06 June 2011

The Pachauri Exception?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently adopted a major new policy for overseeing conflicts of interest among its leaders and authors. I was very supportive of the proposed policy when it was first announced.  But according to several, independent colleagues inside and outside of the IPCC, the organization still has a major decision to make on the proposed policy -- when does it come into effect?

The question that the IPCC apparently has yet to resolve is whether the new policy is to apply to participants in its fifth (current) assessment report or whether to defer application of the new policy until subsequent reports.  This looming decision has -- as far as I can tell -- not been reported or openly discussed.  (If the details on this decision that have been reported to me are incorrect, IPCC officials invited to set the record straight.)

The challenge faced by the IPCC is significant. Under the adopted policy it is inconceivable that its current chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, could continue to serve.  Presumably, other participants would also fail to meet the high standards of the new policy.  This would mean major change in the organization.

But if the IPCC decides to defer application of the new policy to future assessment reports it will risk being labelled unaccountable and even a farce by making a mockery of conflict of interest.  A third option of implementing the policy but not enforcing it is possible, but seems unlikely, given the complete loss of credibility that would result.

What will the IPCC do?  There is no easy choice.  But at this point, does anyone really care?


  1. "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet"

  2. Here's a prediction:
    Pachauri insisted that family was excluded, so it will be revealed that he has transferred many of his interests to his wife and daughters.

    Disclosure is voluntary, and it will be shown to be incomplete in a number of cases.

    Conflicts of interest that are disclosed by current IPCC personnel will not lead to action.

    The IPCC leaders constantly remind the press of the rigorous procedures for peer-review (unfortunately not enforced). In the future, they will constantly remind the press of the rigorous procedure for conflict of interest (unfortunately not enforced).

  3. "But if the IPCC decides to defer application of the new policy to future assessment reports it will risk being labelled unaccountable and even a farce by making a mockery of conflict of interest [emphasis added -hro]"

    They already have made a mockery of CoI. One of the (to me at least) very telling paragraphs in their "decisions taken" text is as follows:

    "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. [emphasis added -hro]"

    The inclusion of "simply" strongly suggests to me that either they don't get it, or they don't really care ... as long as they can continue with BAU.

    This is not the only example of the failure of their CoI "policy" - which still lacks "Implementation" and a CoI "Disclosure Form" - to reflect the intent of the IAC's recommendations.

    For further details, pls see:


    On a somewhat related note, the absence of Pachauri at that recent Stockholm dog and pony show - notwithstanding the presence of TERI's "Executive Director" - suggests that perhaps he [along with the IPCC?!] is being sidelined.

  4. It may be slightly off topic but there is a remarkable decision slipped in at the last minute by Thomas Stocker, unless I am mistake. Since 1993 the role of the IPCC has been to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis etc. In a 1992 paper, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Sir John Houghton wrote:

    ".. all parts of the assessment process need to be completely open and transparent. IPCC documents including early drafts and review comments have been freely and widely available - adding much to the credibility of the process and its conclusions."

    We know this was not true then and the present rumpus over Glaciergate and Climategate only came about because the US FOIA forced the release of documents on AR4. But now the IPCC has made a decision that says its assessment process will be secret until months after the SPM has been published.

    So the general public will not have the chance see if there is evidence of conflicts of interest or any controversial issues that have been ignored until it is too late to do anything about it.

    David Holland

  5. Dear Dr Pielke,
    The Nature article has been misread by you.

    The IPCC is yet to formally adopt a conflict-of-interest policy. What is on the table is a barebones template for discussion.

    "Addressing Peru’s and others concerns that the IPCC would risk criticism again if, for whatever reason, the Panel was not able to deliver on time, the Netherlands offered to provide an explanation to the public if the Panel does not meet its deadline. The Panel then agreed to implement the policy “no later than the 35th session.”"

    from the latest IISD bulletin on the IPCC plenary.

    The 35th session is not due until next year. The major contours of the present report will be in place by then. The newly-fixed CoI policies will then not apply to the incumbent, including Pachauri.

    You can observe now, the Nature news item. It is very carefully worded to convey an impression that 'major reforms' are underway, while actually the IPCC has only managed to inflate its 'communications budget' and no reform has actually taken place. It does not state that a conflict-of-interest policy has been adopted by the IPCC.

  6. How many signs do you need to see before you admit the obvious: The IPCC is a hopelessly corrupt and ineffective organization,and to the extent that climate scientists are involved in it, they are supporting that corruption and ineffectiveness?

  7. [the IPCC] will risk being labelled unaccountable

    Is there anyone, anywhere, who can say the IPCC is accountable?

    Who audits them? Who discusses their results in a critical way in a major forum? Who refuses to pay them if they don't behave?

    They have never been "accountable".

  8. Actually someone does say that the IPCC is accountable.
    "Set up as an intergovernmental body, the IPCC is accountable to
    participating governments and UN organizations."