New CCSP Committee With the Same Conflict of Interest

A new CCSP Committee , the “Climate Extremes: Analysis of the Observed Changes and Variations and Prospects for the Future” Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.3 is being configured. This Committee suffers from the same conflict of interest that was associated with the CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”. As written on the CCSP Web site for this new Report ,

“The lead NOAA focal point, Dr. Thomas Karl, is the Editor-in-Chief. The assistant NOAA focal point, Dr. Christopher Miller, serves as the Associate Editor. ”

The Executive Summary has

“Proposed Convening Lead Authors (CLA): Jerry Meehl, Thomas Karl”

These are well qualified scientists. However, the Editor-in-Chief again will be evaluating his own analyses and that of the organization which he leads (NCDC) . If policymakers are going to be presented with the diversity of scientific perspectives on issues, we need to move beyond inbred climate assessments.

I provided the following text in my Public Comment on the earlier CCSP Report which was ignored in the Committee Response for that Response;

“The process that produced the report was highly political, with the Editor taking the lead in suppressing my perspectives, most egregiously demonstrated by the last-minute substitution of a new Chapter 6 for the one I had carefully led preparation of and on which I was close to reaching a final consensus. Anyone interested in the production of comprehensive assessments of climate science should be troubled by the process which I document below in great detail that led to the replacement of the Chapter that I was serving as Convening Lead Author.

The inappropriate substitution of a replacement Chapter 6, for the one I had led the drafting before resigning from the Committee, enforced the narrow perspective of the Chair of the Committee. The new version replaced the version that was nearly complete and accepted by the Committee in August 2005.

This substitution represents an example of this usurpation of the responsibility granted in the original charge to the Committee and the forcing of the Editor’s perspective on this Report. The result was the elimination from the Chapter of significant scientific issues concerning temperature trends in the lower atmosphere in the version of the Report that is now under public review.

A recommendation for future Committees of this type is that,

Future assessment Committees need to appoint members with a diversity of views and who do not have a significant conflict of interest with respect to their own work. Such Committees should be chaired by individuals committed to the presentation of a diversity of perspectives and unwilling to engage in strong-arm tactics to enforce a narrow perspective. Any such committee should be charged with summarizing all relevant literature, even if inconvenient, or which presents a view not held by certain members of the Committee. Assessment Committees should not be an opportunity for members to highlight their own research and that which supports their personal scientific conclusions without properly placing into perspective the diversity found in the peer literature. When the Chair of such a committee seeks to limit the focus of an assessment Report in a specific direction, such as was the case with this Committee, the advancement of our understanding of the scientific issues involved suffers. The Editor writes in the Preface that ‘This Report promises to be of significant value to decision-makers, and to the expert scientific and stakeholder communities… Readers of this Report will find that new observations, data sets, analyses and climate model simulations enabled the Author Team to resolve many of the perplexities noted by the NRC and the IPCC in their earlier Reports.’

Stating this does not make it so. Unfortunately, the Report advocates a narrow perspective on science shared by the majority of the committee, rather than dealing comprehensively with the issues under its charge and found in the broader scientific literature. As such it does a disservice to those interested in a comprehensive review of the relevant science.”

It appears that the new CCSP Report follows on the same track.

In my March 16, 2006 Climate Science weblog, I stated,

“To remedy this very serious inbred structure of climate science assessment committees, we need for them to be properly configured. This means that scientists should not be appointed who are evaluating their own research and perspectives. They certainly should be invited to present their research and conclusions, but to have them evaluate their work and views is very inappropriate, and results in the communication of information to the policymakers which is biased.

In the November 27, 2005 issue of EOS, a news report by Sarah Zielinski Staff Writer has a quote by Antonio Busalacchi, Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland;

â€? Busalacchi…called for the inclusion of a wider range of scientists, including international scientists, in developing these reports. In
addition, he warned that some small scientific communities had become ‘incestuous’ with report authors reviewing their own work.â€?

This description certainly applied to the CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differencesâ€?, and appears that it will again be true in the new CCSP Report.

There is a Public Comment period until May 12, 2006, although from my experience with the Public Comment from the first report (see and see), the Report will not be substantively changed in response. Until the Conveners of these Climate Assessment Committees become serious in evaluating the true breadth of scientific issues associated with climate variability and change, policymakers will continue to be exposed to incomplete scientific information. With all of the controversy regarding (the inappropriate) attempts to limit the presentation of the views of Jim Hansen, it is disappointing that when others seek to present the diversity of views on climate science, their views are suppressed, as occurred with my involvement with the first CCSP Report.

One way to move forward with a balanced Committee is to include input from the American Association of State Climatologists in establishing a broader perspective on the issue of “Climate Extremes: Analysis of the Observed Changes and Variations and Prospects for the Future.” A Chair also needs to be appointed who does not have a vested interest with a particular outcome of the subject of the Report. It is very noteworthy that despite the expertise in the community of State Climatologists on the analysis of observed climate extremes, that there are none who are proposed to serve on the Committee.

The Policy Statement on “Climate Variability and Change” which the AASC has adopted clearly shows that this community has expertise that should be utilized in completing the new CCSP Report on “Climate Extremes: Analysis of the Observed Changes and Variations and Prospects for the Future”.

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