How Many Climate Scientists Were Involved With Writing the 2007 IPCC Statement For Policymakers?

The media is in error when it states that,

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change –made up of thousands of scientists from around the world — reported earlier this month they are more certain than ever that humans are heating earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels….” (see)

Are there really “thousands of scientists” who wrote this report? Hardly. The IPCC is actually led and written by just a few dozen scientists.

There is a summary of the final stages in writing the 2007 IPCC Statement for Policymakers in the February 18, 2007 edition of the Denver Post. The article is by Kevin Trenberth and is titled Climate report on deadline.

The article states that

“A full report that’s the basis for the summary was drafted by 154 lead authors and more than 450 contributing authors and runs to about 900 pages.

As one of about 30 lead authors attending the meeting, I found the experience both exhilarating and grueling.

We assembled on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 27 and 28, to go over the written comments by governments on the draft summary. We prepared possible responses and text to update the report. The approval process is very demanding, as it requires unanimous consensus on the text, which is approved line by line. The rationale is that the scientists determine what can be said, but the governments help determine how it can best be said. There are detailed negotiations over wording to ensure accuracy, balance, clarity of message and relevance.”

This candid report confirms that the Statement For Policymakers was actually written with a small number of climate scientists. That such a small number of scientists are actually involved in the writing may make sense from the perspective of efficiency, but it also is guaranteed to result in a report that emphasizes the particular perspectives of the small group of scientists who wrote it. The biases that result would have been balanced if other climate scientists were able to write alternative perspectives, but this was not done. A “unanimous consensus” is hardly how science should be presented by a subset of the climate science community.

The use of the term “lead authors” is also misleading as most are co-authors with one lead author per chapter. The contributing authors provide material and comment, but, based on my experience in the 1995 IPCC report process, do not function as true co-authors. Thus the actually number of true lead authors actually corresponds to just the first author on each chapter.

That such individuals have such an influence of preparing a document for policymakers without the simultaneous publication of alternative views should be of concern to anyone who values open and free presentation of climate science. As we have already shown on Climate Science, as a result of the limitation on the number of indviduals who wrote the Statement, errors have resulted (e.g. see and see).

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