Press Ignores Harvard Prof Alleging 'Astonishing Interference' in Latest IPCC Global Warming Report

Professor Robert N. Stavins at Harvard's Kennedy School hardly seems like a major climate change/global warming boat-rocker. At his blog last year, he described climate change as "the ultimate global commons problem," where "international, if not global, cooperation is essential." Commenting on climate talks in Doha, Qatar in December 2012, he saw the role of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements as helping countries and international bodies "address climate change in ways that are scientifically sound, economically rational, and politically pragmatic."

So Stavins is no "denier," as enviros on the left are given to calling anyone who dares to question climate change dogma. But he strongly objects to how his role in the latest IPCC report relating to how countries might co-operate to reduce carbon emissions — basically where the rubber meets the road in affecting everyday citizens' lives — was compromised by intense political interference. Excerpts from the UK Daily Mail's coverage, once again an instance of the UK tabloids scooping the U.S. press, follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):


RobertStavinsHarvardWide

Top climate expert's sensational claim of government meddling in crucial UN report
- Officials from all main countries 'insisted on changes in late-night meeting'
- Intervention amounts to 'serious conflict of interest', claims Harvard prof
- IPCC reports are supposed to be independent as they help shape policy

A top US academic has dramatically revealed how government officials forced him to change a hugely influential scientific report on climate change to suit their own interests.

Harvard professor Robert Stavins electrified the worldwide debate on climate change on Friday by sensationally publishing a letter online in which he spelled out the astonishing interference.

He said the officials, representing ‘all the main countries and regions of the world’ insisted on the changes in a late-night meeting at a Berlin conference centre two weeks ago.

Three quarters of the original version of the document ended up being deleted.

Prof Stavins claimed the intervention amounted to a serious ‘conflict of interest’ between scientists and governments. His revelation is significant because it is rare for climate change experts to publicly question the process behind the compilation of reports on the subject.

... His chapter of the 2,000-page original report concerned ways countries can co-operate to reduce carbon emissions.

... Prof Stavins said the government officials in Berlin fought to make big changes to the full report’s ‘summary for policymakers’. This is the condensed version usually cited by the world’s media and politicians. He said their goal was to protect their ‘negotiating stances’ at forthcoming talks over a new greenhouse gas reduction treaty.

... Prof Stavins told The Mail on Sunday ... (that) He was one of only two scientists present, surrounded by ‘45 or 50’ government officials.

He said almost all of them made clear that ‘any text that was considered inconsistent with their interests and positions in multilateral negotiations was treated as unacceptable.’

... Prof Stavins said: ‘This created an irreconcilable conflict of interest. It has got to the point where it would be reasonable to call the document a summary by policymakers, not a summary for them, and it certainly affects the credibility of the IPCC. The process ought to be reformed.’

Stavins is not the first person to sound the alarm over how IPCC pronouncements are developed. Richard Tol of the University of Sussex, identified as the 20th most-cited climate scholar in the world, wtthdrew his name from a report issued last year in similar circumstances. He weighed in himself on Friday over what Stavins had written (HT Watts Up With That):

IPCC again

... As a Convening Lead Author of one of the chapters, I was automatically on the team to draft the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM). AR5 (the fifth "Assessment Report" — Ed.) is a literature review of 2,600 pages long. It assesses a large body of scholarly publication. In some places, the chapters are so condensed that there are a few words per article in the learned literature. The SPM then distills the key messages into 44 pages – but everyone knows that policy and media will only pick up a few sentences. This leads to a contest between chapters – my impact is worst, so I will get the headlines.

In the earlier drafts of the SPM, there was a key message that was new, snappy and relevant: Many of the more worrying impacts of climate change really are symptoms of mismanagement and underdevelopment.

This message does not support the political agenda for greenhouse gas emission reduction. Later drafts put more and more emphasis on the reasons for concern about climate change, a concept I had helped to develop for AR3. Raising the alarm about climate change has been tried before, many times in fact, but it has not had an appreciable effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

I reckoned that putting my name on such a document would not be credible – my opinions are well-known – and I withdrew.

... (Climate change negotiators) work in shifts, exhausting the other delegations with endless discussions about trivia, so that all important decisions are made in the final night with only a few delegations left standing. The IPCC authors, who technically have the right to veto text that contradicts their chapter, suffer from tiredness too.

This shows. The SPM omits that better cultivars and improved irrigation increase crop yields. It shows the impact of sea level rise on the most vulnerable country, but does not mention the average. It emphasize the impacts of increased heat stress but downplays reduced cold stress. It warns about poverty traps, violent conflict and mass migration without much support in the literature. The media, of course, exaggerated further.

A Google News search on Stavins's full name indicates that other than a Huffington Post re-post of Stavins's original Friday blog entry, there has been no establishment press interest in this bureaucratic corruption. A search at the Associated Press's national site on Stavin's last name returns nothing.

The press portrays the IPCC as some sort of august body of the smartest people in world handing down seriously considered science and accompanying policy recommendations, and clearly ignores reporting on evidence that it is anything but that.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.