Ofcom’s disposition of the IPCC Complaint is here page 43. There are many interesting aspects to this decision that are distinct from any of the others. Ofcom’s actual finding is extremely narrow. IT rejected 2 of 6 complaints. On 3 of 6, it determined that the producers had provided notice to IPCC but the notice on Feb 27, 2007 did not leave IPCC with “reasonable time” to respond prior to the airing on March 8, 2007 (though Ofcom itself states that “three working days” is a “reasonable time” for the parties to file an appeal of the present decision. They also determined that the producers failed to give IPCC adequate notice that someone in the production would say that they were “politically driven”. Had the producers sent their email of Feb 27, 2007 on (say) Feb 20, 2007, including a mention in the email that one of the contributors stated that IPCC was “politically driven”, then the Swindle producers would appear to have been immune from the present findings. Little things do matter.
The two rejected claims are themselves rather interesting and make you scratch your head. As discussed below, Swindle contributors were said to have claimed that IPCC had predicted climate disaster and the northward migration of malaria as a result of global warming. IPCC denied ever making such claims and apparently felt that its reputation was sullied by being associated with such claims. These two matters were decided on other grounds, but many readers will be interested to read more about IPCC disassociating itself from claims that global warming would cause northward migration of malaria or predictions of climate disaster.
In addition, in its complaint, IPCC made grandiose claims about its “open and transparent process” and the role of review editors, describing the process as being in the public domain and by its nature designed to avoid “undue influence” of any reviewer. This will come as somewhat of a surprise to CA readers, who are familiar with the avoidance of IPCC procedures by Ammann and Briffa and the seemingly casual performance of review editor Mitchell and who have been following the relentless stonewalling by IPCC and IPCC officials of requests for specific information pertaining to this allegedly “open and transparent process”.
Two Rejected Complaints
They discarded two parts of the complaint entirely.
IPCC denied that it had claimed that malaria “will” spread as a result of global warming (as stated by Channel 4) and said that it was unfair for Channel 4 to have broadcast this claim without their having an adequate opportunity to respond. The claim was decided on other grounds (that the allegation by Paul Reiter did not mention specifically mention IPCC). However, many readers will be surprised and interested to know that IPCC considers that its reputation is diminished by attributing to it the view that malaria will spread as a result of global warming.
IPCC complained that the “programme falsely claimed that its FAR (1990) predicted “climatic disaster as a result of global warming” without an opportunity to defend itself against the indignity of being accused of making such a claim. It’s a relief to the rest of us to know that not only is the IPCC not predicting climatic disaster, but it considers being associated with such a claim to be an insult. Ofcom considered some interesting contemporary evidence, including a speech by Margaret Thatcher, the scientific content of which was approved by Houghton, and came to the view that this was not an unreasonable characterization. Their decision on this issue stated:
the Committee considered that the comment that described the FAR (1990) as predicting “climatic disaster as a result of global warming” was not an allegation against the IPCC and was not unfair to it. It was not, therefore, incumbent on the programme makers to have offered the IPCC an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to this particular comment.
The most interesting part of these two issues were the IPCC defences.
Three Issues where the notice was insufficiently timely
On three parts of the Complaint (Reiter’s criticism of the malaria section of the IPCC report, Reiter’s criticism of how IPCC made up its author lists, Seitz’ criticism of the SAR-Santer fiasco), Ofcom found that Swindle had provided notice to IPCC within the requirements, but had failed to provide IPCC with enough time to respond.
What would be a reasonable amount of time? Ofcom says in their Guidelines for the handling of standards complaints and cases (in programmes and sponsorship) that three working days is a “reasonable time” for an appeal, 5 working days for broadcasters to deliver any requested material and 10 working days to deliver certain sorts of detailed written submissions.
While the producers had preliminary contact with IPCC in October 2006 (as a result of which they were referred to a website), the first notice to IPCC that they would be presenting the Reiter and Seitz allegations came on Feb 26, 2007 (a Monday). to which there was no response. A follow-up email was sent three days later on March 1, 2007, again with no response. At the time of the show’s first airing on March 8, 2007, ten days (8 working days) after the first notice letter, IPCC had still sent no response. Nor did it send one prior to the second airing. Ofcom noted:
the IPCC is a large organisation with considerable resources at its disposal and that it employs a dedicated Information and Communications Officer. On the face of it, these factors might be taken to suggest the IPCC should have been in a position to respond to the programme makers’ emails (subject to being provided with sufficient information about the allegations that would be made in the programme)
On the other hand, Ofcom noted that the producers had failed to properly inform IPCC of the deadlines:
As mentioned above, it was significant that the programme maker’s email of 26 February 2007 gave the IPCC no indication of when its response was required and the follow-up email of 1 March 2007 (sent at 7.33pm) subsequently gave a deadline of the following day. Neither of these emails indicated the date of broadcast.
Taking into account all the above factors, the Committee considered that it was unreasonable for the programme makers to have expected the IPCC to understand that its response was required in a matter of days, and that it was not reasonable to expect the IPCC to be able to provide a response within the one day of being advised of the deadline. The Committee therefore found that the opportunity to respond had not been offered in a timely way.
On these particular findings, there’s a process lesson about the need for clear and unequivocal notice. In this particular case, it seems highly unlikely that IPCC was going to bother responding in any event. So the producers could easily have avoided this particular problem merely by giving clearer and somewhat more informative notice. For example, had they sent out the email on Feb 20, 2007 instead of Feb 27, 2007, notifying the IPCC of their deadline, then it’s hard to see how these parts of the IPCC complaint could have even got as far as they did.
Iin order to be heard by Ofcom, a “fairness” complaint has to be made by the person directly affected. There are situations in which a third party can be authorized to make the complaint; I haven’t examined whether these situations apply here. In this case, it appears to me that the “IPCC Complaint” was another concoction by Rado and associates, proceeding under a curious “co-authorization” for their submitting the complaint. Their website says that:
Sir John Houghton … co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC…. Dr Pachauri co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC. …Martin Parry also co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC… Professor [Robert] Watson co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC.”
which I take this as evidence that Rado et al submitted the complaint on behalf of IPCC. However the form of IPCC “authorization” seems highly curious. John Houghton supposedly “co-authorised our Fairness complaint on behalf of the IPCC”. While Houghton has obviously been an important figure in the IPCC movement, he is not listed at the IPCC website as one of its present officers and would not appear to have sufficient current authority to “authorize” the complaint. Robert Watson’s appearance on this list is also interesting. Watson is likewise not listed as an current IPCC officer; Rado’s website states that Watson is currently DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Adviser. That a DEFRA employee should perceive himself as having the authority to authorize the commencement of an action in the U.K. on behalf of IPCC, which, under other circumstance, asserts its immunity rights as an international organization, is intriguing to say the least.
A “Political” Organization
The last “issue” in play was the statement by Philip Stott that IPCC was a “politically driven” organization.
Dr Philip Stott: “The IPCC, like any UN body, is political. The final conclusions are politically driven.”
This matter differed somewhat from the 3 considered under the previous head in that no notice was given to the IPCC in their Feb 26, 2007 email that the production would say that they are “political”.
In its defence, Channel 4 said
the programme contributor, Dr Philip Stott, was merely making a statement of fact. Channel 4 said the programme made the important and valid point that the IPCC is political as well as scientific. Channel 4 said the IPCC chairmen and authors are nominated by governments and the reports are viewed by government officials prior to publication. Further, Channel 4 said the IPCC had been criticised on a number of occasions for being hampered by political interference. Channel 4 therefore maintained it was entirely fair for Professor Stott to state that the IPCC is “politically driven”.
The IPCC response will be particularly intriguing to Climate Audit readers who have followed IPCC’s refusal to provide a complete archive of its Review Comments and Responses (in direct breach of their own formal procedures), a refusal abetted by corresponding refusals of national FOI requests. Ofcom summarizes their response:
In relation to the IPCC being “politically driven”, the IPCC said that the requirement for openness and transparency in its processes ensured that it was impossible for any undue interference to take place or any undue pressure to be applied by any reviewer (government or otherwise).
The IPCC said the government expert reviewer is free to ask any lead author to reconsider what they have written, but based solely on scientific content. The lead author will then consider the comment or request for change. If the lead author then wishes to make the change, he/she has to account for the decision to his/her review editor, who will make the final decision. Such changes must then be documented and the results made public.
The IPCC said that, given the IPCC’s own procedures, Channel 4’s arguments in relation to this head of complaint were either ill-informed or disingenuous.
Huh? This is not a true description of the process that I’ve experienced or that has been documented here. “Disingenuous” – they must be taking etiquette lessons from Michael Mann.
In terms of my own personal experience, we know that Ammann evaded the formal “open and transparent” process by sending review comments about our work outside the properly instituted process and that the parties have subsequently refused to produce the presumably adverse comments. Did these exchanges result in “undue interference” or “undue pressure” by a reviewer? The purpose of the “open and transparent” process is to do what IPCC represented to Ofcom that it did. Too bad that it’s not a true description.
Similarly with the role of the Review Editors. IPCC testified to Ofcom that the “review editor” made the final decision. But Review Editor Mitchell has said that these decisions were up to Briffa and the chapter authors. Although IPCC says here that this process is “public”, IPCC has refused to provide Mitchell’s comments and Mitchell has concocted absurd and untrue reasons to avoid producing the comments (even claiming that he acted as an IPCC review editor in a “personal” capacity and that he has destroyed all his IPCC correspondence).
Here’s how Ofcom decided this matter:
In the Committee’s opinion, viewers would have understood from the full section (quoted above) that the IPCC was not a purely scientific body and that its ‘scientific’ conclusions were significantly tainted by political interests.
The Committee considered that such an impression went to the core of the IPCC’s function and reputation: in this regard it noted that the IPCC was set up following international governmental accord with the aim of producing objective scientific assessments to inform policy and decision making worldwide. The Committee considered that “politically driven” was a strong and potentially damaging allegation which, within the context of this part of the programme, suggested direct political influence and was clearly intended to call into question the credibility of the IPCC….
… In the circumstances, the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded a timely or appropriate opportunity to respond to the significant allegation that the conclusions of the IPCC were “politically driven”. This resulted in unfairness to the IPCC in the programme as broadcast.
So what exactly did IPCC win? Ofcom said that the producers should have given them more adequate notice time for Reiter’s allegations about the review of the malaria section and the listing of authors and for Seitz’ allegations about SAR and for the assertion that they would say that IPCC was “politically driven”.
Did Ofcom opine on whether IPCC was giving good or bad reports? Nope. It stuck to knitting and rendered carefully reasoned decisions on whether the producers gave adequate notice to someone being criticized, as required under the Broadcasting Code.
Now look at the crowing about this decision by IPCC officials.
We are pleased to note that Ofcom has vindicated the IPCC’s claim against Channel Four in spirit and in substance, and upheld most of the formal complaints made by those who respect the IPCC process. It is heartening to see that the review process of the IPCC, and the credibility of the publications of the IPCC were upheld, as was the claim that Channel Four did not give the Panel adequate time to respond to most of their allegations. The IPCC is an organization that brings together the best experts from all over the world committed to working on an objective assessment of all aspects of climate change. The relevance and integrity of its work cannot be belittled by misleading or irresponsible reporting. We express our appreciation of the Fairness Committee at Ofcom, and are satisfied with their rulings on this matter.
Some of this is simply untrue. Ofcom did not “uphold” the review process of the IPCC or the credibility of IPCC publications. Neither did it trash them. It simply did not consider them. Pachauri is totally misrepresenting the decision.
The ruling today from Ofcom regarding the Great Global Warming Swindle programme has exposed the misleading and false information regarding the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was contained in that programme and that has been widely disseminated by the climate denying community. The integrity of the IPCC’s reports has therefore been confirmed as has their value as a source of accurate and reliable information about climate change.
Again, all completely untrue. The Ofcom decision did “not expose the misleading and false information” regarding IPCC nor did it “confirm the integrity of the IPCC reports”. Nor did it endorse the programme nor did it trash the integrity of the reports. It didn’t make any decision on them one way or another. It simply said that the producers failed to give IPCC enough notice to respond.
I am pleased that Ofcom recognized the serious inaccuracies in the Global Warming Swindle and has helped set the record straight.
Again untrue. Ofcom did nothing of the sort. It made no attempt whatever to sort out the scientific disputes.
This is excellent news. People and policymakers need to have confidence in the science of climate change. The reputation of the IPCC as the source of dependable and high quality information has been fully upheld by this Ofcom ruling. Channel 4’s Great Global Warming Swindle was itself a disreputable attempt to swindle the public of the confidence it needs in scientific advice.
Again completely untrue. The Ofcom ruling did not “uphold” the “reputation of the IPCC as the source of dependable and high quality information”. Nor did it disparage its reputation. It simply said that IPCC didn’t get enough time to respond.
These untrue statements about the Ofcom decision have not been criticized by Michael Tobis and other commentators.