IPCC: “Fix It or Fold It”

(Steve: Here is Ross’ excellent op ed on the IPCC from National Post. Ross’ paper is here.)

For many years, attempts to encourage debate on global warming science or policy have run into the obstacle that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued definitive statements, and therefore—the reasoning goes—the era of debate is over. The IPCC is made up of thousands of the world’s top scientists, it has one of the most rigorous and exhaustive review processes in the history of science, and the oversight by 195 member governments ensures balance, transparency and accountability. Or so we are told.

These claims about the IPCC are not true, but until relatively recently few were willing to question what they were told. Things began to change in 2009 with the leak of the Climategate emails, which prompted some observers to begin questioning their assumptions about the IPCC. Then this fall, Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise released her book The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, a superb exposé of the IPCC that shows convincingly that the IPCC has evolved into an activist organization bearing little resemblance to the picture of scientific probity painted by its promoters and activist allies.

On Monday, news emerged of another release of thousands of new Climategate emails, with early indications that some of them add to concerns about the IPCC that arose from the 2009 disclosures.

I am pleased to announce the publication of a report I have written that provides systematic detail on the procedures of the IPCC and makes the case for reforming them. My study, called What is Wrong With the IPCC? A Proposal for Radical Reform, was published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the U.K., and includes a foreword by the Hon. John Howard, former prime minister of Australia.

The first thing to note about this report is that it is not about science. It is about the policies, procedures and administrative structures in the IPCC. A third of the report consists simply of explanations of how the IPCC works. The more people learn such details, the more they will see that the IPCC does not come close to living up to the hype.

Most people would not consider themselves sufficiently well-trained to adjudicate conflicting claims on the science of global warming. But you don’t have to be a scientist to be capable of understanding when an investigative procedure is biased. The IPCC assessment process has material defects, which are sufficiently serious and numerous to put into question the soundness of some of its most heavily promoted claims.

What are some of the flaws? IPCC report-writing teams are cherry-picked in an opaque process by a secretive bureau in Geneva, with no effective requirements to ensure representation of diverse viewpoints. Environmentalist campaign groups are heavily overrepresented in the resulting author lists. Conflicts of interest abound throughout the report-writing process, whereby select authors are asked to review their own work and that of their critics, inevitably concluding in their own favour. The expert review process has become little more than elegant stagecraft, creating an illusion of adversarial cross-examination while concealing the reality of unchecked author bias. Unlike in regular academic peer review procedures, IPCC authors are allowed to overrule reviewers, and even to rewrite the text after the close of the peer review process.

In my report I provide case studies that trace key sections of past IPCC reports through the drafting, review and publication stages, showing how evidence was manipulated or changed after the close of peer review. Some of these incidents had already been documented, but some of them can only now be fully explained because of the disclosure of email traffic among IPCC authors in both the Climategate archives and in files obtained under recent U.K. freedom of information rulings.

I also look at the review of IPCC procedures undertaken last year by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC). The IAC report picked up on some of the major problems I also identify, but the task of devising and implementing reforms fell to the IPCC plenary panel, an unwieldy and passive assembly of delegates from 195 member states, whose manifest indifference allowed the IPCC leadership to gut the reforms before they were ever implemented.

My report presents a set of reform proposals that are based on the simple notion that the IPCC assessment process should be made as rigorous as an ordinary academic journal. The surprise for many readers will be how radical the required changes would be.

In a surprise, and fast-breaking development, Monday morning saw the release of more than 5,000 fresh emails of climate scientists connected with the U.K. Climate Research Unit. They will be examined over the next few days with intense interest. Having read several hundred so far, most are simply the usual traffic among active scholars. But the ones that pertain to the IPCC process fully support the contentions in my report.

For instance, I discuss the problem that IPCC chapter authors are able to recruit contributing authors (CAs) in an opaque process that does not ensure a diversity of views. The resulting uniformity is obvious simply from looking at the list of authors, but we can now see the confirmatory evidence in the email traffic. In a pair of emails (nos. 0714 and 3205), ­IPCC lead author Phil Jones goes through lists of possible CAs with his IPCC coauthor Kevin Trenberth, declaring “Getting people we know and trust is vital.” He then categorizes his recommendations based, not on whether the person is the most qualified but on whether the person is “on the right side” (namely agrees with him), or whether he “trusts” him or not. At one point he dismisses a particular expert who “has done a lot but I don’t trust him.” This kind of cronyism is shown by the emails to be rampant in the IPCC.

In principle I think the IPCC could be fixed, but nobody should underestimate how much needs to change. The chief obstacle to reform is that it is governed by an unwieldy 195-member plenary panel that appears to be apathetic and overly deferential to the IPCC Bureau it is supposed to oversee. To some extent the Canadian delegation has been a lone voice seeking improvements to procedures, but such concerns have hitherto been ignored.

To those countries that truly seek objective, balanced and rigorous information about climate science on which to base momentous policy decisions, my key recommendation is to begin pushing for reforms, but not to wait forever. If the ­IPCC cannot be fixed quickly, governments that are serious about making good climate-policy decisions should be prepared to withdraw from it and create a new assessment body, free of the serious defects of the current model.


  1. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    The insolence of the IPCC is well exemplified by how they handled two important IAC recommendations. They did not implement even a minimal conflict-of-interest policy for AR5 since that would be “unfair” to authors who had already been appointed. And, instead of complying with IAC recommendations that outside directors be appointed to their board of directors, they appointed IPCC staff.

  2. Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    I vote for the motion. Just show me the ballot box that applies.

  3. Les Johnson
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

    Steve; You forgot to mention the IAC recommendation to flag “grey literature”, as per IPCC official policy. The IPCC decided this would be too onerous, so simply deleted this from its policies.

    And you forgot to mention that the IAC recommended its chairprson only serve one term, and that the current chair be replaced.

    The current IPCC chair of course believes that the IAC report endorses the IPCC, and makes it even stronger.

  4. Francis
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Permalink

    I’m a little off-topic, here, but I have a question about the “FOIA” individual.

    Much has been said, with good reason, of his being smart enough to release only parts of the e-mail at a time. I for one think he well understood that the media could only take so much in a single shot, and that he could wait for the first fever to abate to give a second shot.

    But something else crossed my mind, about what’s behind the 3rd, password-locked, batch: is it about climate? Think of it: we live in strange times, where someone could be blatantly dishonest and keep his job, but have his carreer ruined upon a single comment that is racist or sexist, or can be construed as such…

    Isn’t it strange that the kind of e-mails that are common in any inbox are conspicuously absent from the batch: jokes, photos, sports, politics, etc.

    Question: are there, or not, e-mails related to those things?

  5. Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

    If this is how they mamage the IPCC what other UN managed organisation are managed in the same way?

    Is the management of the world all organised on the some line?

    the national governements run by policies for the UN and world bank?

    Is this the New world Order some bloggers are talking about?

    If they act like they have the divine right of kings, the people will in the end get the guillotines out.

    Better that they put things right how before the gullotines are built.

  6. matthu
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    The EU is run like that … unelected presidents, laws promulgated by unelected commissioners behind closed doors, commissioners who are forever forbidden to speak out about the whole process for fear of losing their massive pensions … I could go on and on, but slightly OT.

  7. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    Ian Summerell Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Reply | Edit

    If this is how they mamage the IPCC what other UN managed organisation are managed in the same way?

    Ummm … sadly, that would be the overwhelming majority of them, Ian. The US has checks and balances. The UN has checks and cash.


    • Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

      So if the national governments listened to Ross and other reasonable critics of the IPCC it would set a useful precedent. I think that’s the way to put a positive spin on it.

  8. Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

    There cannot be any fix for the IPCC, or for that matter, the whole stinkin field of climatology, as long as the only way to get funding is to support alarmism. That is why the alarmists so vehemently defend their orthodoxy and attack the skeptics.

  9. Don B
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Permalink

    Roy Spencer says the IPCC can’t be fixed, since it was founded for political and energy purposes, not to search for scientific truths, and it has not changed.

  10. Ben Barnard
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:43 PM | Permalink

    Thanks to Steve, Ross and others for providing reliable information and smoking out the charlatans. What you do balances some of the nonsense, but the media does not get it, probably never will.

  11. theduke
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    Definitely fold it.

    @Ross: here’s an interesting piece by Michael Oppenheimer about the early days of the IPCC. My impression is that they had concluded AGW was real before any meaningful science had been done.


  12. David Holland
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 3:49 PM | Permalink

    Well, I think just as bad was what was slipped into the report of the task group, which the 32nd IPCC Session gave the job of formulating the detailed decisions to be made to implement the IAC recommendations.

    How many times have we been told how open and transparent the IPCC assessment process is? Where in the IAC report or in the discussions at the 32nd IPCC Session did it even suggest that that the IPCC assessment process should be confidential?

    The answer is that the IAC made no such suggestion and according to the Report of the 32nd Session it was not discussed then either. Moreover, the IPCC decision document says at the beginning,

    “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”.

    “Each recommendation of the IAC is quoted, followed by the decision of the IPCC 32nd Session. Subsequently, the considerations by the Panel at its 33rd Session are briefly represented, followed by a decision of the IPCC 33rd Session.”

    However, in section 8 is the result of what Thomas Stocker sneaked in as section 6.3.2 of the the task force report as his own suggestion for improving the openness and transparency of the IPCC by codifying the improper secrecy imposed in the earlier assessments in contradiction of the published Principles Governing IPCC Work. He gave no reference to the IAC. He gave no reference to the 32nd Session. It was … like getting your boss to sign for a Ferrari in a wad of requisitions for machine tools.

    Our Climate Change Minister confirmed that government delegates, who alone can vote for IPCC decisions, nodded it through without a vote or any discussion. I will bet none of them read the both the IAC Report and the the proposal in the task group report. This began with a box stating,

    The Panel may wish to consider this issue with a view to a decision at IPCC-34.

  13. pesadia
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    I think that the IPCC has been a great success as far as its creaters are concerned. It has influenced the vast majority of politicians to support its agenda.

    Of course, in any sensible world, it would not exist in its present form but in this crazy world, it is flourishing.


    • kim
      Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

      Because humans have vast need and capacity for guilt.

      • AJ
        Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 4:20 AM | Permalink

        Yes… we must pay our indulgences!

      • P. Solar
        Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

        snip – overeditorializing

  14. Rob Z
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    Ross, I did read your report and have forwarded it to many I know as a discussion on a huge scientific boondoggle. Thank you for your efforts. I don’t think the IPCC can be fixed and more to the point I pretty much know the IPCC can’t be fixed regardless of all the changes you proposed because the IPCC was NEVER about the science. One might be tempted to think it was but it wasn’t. One issue of the IPCC that can’t be fixed is the people involved in the collusion will be involved again (government,industry and UN). All one has to do is look at the names of the cc’d individuals in a number of the emails outside the team to get an estimate of how deep the cancer is. This is the real story of Climategate 2.0. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m scrutinizing the names. Any estimate of how many knowingly played along with the scam? I have to believe they knew what was going on and they tried to profit from it. Count the names and the different companies and you can bet it’s at least 10 times bigger. Think of all the scientific papers that chanted the mantra in the introduction and the conclusion while the main paper and results contradicted the belief. While the science team is easily replaced and easily excluded, unfortunately, more than the IPCC has to fold before you begin again. I’m thinking the WWF, all the carbon exchange markets, the huge alternative energy subsidies, and hopefully the UN just to name a few. One has to figure out a way to take the profit and ways to “game the system” out of the process. That’s a report that has yet to be written. The IPCC was NEVER about the science it was about manipulating it.

    • kim
      Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

      This may be the real story of ClimateGate 3.0. We can but desire AKA hope.

  15. Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 4:47 PM | Permalink

    In a surprise, and fast-breaking development, Monday morning saw the release of more than 5,000 fresh emails

    A minor point, not all of the emails are “fresh”. There is some overlap from the first release.

  16. asdf
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

    OT, but has anyone gone through for mentions of “funding”:


    It would be an interesting exercise to tabulate and add up all the grants that have gone to “climate scientists” and compare with the funding of Heartland and so on by the evil oil companies.

  17. EdeF
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

    Great suggestions for amending the IPCC. I wonder if they should have a formal “Devil’s Advocate” in place to challenge the reports. Without it, I suppose the blogs may have to fill that void.

  18. P. Solar
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Permalink

    Much respect and kudos for your work on this Ross McKitrick. A great article but it falls flat on the last paragraph.

    “begin pushing for reform”.

    Three of those four works spell failure before you start: begin (some time soon) , pushing (too gentle , they’ll just push back) , reform (things can get reformed but end up being the same).

    These guys are professional bureaucrats, it’s their trade, don’t underestimate them. They’ll just say “yes, minister” and then bury to whole process in committee meetings for the next two decades.

    Several insiders from previous reports were saying the IPCC needed dismantling, even before AR4, yet nothing has changed. The case for reform is no longer tenable.

    The only solution is total abolition. Now!

    [snip – policy. As for the abolition option, if countries won’t agree to reform it, what makes you think they’ll agree to abolish it? -RM]

  19. crosspatch
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Permalink

    Is there any clear and compelling reason why we need an IPCC at all? Aren’t there enough positions of importance created at the UN where the world’s excess funds can be disposed of?

    If A: There is some clear and compelling reason to have it and B: there is actually something we can DO about it, then yes, lets keep it with the suggested changes as a start. But if either A or B above are false, then what is the point?

  20. Steve Koch
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 10:30 PM | Permalink

    The IPCC charter makes it impossible to fix it. The discussion has to be about figuring out the most efficient way to neutralize or eliminate it.

  21. don
    Posted Nov 26, 2011 at 11:06 PM | Permalink

    So what we have is a sub agency of the UN made up of a body of policy makers whose membership is selected by both democratic and undemocratic nations for the express purpose of choosing a climate policy that presumes humans are responsible agents for the alleged climate problem, a climate policy that will benefit and penalize various select nations and elites ruling or subordinate to that “international” institution. Sorry, but that doesn’t look like doing science to me no matter how one slices and dices the decision making method by tweaking the organizational structure and flow chart.

  22. Noblesse Oblige
    Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

    IPCC cannot be fixed. It is a centralized mission-oriented politically-driven bureaucracy which will always find its way around well intended or well designed reforms. It is almost a law of nature…well, of humanity anyway.

    IPCC should be disbanded, and the mission of collecting and assessing climate data and theory should be dispersed to a decentralized network of regional and national entities that will compete with each other to get the right answers.

  23. pat
    Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 3:02 AM | Permalink

    27 Nov: UK Telegraph: Jason Lewis: Lobbyists who cleared ‘Climategate’ academics funded by taxpayers and the BBC

    27 Nov: UK Daily Mail: David Rose: BBC sought advice from global warming scientists on economy, drama, music… and even game shows

    27 Nov: Uk Daily Mail: Cameron’s green guru reveals his doubts over global warming

    • Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

      Just saw the two Mail on Sunday articles in the pub, not from links on Climate Audit or Bishop Hill, which must be a first! The Steve Hilton piece is in the bottom left column of page 7 and below it there’s a reference to the David Rose spread about the BBC asking for the opinions of climate gurus on all sorts of ridiculous things including game shows on the following two pages. But I didn’t need to turn the page. In fact just the first two paragraphs sufficed:

      Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s director of strategy and ‘green guru’, is the latest person to admit to doubts about climate change.

      ‘I’m not sure I believe in it,’ he announced at a meeting of the Energy Department, prompting one aide to blurt out: ‘Did I just hear that correctly?’

      You sure heard that correctly. Steve Hilton is a mighty important dude. What he said in the heart of Chris Huhne’s empire is no accident.

      • kim
        Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 2:32 PM | Permalink

        Green guru AND chief strategist. Yes, this is a tipping point.

      • Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

        Tim Montgomerie did a useful portrait of Hilton in the Telegraph at the end of July, including this amusing introduction:

        There are three people who are most responsible for the current direction of the Tory party: Cameron, George Osborne, and Hilton. (It used to be a quartet, but Andy Coulson moved on, for reasons you may have read about.)

        Coulson you’ll remember brought in his old mucker from the News of the World, Neil Wallis, to help out, before they were both arrested over the hacking scandal. Coulson and Hilton never quite hit it off but were installed in the same office in March 2010 in the run-up to the general election. Coulson’s departure in January 2011 also coincided with Michael Gove, the education secretary and very close to the Camerons, getting back his own favourite adviser, Dominic Cummings, whom Coulson had blackballed after the election, much to Gove’s outrage. It would be fitting if the disgrace of the man who brought in his friend who helped out UEA in the aftermath of Climategate 1 had brought an increase of power to the other Downing Street adviser so that in the week of Climategate 2 he could give this key signal.

        Nigel Lawson has been a key influence according to the Mail. It’s a good sign in the week that his Global Warming Policy Foundation publised Ross’s report.

  24. AJ
    Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

    Geezz… Ross makes it sound like the IPCC is run by biased individuals who are seeking evidence that confirms their bias.

    If only the IPCC was run by someone like Ross who had the “correct” bias.

    • JamesG
      Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 5:27 AM | Permalink

      Surely you can agree that the IPCC need to have accountability without impuning the motives of those who say it?

      Of course for some there is too much democracy in the way of policy anyway…

    • P. Solar
      Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 6:20 AM | Permalink

      No , it’s not Ross that “makes it sound like…” it’s their own correspondence. Clearly you have not been paying attention to what all this is about before dismissing it.

      It would be less important whether is was Ross or Patchuri in charge if the whole process was open, documented and accountable.

      As it is, Jones and Mann appear from their own words to be doing all they can to delete FIOA-able public records in order hide whatever they discussed about AR4.

      Ben Santer admits having alter his chapter AFTER the peer review process had decided what it should be.

      That should worry anyone of believes this is about science.

    • EdeF
      Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

      AJ, have you read what Ross has written? His suggestions are more systemic than personal.
      Avoiding conflict of interest is standard in almost any other business. Prohibiting
      lead authors from wholly re-writting sections and preventing them from reviewing their
      own reports seems like common sense.

  25. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Permalink

    “In principle I think the IPCC could be fixed, but nobody should underestimate how much needs to change. The chief obstacle to reform is that it is governed by an unwieldy 195-member plenary panel that appears to be apathetic and overly deferential to the IPCC Bureau it is supposed to oversee. To some extent the Canadian delegation has been a lone voice seeking improvements to procedures, but such concerns have hitherto been ignored.
    To those countries that truly seek objective, balanced and rigorous information about climate science on which to base momentous policy decisions, my key recommendation is to begin pushing for reforms, but not to wait forever. If the -IPCC cannot be fixed quickly, governments that are serious about making good climate-policy decisions should be prepared to withdraw from it and create a new assessment body, free of the serious defects of the current model.”

    “In principal” being the key proviso to McKitrick’s hopes here – as I see it.

    I truly get a different picture of the UN and most of the supporting nation/members and a picture that goes to the heart of climate science. That picture is one of scientists/nations/IPCC proclaiming from a science standpoint that they are physical reasons for being confident that GHGs cause warming (and a conclusion with which most thinking skeptics would agree) and from an advocacy/political standpoint not seeing any unintended consequences resulting from immediate mitigation of AGW by way of extensive government actions. The uncertainty of the effects, beneficial and detrimental, of future AGW are something that the climate scientists/nations/IPCC are not able to deal with and thus mitigation is for them either an action that would be beneficial without a legitimate need or an action required by way of rationalizing an action against an unknown state of nature.

    The rather apparent contradictions are between the evidence (or lack thereof) presented for climate change effects and evidence for the change both past and future and stem primarily, in my view, from the scientist/nation/IPCC “knowing” what the right answer and ultimate policies should be regardless of the evidence produced. That dichotomy appears to be the centerpieces of some of the more interesting email exchanges from the most recent spate of them where the quality of the published evidence is disputed but not enough to overcome the advocacy positions of the members of the consensus. Some scientists even discuss the issues of extreme events that could be attributed in some way to AGW and how that could impact the general public with a daily reminder of the claimed effects of AGW.

  26. manicbeancounter
    Posted Nov 27, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

    These recommendations may go part of the way in achieving a more balanced IPCC report, but, in my opinion, they will not go all the way.
    First, there are quite a small number of specialists in many areas. Therefore to get the top scientists in the field means people reviewing their own work.
    Second, the database of peer-reviewed studies is heavily biased towards the consensus. This is partly due to biases in the peer-review process that makes alternative perspectives difficult to publish(e.g. O’Donnell et al 2010, or Spencer and Braswell 2011), but also due to funding biases.

  27. Posted Nov 28, 2011 at 8:08 AM | Permalink

    this is a little off-topic for here but I thought it interesting that in todays Wall Street Journal (Nov. 28) there is an article on the op-ed page by James Delingpole that refers to Mann`s attempt to discredit McIntyre and how the Team tried to manipulate data and stamp out dissenting points of view.

    • Posted Nov 28, 2011 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

      The article’s Climategate 2.0 – James in more restrained mode than we’ve sometimes seen him. Ending with FOIA’s own stated motivation is dead right.

  28. Dennis Wingo
    Posted Nov 28, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Permalink

    Slightly off topic but here is the email regarding the official defensive policy of the CRU relative to Steve M’s FOIA requests. From 2009 so it is pretty recent.


  29. Luc Chartrand
    Posted Nov 29, 2011 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    McKitrick was on Sun TV spoke about IPCC


    Call it Climategate 2.0: new material has surfaced that show green scientists working to smear the naysayers.

  30. James Smyth
    Posted Nov 29, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    Having been referenced by Judith Curry, this might need attention: McKitrick hides the context

  31. Posted Dec 1, 2011 at 12:08 AM | Permalink

    Yeah right, like the IPCC will ever make things easy.

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