOI requests.)

    How much will it cost me?
    Application fees
    There is an application fee of $30 for FOI requests.
    There is a separate application fee of $40 for internal review of a decision.
    Processing charges
    The charge for locating documents is $15 per hour.
    The charge for agencies’ decision-making and consultation time is $20 per hour.
    There are charges in relation to the provision of access (eg: 10c per photocopy, $6.25 per half hour supervised inspection and special rates for special services such as tape transcription or computer output).
    Requests for personal information may incur a maximum charge of two hours for locating documents and a further two hours for decision making time.
    However, full rates for the provision of access apply.

  14. David Holland
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    The UK’s FoI info is here. It says there is no charge and it is open to anyone.

  15. woodentop
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 5:31 PM | Permalink

    David, read the whole paragraph:

    What does it cost?

    Most requests are free. You might be asked to pay a small amount for making photocopies or postage.

    If the public authority thinks that it will cost them more than £450 (or £600 for a request to central government) to find the information and prepare it for release, then they can turn down your request. They might ask you to narrow down your request by being more specific in the information you’re looking for.

  16. David Holland
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    The stuff we want is all electronic. They know that, we know that, and the Information Commissioner and my MP will also know if it goes to appeal. Dr Mitchell could email his report to me in two minutes.

  17. Mike Davis
    Posted Jan 9, 2008 at 6:12 PM | Permalink

    I put in a request to NASA.

  18. David Holland
    Posted Jan 10, 2008 at 5:19 AM | Permalink

    It may be of interest to note that our Dutch friends who run WGIII seem, at the first look, to have the most open approach to disclosure. I do not know if they were pushed or, as I hope, have no intention to hide anything, but the drafts and reviewers’ comments can be accessed through the “Archive” link on their home page.

    I have just looked briefly at the comments on the first order draft of the first chapter which is has a very useful preface that confirms that all the material is in electronic form and that

    “The responsibility of a Review Editor is to see to it that all comments given in reviews is given appropriate consideration. This means that the acceptance or rejection of comments by the authors should be done on the basis of factual and scientific arguments, not on the basis of e.g. political or personal preferences.”

    After such a promising start it is a shame to find that they have not, so far as I can see, shown any of the authors’ responses to any of the thousands of reviewers comments. Nor have they published the prescribed Review Editors’ reports.

  19. David Holland
    Posted Jan 10, 2008 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    FYI, I have just been told that since early December WGII has archived here the draft reports and reviewers’ comments. These do include the author’s responses, but unless I’ve missed it still no Review Editors’ reports.

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