WASHINGTON (BP)–“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” Proverbs 22:1 says. Few things are more incompatible with a good name, however, than a reputation for partiality, bias and conflict of interest. As Proverbs 24:23 puts it, “Partiality in judging is not good.”
But a reputation is what “Energygate” — the latest scandal destroying the credibility of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — is all about.
November 2009 brought Climategate — the release of thousands of emails, computer programs and other documents showing that climate scientists in control of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had fabricated, exaggerated, suppressed and corrupted data to support belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and had intimidated dissenting scientists and journal editors who would publish their work, corrupted the peer review process and flouted canons of scientific transparency as well as American and British freedom of information laws.
The first few months of 2010 brought Himalayagate, Amazongate and a variety of other revelations that IPCC’s vaunted AR4 (Fourth Assessment Report) had incorporated non-peer reviewed articles — sometimes outright propaganda pieces produced by environmental advocacy organizations — as sources of some of its most alarming predictions.
Later in 2010 came recommendations from the InterAcademy Council (IAC) Committee to Review the IPCC for steps that must be taken to improve IPCC’s function and credibility. Among the most important was adoption and implementation of a clear conflict of interest policy that would, among other things, prevent much of what was revealed in Climategate, Himalayagate, etc.
On May 9, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in a press release that a forthcoming report “showed” that “80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewable [sources] by mid-century” even if all nuclear energy production ceased.
On June 14, IPCC at last released the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRRES), with the reality falling more than a little short of the claim.
First, the SRRES shows no such thing. It claims it, but provides no evidence for it.
Second, the part of the report that was misrepresented as showing that 80% of the world’s energy needs could be met by renewable by 2050 depended on a paper by a Greenpeace renewable energy advocate, Sven Teske, who was also a lead author of the report—and the article itself depended on an advocacy piece Teske previously wrote for Greenpeace.
Third, the “research” for the paper was sponsored by the European Renewable Energy Council, an industry consortium.
Both “second” and “third” involve conflict of interest and bias and strip the paper and its claim of scientific credibility.
But there’s more.
Fourth, the “close to 80 percent” figure was cherry-picked from the most extreme outlier of 164 scenarios referenced in the report — a scenario that assumes the extremely unlikely, and extremely optimistic, coupling of sharp reductions in global energy demand over the next 40 years on the one hand, with strong economic growth and 28 percent population growth on the other. Aside from the intellectual dishonesty involved, there’s also the problem that to be of any real value to decision-makers, planning must be based not on the most optimistic scenarios but on the most realistic.
Fifth, it turns out that the whole report is, as Christopher Booker of London’s Telegraph puts it, “astonishingly one-sided” and “reads less like a scientific document and more like a propaganda puff for the world’s renewable industries.”
Sixth (and finally? — who knows?), as if the flouting of basic conflict-of-interest and objectivity standards in all these instances were not enough, the IPCC now has formally announced that it won’t require authors of next year’s AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) to comply with any conflict of interest policies.
In an interview June 17, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri — whose ownership interests in businesses with a stake in renewable energy create his own serious conflicts of interest — said at a meeting in Brussels June 16, reported by Oliver Morton of The Economist, that since authors for AR5 have already been selected, “it wouldn’t be fair to impose anything that sort of applies retrospectively.”
IPCC does indeed have a conflict of interest policy — and a policy against bias. Both were adopted at its 33rd Session, in May, in Abu Dhabi. According to the IPCC’s own policies:
“A ‘conflict of interest’ refers to any current professional, financial or other interest which could: i) significantly impair the individual’s objectivity in carrying out his or her duties and responsibilities for the IPCC or ii) create an unfair advantage for any person or organization. For the purposes of this policy, circumstances that could lead a reasonable person to question an individual’s objectivity, or whether an unfair advantage has been created, constitute a potential conflict of interest. These potential conflicts are subject to disclosure.”
And with respect to bias:
“Those involved in selecting authors will need to strive for an author team composition that reflects a balance of expertise and perspectives, such that IPCC products are comprehensive, objective, and neutral with respect to policy. In selecting these individuals, care must be taken to ensure that biases can be balanced where they
How important are these to the IPCC? Here’s its own statement:
“The role of the IPCC demands that it pay special attention to issues of independence and bias in order to maintain the integrity of, and public confidence in, its products and processes. It is essential that the work of IPCC is not compromised by any conflict of interest for those who execute it….”
The IPCC conflict of interest policy is designed to ensure that conflicts of interest are identified, communicated to the relevant parties, and managed to avoid any adverse impact on IPCC balance, products and processes, thereby protecting the individual, the IPCC and the public interest. The individual and the IPCC should not be placed in a situation that could lead a reasonable person to question, and perhaps discount or dismiss, the work of the IPCC simply because of the existence of a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, says Pachauri, AR5’s authors, because they’ve already been selected, won’t be required to live up to this policy.
Congressman Paul Broun, R.-Ga., chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, fired off a letter June 17 — apparently without knowledge of Pachauri’s statement — to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressing his “concern about the lack of progress in implementation of the conflict of interest recommendation of the” IAC.
Today, Pachauri’s announcement makes headlines here and there. Will it be remembered when IPCC releases AR5? Not likely. The vast majority of the mainstream media are ignoring it now, and they’re not likely to discover it then.
To the corrupt priests of ancient Israel, God said through the prophet Malachi, “I … have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction” (Malachi 2:9).
I have a recommendation: When AR5 gets published, its front cover, every page, its executive summary and every press release about it should carry this disclaimer: “The authors of this report have been exempted from the conflict-of-interest and bias policies of the IPCC, which therefore makes no claims of and takes no responsibility for the credibility of any of its contents.”
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is founder and national spokesman of Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a network of theologians, pastors, ministry leaders, scientists, economists, and policy experts dedicated to bringing biblical worldview, theology, and ethics together with science and economics to promote 1) economic development for the very poor, 2) wise stewardship of environmental resources, and 3) the proclamation and defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.