The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change has instructed all 831 researchers contributing to the organization's next round of assessments to "keep a distance from the media."
Such was disseminated in a July 5 letter from IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri which has already garnered some criticism from folks on both sides of the anthropogenic global warming debate.
Even the New York Times' Andrew Revkin expressed disgust with this revelation Saturday:
I know a number of supervising authors of the forthcoming reports are eager to revise policies and stress openness. There's plenty of advice on the way from committees reviewing the panel's practices. I also understand the reflexes involved here, particularly given how some media overplayed claims that the climate panel had erred in parts of its 2007 assessment.
But any instinct to pull back after being burned by the news process is mistaken, to my mind. As I explained to a roomful of researchers at the National Academy of Sciences last year, in a world of expanding communication options and shrinking specialized media, scientists and their institutions need to help foster clear and open communication more than ever. Clampdowns on press access almost always backfire.
Indeed. Supporting this view was IPCC contributor Edward R. Carr, an associate professor of geography at the University of South Carolina who wrote Friday:
Part of the problem for the IPCC is a perceived lack of openness - that something is going on behind closed doors that cannot be trusted. This, in the end, was at the heart of the "climategate" circus - a recent report has exonerated all of the scientists implicated, but some people still believe that there is something sinister going on.
There is an easy solution to this - complete openness. I've worked on global assessments before, and the science is sound. I've been quite critical of the way in which one of the reports was framed (download "Applying DPSIR to Sustainable Development" here), but the science is solid and the conclusions are more refined than ever. Showing people how this process works, and what we do exactly, would go a long way toward getting everyone on the same page with regard to global environmental change, and how we might best address it.
So I was dismayed this morning to receive a letter, quite formally titled "Letter No.7004-10/IPCC/AR5 from Dr Pachauri, Chaiman of the IPCC", that might set such transparency back. While the majority of the letter is a very nice congratulations on being selected as part of the IPCC, the third paragraph is completely misguided:
"I would also like to emphasize that enhanced media interest in the work of the IPCC would probably subject you to queries about your work and the IPCC. My sincere advice would be that you keep a distance from the media and should any questions be asked about the Working Group with which you are associated, please direct such media questions to the Co-chairs of your Working Group and for any questions regarding the IPCC to the secretariat of the IPCC."
This "bunker mentality" will do nothing for the public image of the IPCC. The members of my working group are among the finest minds in the world. We are capable of speaking to the press about what we do without the help of minders or gatekeepers. I hope my colleagues feel the same way, and the IPCC sees the light . . .
For an organization that has suffered a tremendous loss of credibility in the past twelve months, any attempt to shelter this process from complete sunshine would be totally misguided.
The international community's belief in AGW has been plummeting thanks to numerous missteps by those promoting the theory.
With Global Warmingist-in-Chief Al Gore now in the middle of a divorce and a sex scandal, his contributions to helping publicize AR-5 could end up being limited.
Regardless of recent findings largely in support of ClimateGate scientists -- the realist community never expected anything other than this as these folks weren't about to rule against their own! -- America's media have seemed largely detached from this debate in current months.
Witness the relative lack of global warming hysteria this past week as temperatures in the northeast broke records.
With this in mind, if the IPCC wants the normally compliant press to assist it in making its case when AR-5 is published in 2013, it had better do everything possible to make journalists a part of the process.
Failing this, you could end up with far less media support for whatever is published.
In the end, this could be the best thing for this debate AND the planet, for without the press banging the AGW drum, climate alarmists are going to have a very difficult time selling their gloom and doom.
That is not to say realists should hope for a media blackout.
As science has always been on the side of those not buying into Gore's favorite money-making scheme, full disclosure and openness are in everyone's best interest.