The 2007 IPCC Assessment Process – Its Obvious Conflict of Interest

Climate Science has discussed the shortcomings, bias and errors with the 2007 IPCC Report (e.g. see, see, see, and see). My final Climate Science posting summarizes the fundamental problem with this assessment.

If instead of evaluating research in climate, suppose a group of scientists introduced a new cancer drug that they claimed could save many lives. There were side effects, of course, but they claimed that the benefit far out weighed these risks. The government than asked these scientist to form an assessment Committee to evaluate this claim. Colleagues of the group of scientists who introduced the drug are then asked to serve on this Committee, along with the developers.

If this occurred, of course, there would be an uproar of protest! This is a clear conflict of interest.

Yet this is what has happened with the IPCC process! The same individuals who are doing primary research in the role of humans on the climate system are then permitted to lead the assessment! There should be an outcry on this obvious conflict of interest, but to date either few recognize this conflict, or see that since the recommendations of the IPCC fit their policy and political agenda, they chose to ignore this conflict. In either case, scientific rigor has been sacrificed and poor policy and political decisions will inevitably follow.

In a previous climate assessment, I made a recommendation as to how to correct this defective assessment process. This is discussed in the report

Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences”. 88 pp including appendices,

where I wrote

“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.”

“….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.”

We need recognition among the scientific community, the media, and policymakers that the IPCC process is obviously a real conflict of interest, and this has resulted in a significantly flawed report.

Real Climate has sought to argue that the IPCC process is transparent (see). They clearly contradict themselves in their post, however, where they write

“The authors of the report used the input from the reviewers to improve the report. In some cases, the authors may disagree with the comments – after all, it is them who are the authors of the report; not the reviewers.”

This means that the authors are gatekeepers who can prevent alternative perspectives from being presented. They did exercise that power in preparing the 2007 (and earlier) IPCC Reports. The conflcit of interest reported on in the current Climate Science weblog can be shown clearly in this admission from Real Climate.

Finally, as reported last week, this will be the last weblog on Climate Science. I invite everyone, however, to read the large archive of weblogs that have been posted over the last two years!

The url for the weblog’s archive will be posted Monday. Thank you again for your participation and spending time on Climate Science. I look forward to other climate scientists starting such a weblog!

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