Climate Assessment Oligarchy – The IPCC

An oligarchy is a

“form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.”

This definition certainly fits with the IPCC, as illustrated by the closed meeting in which Gerald Meehl, Jonathan Overpeck, Susan Solomon, Thomas Stocker, and Ron Stouffer are organizing in Hawaii in March 2009. This meeting is reported at

Joint IPCC-WCRP-IGBP Workshop: New Science Directions and Activities Relevant to the IPCC AR5 [Tuesday, March 03, 2009 – Friday, March 06, 2009 at the University of Hawaii International Pacific Research Center Honolulu , Hawaii].

While the meeting is to be mostly self-funded [which means federal contracts and grants and other such sources will be used to pay for the trip], it raises the issue as to why such a remote location is chosen. Presumably the particpants should be concerned about the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere from the jet aircraft that will transport them to Hawaii.

The Workshop is also open to only the IPCC Working Group 1 Lead Authors [LAs] and Contributing Lead Authors [CLAs] from all four assessments.  While the goals of the Workshop are appropriate scientific topics, the closed character of the Workshop and its location perpetuates the exclusiveness of the IPCC process.  

This small community of climate scientists is controlling the agenda with respect to the assessment of climate change. This is an oligarchy.

Climate Science urges that a new group of climate scientists be empowered to lead the next IPCC report. The inbred group of scientists who are to attend the Hawaii workshop, while most are excellent scientists, have a conflict of interest in that they have already presented their viewpoints on the role of humans in the climate system [at the expense of excluding peer reviewed science viewpoints, however; eg. see the Appendix in Pielke 2008].

The next IPCC assessment should involve only scientists who have not taken a strong position on the IPCC reports, but who have outstanding scientific credentials. Among the first questions they should address are the three hypotheses, only one of which can be true;

  • The human influence is minimal and natural variations dominate climate variations on all time scale;
  • While natural variations are important, the human influence is significant and involves a diverse range of first-order climate forcings (including, but not limited to the human input of CO2);
  • The human influence is dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide.
  • This research question has been discussed on Climate Science (e.g. see).

    Without new scientists leading the IPCC process as LAs and CLAs, the next IPCC report is doomed to continue to be completed by an oligarchy that is using its privileged position to advocate for a particular perspective on the role of humans within the climate system [the third hypothesis above]. The next IPCC report will not be a balanced assessment, but continue to be policy advocacy in the guise of a scientific framework.


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