A top US academic reported by David Rose in the Mail on Sunday last week 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. Prof Stavins, Harvard’s Professor of Business and Government, was one of two ‘co-ordinating lead authors’ of a key report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this month.
His chapter of the 2,000-page original report concerned ways countries can co-operate to reduce carbon emissions.
IPCC reports are supposed to be scrupulously independent as they give scientific advice to governments around the world to help them shape energy policies – which in turn affect subsidies and domestic power bills.
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 yesterday that he had been especially concerned by what happened at a special ‘contact group’. 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’.
Many of the officials were themselves climate negotiators, facing the task of devising a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in negotiations set to conclude next year.
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.’
He declined to say which countries had demanded which changes, saying only that ‘all the main countries and regions were represented’.
Some deletions were made at the insistence of only one or two nations – because under IPCC rules, the reports must be unanimous.
He revealed the original draft of the summary contained a lot of detail on how international co-operation to curb emissions might work, and how it could be funded. The final version contains only meaningless headings, however, with all details removed.
His comments follow a decision two weeks earlier by Sussex University’s Professor Richard Tol to remove his name from the summary of an earlier volume of the full IPCC report, on the grounds it had been ‘sexed up’ by the same government officials and had become overly ‘alarmist’.
Prof Stavins’ letter provoked a response from Bob Ward, policy director of the London School of Economics’ Grantham Institute and a fierce critic of those who dissent from climate change orthodoxy.
Mr Ward asked on Twitter whether it showed the ‘IPCC government approval process is broken’.
Yesterday he admitted the affair showed that ‘the IPCC is not a perfect process, though it’s hard to imagine a better one’.
Prof Judith Curry, the head of climate science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, said that between them, Professors Tol and Stavins had shown the process was ‘polluted by obvious politics’.
The IPCC headquarters in Geneva could not be reached for comment.
The Mail on Sunday editorial goes on to say:
When a keen supporter of the climate change movement expresses ‘disappointment and frustration’ with political interference in a major report on green issues, everyone should pay attention.
Professor Robert Stavins says he was ‘surprised’ by the degree to which government representatives demanded changes in a key ‘summary for policymakers’. They did so to safeguard their negotiating positions in international talks.
This summary is a highly significant document produced by the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If one of the movement’s most respected figures says it is subject to distortion through political interference, what does that say about the whole global warming campaign?
For a proper independent study on climate change, I strongly recommend The Age of Global Warming by Rupert Darwall which is now published in paperback by Quartet.
Here is what some of the reviews have said:
‘Like most of those on both sides of the debate, Rupert Darwall is not a scientist. He is a wonderfully lucid historian of intellectual and political movements, which is just the job to explain what has been inflicted on us over the past thirty years or so in the name of saving the planet … Scientists, Rupert Darwall complains, have been too ready to embrace the ‘subjectivity’ of the future, and too often have a ‘cultural aversion to learning from the past’. If they read this tremendous book they will see those lessons set out with painful clarity’ Charles Moore, Telegraph
‘A superb and compelling book’ Mail on Sunday
‘This is a brilliant piece of work that every climate change negotiator should have in his front pocket’ Jon Snow
‘A great achievement … Rupert Darwall has written a compelling and balanced account of a story that needs to be told’ Nigel Lawson
‘A total masterpiece’ James Delingpole
‘Gripping … Darwall’s book has been widely praised as a welcome addition to our understanding of this extraordinary story, which as he says reflects a historic shift in the global balance of power between the West and those fast-rising nations to the east led by China and India’ Spectator
‘Rupert Darwall has told a story of frauds and fools thoroughly and well. His truth may be inconvenient for some. For the rest of us, it is a breath of fresh air’ The American Spectator