In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed by a photographer and blogger attacked the credibility of a major report on the state of climate change by distorting the caution and breadth of research that undergirds the work of the group preparing to release it, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The op-ed, published Wednesday under Donna Laframboise's byline, suggested a 2010 review of the procedures for IPCC reports was an indication that the media should not listen to the panel when it says that "'science' has spoken." Laframboise noted that one respondent to a questionnaire included in the review said that some of the 450 lead authors, 800 contributing authors and more than 2,500 reviewers have "insufficient scientific competence." However, she did not mention that the IPCC itself asked the InterAcademy Council (IAC) to carry out the review, or that the IAC stated that it was "pleased that so many of our report's recommendations were adopted" by the organization for its upcoming report. Furthermore, the IAC said the IPCC's recommendations "are well supported by the scientific evidence."
While Laframboise went on to criticize the IPCC for occasionally relying on non-peer-reviewed sources, a standard bugbear, the same review defended that practice, stating that doing otherwise "would require the IPCC to ignore some valuable information" and that the review procedures for such literature were "adequate." The IAC review found that 84 percent of the references cited in the primary scientific assessment report of the IPCC were peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Laframboise also alleged that five authors (out of hundreds) from the last report had conflicts of interest because they had written reports or were employed by environmental groups. She offered no evidence that those authors' scientific credentials are in any way deficient, and neglected to concede the point that some lead authors have also been connected to oil companies or other fossil fuel interests. Laframboise did not mention that one of the IPCC guidelines taken on after the IAC review was a conflict of interest policy covering "all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports," including authors and review editors.
Citing what it calls "a scathing new expose on the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change," Fox News is trumpeting claims that IPCC reports "have often been written by graduate students with little or no experience in their field of study." Fox's article, titled "U.N. Hires Grad Students to Author Key Climate Report," comes as the IPCC prepares to issue a new report on weather extremes.
Fox's "expose" is an e-book by Canadian writer Donna Laframboise, who recruited "a team of citizen auditors" to pore over IPCC reports from the past two decades. Drawing from the book, Fox identifies four IPCC authors since 1994 who were in, or had recently completed, grad school.
Here are the facts Fox characteristically avoided: There were over 450 lead authors for the 2007 assessment report, plus 800 contributing authors and more than 2,500 reviewers. Fox identified only one graduate student who worked on the 2007 report. 1 out of over 1250 authors.
The IPCC does not conduct climate research, it reviews and summarizes scientists' studies of climate change. The assessment reports have three volumes consisting of 10-20 chapters. Each chapter has around 7-10 lead authors and 2 coordinating lead authors and goes through two rounds of scientific review. Four of the lead authors could have been chimpanzees and it wouldn't have made a dent in the scientific heft of these massive reports.