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« Norfolk Vice | Main | Dark Matter: What's science got to hide? »
Wednesday
Dec142011

IPCC declares itself above the law

Richard Tol reports from the IPCC WGII lead author meeting in San Francisco:

...the IPCC member states have ruled on freedom of information legislation. Specifically, it has been decided that FoI does not apply to IPCC material. This is false. FoI is national legislation. These laws can only be interpreted by the relevant courts. These laws can only be changed by the relevant parliaments. The civil servants that speak on behalf of their countries have no right to usurp FoI legislation, and the IPCC has no say in this matter.

This of course is a continuation of this story.

George Monbiot was winning considerable plaudits on the Dark Matter thread for his strong stand on freedom of information. He is also, of course, a fan of the IPCC. It would be interesting to see what he makes of this.

 

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Reader Comments (107)

Phillip Bratby said:

Richard: The giver of the gift in this case is the taxpayer. He who pays the piper calls the tune (well he did in the old days).

Still does. This is Government money being spent. The customer is always right and the customer is perceived to be the State, not us.

If they want to be free from FOI then they just need to stop taking taxpayer money. It's that simple.

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Richard, thanks. But this implies that Phil Jones is giving out misleading information. I'm deeply shocked.

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

So, if the IPCC reports are written in peoples spare time, are not subject to normal peer review and the laws of the member countries, what exactly is this body ? An amateur science club ?

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMan Bear Pig

MBP

Covert climate science?

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Richard, thanks. But this implies that Phil Jones is giving out misleading information. I'm deeply shocked.

I know, it's upsetting. There's group therapy available if you know where to look.

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


Richard Tol reports from the IPCC WGII lead author meeting in San Francisco


Why are these meetings always held in some nice touristy location

Ahhh, that explains why it's been so cold this week in SF.

Dec 14, 2011 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterclimatebeagle

Seems to me that, at some point, Monbiot is going to have to decide which is most important - AGW or FOI, but then, as a colleague of mine used to say 'it's very difficult to decide which way to jump when you've just nailed your balls to the fence'.

Dec 14, 2011 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterSalopian

Take a look at some of the Climategate 2.0 emails that Tom Nelson has been posting lately (many are being linked by Climate Depot).

They discuss public relations (PR) quite a lot, and they scheme and plot quite brazenly to provide fake quotes and evasions from public scrutiny. They openly admit they are in the public relations business. It's nothing we hadn't known before, just more evidence of it.

These people are really sleazy weasels.

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

Aren't we being a bit unfair to Hengist? The circumstances of the "declaration" (or assertion) seem unclear and need to be spelled out. Moreover...

"If it is indeed only an interpretation Hengist, do you agree with the interpretation? A waffle-lite response would be appreciated." --GrantB

Such high hopes, Grant! You meant to say, "waffle-like," did you not?

"The claim in the headline on this post is nothing but sophistry and the so-called skeptics that follow this blog have swallowed their misleading nonsense wholesale." --Hengist McStone

Hear, hear! If anyone can recognize sophistry, it's surely Hengist.

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Have any of you looked at the original 138 page version of the UN climate draft? Fortunately CFACT did and publicized it, and, as a consequence the document was quickly reworked. If that draft doesn't tell you all you need to know about the UN, then YOU are part of the problem.

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterGoFigure

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Messenger

Richard Betts, where are you? Your presence and comments on this post would be welcome.

I'm also here at the IPCC WG2 meeting.

Richard Tol, I'll probably see you in a few minutes, but I'll ask you here why you think the COI statements are problematic? They quite clearly state that we should list anything that might be seen as an interest, and give examples such as membership of advocacy groups. Also I'm confused about why you think you've been asked to sign in a personal capacity because the form asks for your current employer. I'm here on Met Office time.

On FOI, I don't remember that being mentioned in the meeting here, did I miss something? You are right that the IPCC cannot actually override national FOI laws, and I doubt if the panel really said that. That said, FOI requests (and also the Environmental Information Regulations in the UK, which apply to IPCC work) are addressed in the context of other constraints such as requests by international partners to keep work-in-progress documentation confidential (e.g.: the zero order drafts - not that the WG1 ZODs are secret any more anyway, having been leaked!!).

The Met Office looks at each EIR case individually and does not just blindly impose a blanket refusal to release anything related to IPCC on principle, even though IPCC may prefer us to do that. I believe we have released some information following David Holland's EIR requests - see WhatDoTheyKnow. We do take our responsibilities as a public body very seriously.

The WG1 First Order Drafts will be available for review on Friday.

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:49 PM | Richard Betts

Before reading Betts, I thought it was a matter of rumor or misunderstanding. Now I am worried.

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Talk about running with the fox while hunting with the hares. Or, is it batting and bowling at the same time?

On one hand, the IPCC (which claims to have unassailable truth behind its assertions) is not subject to any transparency whatsoever.

On the other hand, contributors to IPCC processes claim that either they were not on the public payroll at the time, or if they were, their work is subject to IPCC secrecy provisions.

Shades of the bulldust about why nations' temperature data couldn't be released - it was supposedly subject to confidentiality agreements. So confidential that we couldn't even be told the details of their existence. Like nuclear warhead secrets, or biological warfare intelligence.

How much longer can they get away with this circular and secret logic about the 'science' that underpins huge decisions about public policy?

Dec 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

" What better use for a widow's mite?" --bill

Interesting thought. Anti-CO² legislation is built on a foundation of taxes in part extorted from the poor, and carried out in such a way as to penalize them, subjecting them to starvation and death in poorly heated homes. This will end badly.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

@Richard B
Conflict of interests are, in my opinion, defined too narrowly. While I may not benefit personally and financially from an error in the IPCC, I may raise money for my institute on the basis of such an error. That is fine under the current rules. I may abuse my position as a journal editor to accelerate or decelerate papers that are relevant for the IPCC. That is fine too.

Someone quite senior in the TSU told us that we are signing the CoI statement in our personal capacity.

The experience with the trial run in Tsukaba suggests that some authors are not entirely truthful.

As to FoI, the "confidentiality guidance" has a list of things that will be made public and says that any and all other material will remain confidential. The TSU indicated that this was done on behalf of the "governments"

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard Betts any work with other countries has to be done within the law of the country , if this work can't be done in such a way that it meets the requirements of the law of the land the work is being done in , it should not even be attempted or those doing so are breaking the law and opening themselves and their institutions up to possible criminal prosecution. I am afraid hiding under the 'international banner ' offers no protection its already a well known issue as such things as medical ethics can vary between countries .

But once again it is worth noting that is the issue was as real, urgent and all important as claimed , then far from 'hiding ' information and putting so much effort into blocking people looking for data , you would expect them to be kicking peoples doors down and shoving this information under their noses.
The IPCC's behavior really does make it look like they have something to hid.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Richard Tol

As to FoI, the "confidentiality guidance" has a list of things that will be made public and says that any and all other material will remain confidential. The TSU indicated that this was done on behalf of the "governments"

OK so nothing new then, I thought I'd missed some new statement. This is just what the IPCC would like to happen, but there is no actual power there. What actually happens following an FOI / EIR request is down to the public body to which the request is sent - and that body will take into account the various factors such as what the partner (in this case the IPCC) has requested and the wider public interest - and the decision can then be challenged by appeal to higher levels in government right up to the information commissioner. The IPCC has no influence other than making its views known.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

So Richard Betts confirms that the IPCC would wish to impose a blanket ban on the release of information related to the IPCC.

Now that adds something new to the debate about openess and transparency in the AR5 authoring process.

We know that the IPCC are actively creating back-channels to prevent disclosure, now it appears that the IPCC must be actively encouraging scientists and the organisations they work for to flout FOI legislation as well.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@Richard B
Agreed. The IPCC has declared its intentions, but this has no legal force whatsoever.

That said, the IPCC intends to stop short of full transparency. So far, the San Francisco meeting, as the Tsukuba meeting, is long on detail and short on conspiracy. I would advice people against looking over my shoulder, lest they die of boredom, but I would not object to them doing so. If we just had a webcam in every room, people would quickly conclude that they should move on because there really is nothing to see here.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

First, let me thank both Drs Tol & Betts for keeping us informed, especially while they are no doubt quite busy at the WG2 LA meeting.

Dr Tol, it seems to me that a statement from IPCC that certain documents (e.g. ZODs) are to be kept confidential -- that is, not released publicly as a matter of course -- is not equivalent to a claim that said documents are immune from FoIA or EIR. It is a request to those in possession not to be sending it out to all and sundry. But it seems that ZODs, for example, would be releasable under FoI/EIR in any case; and leaks appear to be mooting the issue anyway. That said, I see no strong reason why they should be handled as confidential in the first case. I concede that it might be annoying to have one's rough draft picked over; but it would seem that a requirement for all authors is a thick hide, given the formal review cycles (not to mention the "informal reviews"). Authors would be well advised to ignore blog commentary, and only handle formal FOD/SOD comments.

Dr Betts, you wrote "FOI requests (and also the Environmental Information Regulations in the UK, which apply to IPCC work) are addressed in the context of other constraints such as requests by international partners to keep work-in-progress documentation confidential." Are you implying that a request by a party for confidentiality, absent a compelling reason such as commercial competitive privacy, would trump an EIR request?

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Richard Betts - you are missing the point. As a seasoned bureaucrat (retired) this is the perfect outcome to avoid transparency. Individual researchers, then their employers, then their countries, can all erect barriers to the transparency of IPCC processes. Multiply that by all the nationalities involved, and I can assure you that many of the posters on this blog (and, sadly, the proprietor) will all be dead or dribbling in nursing homes by the time all of those processes, across many countries, have been finalised. By then, in true Dickensian form, the issue will have become irrelevant.

The core issues are that all IPCC processes should be transparent, and the data used should be freely available.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Also, Dr Tol, could you possibly expand on the "experience from the trial run in Tsukaba" to which you referred above? Apologies if you've covered it elsewhere, in which case a link would be appreciated.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:46 PM | Mac

So Richard Betts confirms that the IPCC would wish to impose a blanket ban on the release of information related to the IPCC.

No, not really - most information (including chapter drafts, comments and author responses) will be in the public domain once the assessment is published. They just don't want it released early in case this leads to misunderstanding. Something written in the ZOD does not yet represent an IPCC view but may be represented as such if released early (that's the worry anyway). The First and Second order drafts will be available for anyone to review - reviewers are just asked to only use these for review purposes and not to cite or quote them.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

RB and RT confirm that the IPCC is its own worst enemy on openess and transparency. The organisation's reaction to disclosure borders on the paranoid. The public interpret that as the IPCC being shifty, untrustworthy ,,,,,,,,,,,, and they have good reason to believe that with CG1, CG2 and the various IPCC-gates.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Edit: 'many' of us won't 'all' be dead, obviously. As the graundian would say, aplogies.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM | HaroldW

Are you implying that a request by a party for confidentiality, absent a compelling reason such as commercial competitive privacy, would trump an EIR request?

No - I think that such a request would have to have a compelling reason behind it.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

RB

You forget that people now want, no demand to see all the work in progress during the authoring process, not a fait accompli presented at the end.

If you fail to understand that then you and your colleagues are making one big mistake. People will not accept AR5 if they believe that the IPCC have been less than open and transparent about the whole process.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:06 PM | Richard Tol

Conflict of interests are, in my opinion, defined too narrowly. While I may not benefit personally and financially from an error in the IPCC, I may raise money for my institute on the basis of such an error. That is fine under the current rules. I may abuse my position as a journal editor to accelerate or decelerate papers that are relevant for the IPCC. That is fine too.

The COI form asks:

Is there anything else that could affect your objectivity or independence in the work in which
you will be involved? ___ Yes ____ No (if yes give details below)

So presumably if you think you are conflicted as you describe above, you should tick "yes" here!

re: your later post - you are right on a distinct lack of conspiracy!

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:16 PM | Mac

You forget that people now want, no demand to see all the work in progress during the authoring process, not a fait accompli presented at the end.

Indeed. Personally I am all for transparency along the way, which is why I keep letting people know how they can sign up as reviewers. We were just told a few minutes ago that WG2 will follow WG1 in having a process for unsolicited reviewers to sign up, with "expertise" being self-declared.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Tol's careless statements seem to have caused a lot of confusion. As Hengist says, no-one has been able to point to any actual IPCC declaration of being "above the law". But there is also no clarity on what kind of FOI activity is referred to.

In fact no-one can make the IPCC produce documents under FOI (whose?). It isn't a listed government agency in any act.

People can apply to have agencies of their government produce information relevant to the IPCC that those agencies hold. There may be relevant exemptions for international interactions, which would have to be decided by local law.

But the whole discussion is fact free.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Richard Betts you are in danger of confusing yourself = do you want to start again?

You admit that IPCC want to lock down this process. What do you intend to do to prevent that?

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

[Snip-Manners]

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Economics of Climate Change, way back in 2005/6, examined the IPCC process in depth and had grave reservations about it, eg

'171. We can see no justification for an IPCC procedure which strikes us as
opening the way for climate science and economics to be determined, at least
in part, by political requirements rather than by the evidence. Sound science
cannot emerge from an unsound process (para 111).
172. The IPCC Summary for policy makers says that economic studies
underestimate damage, whereas the chapter says the direction of the bias is
not known (para 114).
173. We are concerned that there may be political interference in the nomination
of scientists to the IPCC. Nominees’ credentials should rest solely with their
scientific qualifications for the tasks involved (para 116).'

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeconaf/12/12i.pdf

I think their concerns have been vindicated in spades, despite the fact that they were completely ignored by the HoC, and of course the UN. Not least with Pachauri still holding the Chair.

In fact, they are, never were, and can not conceivably ever be fit for purpose. Each successive report conclusion is so wearisomely predictable.

Oh to be a fly on the wall as the delegates scrape the lexicographers barrel in fierce competition to craft the winning new scare scenario, and the most emotive soundbite alarum.

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

"Just thought I ask."
OK, Mac, just explain. What is being discussed here? Who in the IPCC said what?

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

@Richard B
I have indeed amended my CoI statement.

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

The IPCC is like a little kid running home to Mommy when things get tough. The scam continues even after the scam emails where discovered. Now we still have to deal with Gore and Climate Thugs?

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterKB in Florida

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:56 PM | johanna

What I fear is that we are going down the Yellow Brick Road once again. I do not blame Richard Betts for any of this and I am sure that he is reporting as well as he can. However, what he is reporting is that we are going down the Yellow Brick Road again. When it comes to the IPCC, matters become ever so complex and authorities in the IPCC cannot simplify this complexity at all and yes the IPCC will be transparent in some distant future that cannot be specified through all this complexity.

Someone should call foul on all this and do so in the clearest and most concise language. If that is not possible then all of us should do whatever possible to make clear to the blogosphere that the IPCC is once again behaving like a family of carpet salesmen. They intend to provide no transparency whatsoever. The IPCC should be disbanded for conduct unbecoming an adult with nothing to hide.

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Richard Toll
thanks for your efforts to pass info to us joe public on these important topics.
brave man, much appreciated.

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

FOI would not be necessary if we had a scientific process similar to evidence provided in a criminal court. That is evidence that cannot be substantiated is either inadmissible, or can challenged by the opposing side. Similarly to launch a new pharmaceutical drug, not only must test results be provided about efficacy and lack of harm, but they must be replicated elsewhere.
Where there are complex arguements (and climate science is highly complicated) we have to rely on trust through established quality. (Like we buy branded goods through established quality levels without having a clue of the relative merits). In the case of the UNIPCC, they have not only failed in this trust in the quality of their output, but have been found to have ignored some of the best quality work, and broken their quality standards and deadlines. An premier electronics manufacturer who secretly decided to make false, inflated, claims about their products and broke their own quality standards would end up out of business when found out. Similarly a top accountancy firm that a few years ago positively helped businesses create misleading accounts, ended up out of business. We need an alternative type of agency to assess the problems of climate, with people who know how to audit (accountants) and people who can weigh up evidence (barristers).

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

@Dougieh
There is nothing brave about sitting in a hotel room blogging.

Irena Sendler was brave. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irena_Sendler

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

@Richard
ok, have a good day/night.

poignant link from you - with sad/noble ending - makes you think

"At age 97, she was unable to leave her nursing home to receive the honor, but she sent a statement through Elżbieta Ficowska, whom Sendler had helped to save as an infant. Polish President Lech Kaczyński stated she "can justly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize" (though nominations are supposed to be kept secret). Instead, the 2007 Nobel went to Al Gore for his work related to Global Warming. On 11 April 2007, she received the Order of the Smile as the oldest recipient of the award."

Dec 15, 2011 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

Many thanks to Richard Tol & Richard Betts for participating here.

Dec 15, 2011 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Those blokes in the Norfolk Constabulary are swooping down on scofflaw bloggers;

http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/tallbloke-towers-raided-many-computers-taken/

Heads up!
RR

Dec 15, 2011 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRuhRoh

@ Richard,
Yes, you and a few brave souls are speaking out.
It is time for many many more to speak and be heard.
If I was a Canadian political leader and reading how this pile of garbage was being used by the UNFCCC to threaten my country with fines in the multi-billion$ range, I would be calling around and looking for a good auditor or three to get to the bottom of this.
If I was involved with guiding the leadership of a growing country that has been playing AGW as a diplomatic gambit, I would now see that those fools in the IPCC are enabling an out of control process, and I would suggest getting my nation's talent in for a sit down ASAP to find out what in the heck is going on.
When the clowns at the UN in effect stop waving flowers and start muttering about guns and money, it is no longer as entertaining.

Dec 15, 2011 at 12:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@ RuhRoh,
Having been a fan of tallbloke for a number of years I can only say that I find this disturbing and potentially ominous.
I look forward to finding out the facts of the case asap.
I hope tallbloke has not made any mistakes or poor choices and that this blows over very soon.

Dec 15, 2011 at 12:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

hunter,
I am skeptical of many things, but I have faith in tallbloke (well, we sometimes disagree). He'll be OK.

Dec 15, 2011 at 1:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Your Grace, is there a chance you'll be under scrutiny from the PC Plods, too?

Dec 15, 2011 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterVigilantfish

Free the Tallbloke1 tee shirts available soon! I hear Dell have a great delivery service TT!

Dec 15, 2011 at 5:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Richard Tol


As to FoI, the "confidentiality guidance" has a list of things that will be made public and says that any and all other material will remain confidential. The TSU indicated that this was done on behalf of the "governments"

OK so nothing new then, I thought I'd missed some new statement. This is just what the IPCC would like to happen, but there is no actual power there. What actually happens following an FOI / EIR request is down to the public body to which the request is sent - and that body will take into account the various factors such as what the partner (in this case the IPCC) has requested and the wider public interest - and the decision can then be challenged by appeal to higher levels in government right up to the information commissioner. The IPCC has no influence other than making its views known.

Dec 14, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Richard Betts

RT and RB I think we need more infromation on this statement which you both accept..." As to FoI, the "confidetiality guidance" has a list of things that will be made public and says that any and all other material will remain confidential. The TSU indicated that this was done on behalf of the "governments"

Is the "confidentiality guidance" (whatever this is) "list of things" available for the public so that we may judge for ourselves if it is reasonable? What is the TSU and what did they mean by this being done on behalf of "goverments"? This indicates that someone representing disparate goverments decided, in communication with the IPCC, what was to be available to FOI laws, and what was not. This needs to be thourghly vetted. Thanks

Dec 15, 2011 at 6:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I think Richard B. is on the right path concerning both issues, though one could get other impressions depending on their frame of mind (or time zone ;)

IPCC-33 WG1/2nd Meeting: "On confidentiality of draft reports, discussion revolved around what material to make available, when and how. A key issue was the need to protect authors while ensuring transparency of the process. Delegates also discussed the meaning of “confidential” and its application in different jurisdictions given varying freedom of information regulations."...

"On confidentiality of draft reports, the Panel decides that drafts of IPCC reports and Technical Papers submitted for formal expert and/or government review, expert and government review comments, and author responses to those comments, will be made publicly available upon finalization. The Panel considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation."

Further down, you two can hash out the specifics of CoI.
http://www.iisd.ca/vol12/enb12500e.html

(As you guys say, A VERY boring conspiracy ;)

Dec 15, 2011 at 6:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterIntrepid_Wanders

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