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« Select committee backs shale | Main | Oreskes and Dr Karl Part 3 »
Monday
May232011

The IPCC goes closed and opaque

This is a joint post between myself and David Holland.

Without a fanfare the IPCC has made a significant decision about the way it conducts its business. Tucked away in an eight-page page document that it has just put on its website is this:

At its 33rd Session, the Panel decided that the drafts of IPCC Reports and Technical Papers which have been submitted for formal expert and/or government review, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments will be made available on the IPCC website as soon as possible after the acceptance by the Panel and the finalization of the report. IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.

In other words, nobody outside the IPCC process will see anything until the report is issued, at which point it will be too late to change anything. This is a remarkable decision, given the IPCC's need to restore its tarnished reputation and given also the claim, set out in its guiding principles that its assessments are to be transparent. This principle dates right back to 1993 - a simple and obvious rule for a process that could affect everyone on the planet. As Sir John Houghton explained in a paper published by the Royal Society of Chemistry:

.. 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.

This was a remarkable claim since, as far as is known,  drafts or comments for the Third Assessment, over which Sir John presided, were never published by the IPCC and the Met Office has since refused a FOIA request for their release.

The IPCC was still maintaining this claim to transparency shortly before Glaciergate, when IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told Australian TV viewers:

Every stage of the drafting of our report is peer reviewed, and whatever comments we get from the peer review process are posted on the website of the IPCC, and the reasons why we accept or reject those comments are clearly specified. Where we accept a comment we say, "Yes. Accepted." Where we don't, we have to adduce very clear reasons why the authors don't agree with the comment. So it's a very transparent process.

Yet despite Dr Pachauri's assurances, the behind-the scenes manoeuvrings of the Fourth Assessment Report were only revealed in the Climategate emails - the IPCC's own version of transparency kept these murky details well hidden. We now know from the US Department of Commerce Inspector General's enquiries that Susan Solomon tried very hard to ensure that drafts and comments were never published, and it has also been revealed that efforts arrange the deletion of IPCC-related emails were at least partially successful.

So despite the claims of Houghton and Pachauri, and despite actually having transparency enshrined as one of its governing principles, the IPCC seems to be determined on thumbing its nose at its critics and at the governments who set out its guiding principles. The assessments will be produced in private and a fait accompli will be presented to the public.

This is unlikely help restore the tarnished image of the IPCC.

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Reader Comments (53)

"The assessments will be produced in private and a fait accompli will be presented to the public." - Andrew Montford.

At which point, all the things you're asking for, will be made public. So you're getting everything you wanted, as long as you exercise a little patience.

Total non-story.

Unless what you want is to make endless storms in teacups and actually try and interfere with, or smear the report, before it's even produced. Which would hardly be honest and sceptical now, would it.

May 23, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

The IPCC commands about the same level of respect, in private, among the scientific fraternity, as the Eurovision Song Contest does, in private, among professional musicians. Oh, and David Holland, bravo your efforts.

May 23, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

But of course there will always be the odd apologist.

May 23, 2011 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

"This was a remarkable claim since, as far as is known, drafts or comments for the Third Assessment, over which Sir John presided, were ever published..."

What, ever? Not never? Hardly ever.

May 23, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Wasn't this the same position as before? That is, all drafts are property of the authors and reviewers. Indeed the drafts come marked with "Draft copy: do not distribute" marked on them.

May 23, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Shub

Yes. The point is that they are formalising their rejection of the guiding principles they are supposed to be working under.

May 23, 2011 at 9:40 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Peer reviewed by Buena Vista productions limited, for distribution to 'approved' theatres only and suitable organs.
To be exhibited under: spoof documentary.

May 23, 2011 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan

"Yes. The point is that they are formalising their rejection of the guiding principles they are supposed to be working under."
May 23, 2011 at 9:40 PM | Bishop Hill

Does it actually say anywhere in these guiding principles that it all has to be in the open at the time then? No rejection of principles there. If not, what is your problem with letting them get on with it and opening it all up afterwards?

May 23, 2011 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

This is what Richard Tol said here:


I am not familiar with the UK Freedom of Information (FoI) laws and regulations.

I am familiar with the Aarhus rules on Access to Environmental Information (AEI), which apply to all members of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Although my organization is not subject to FoI, all the work that we do for government bodies or in support of government policy (if it pertains to environmental matters) is subject to AEI rules: Full disclosure to any interested party.

Work for the IPCC is clearly in support of environmental policy, so any IPCC-related document or email sent to any resident in a European country is in the public domain.

That’s my reading of the law. The IPCC is still working on this.

Clearly we need a lawyer to advise us on this.

May 23, 2011 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

The insiders could always leak them on Twitter!

May 23, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAQ42

"The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change"

HERE'S THE WEBSITE SO YOU CAN READ FOR YOURSELF. http://www.ipcc.ch/about/about.htm

I like the words objective, open ans transparent basis.

I went looking for the IPCC Mission Sattement, this is what I found.

May 23, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

Zed,
Come on. The Bish has got a point here.

The implication of this declaration is obvious. Because the IPCC went on harping about transparency, and releases its own drafts, it then becomes subject to FOI or EIR requests for correspondence between authors about the report drafts, which they have found extraordinarily difficult to slither out of. You know the Briffa-McIntyre-Ammann type of passing back and forth and ghost-writing sections that went on with the AR4. By explicitly declaring this otherwise-understood principle in the scientific journal publishing world to now apply to the IPCC report as well, they are providing agencies that would potentially deal with such similar requests in the future, more firmer ground to stand on, so to speak.

Now, instead of thinking about this, you've been....

May 23, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Articles 6-8 of the Aarhus rules on Access to Environmental Information relate to public participation in decision making:
:


Articles 6, 7 and 8 highlight the importance of involving the public in government decision-making on green policies, legislation and other environmental matters. This part of the Convention emphasizes that the earlier members of the public and community groups get involved in the decision-making process, the greater impact their participation will have on the final outcome of a decision.

The Convention creates an obligation on decision makers to ensure the ‘early involvement’ of the public, when consulting on environmental matters. It encourages governments to work with an inclusive spirit when developing plans, provisions and legal rules that could affect people’s quality of life. The Convention states that in drafting rules and regulations governments shall strive to ‘promote effective public participation at the appropriate stage, and while options are still open’. This is important because it highlights the need to gain a proper balance of representation from a diverse set of interests.


http://www.capacity.org.uk/resourcecentre/article_aarhaus.html

May 23, 2011 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Bish: Do you know who constitute the Panel that makes these decisions?

May 23, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Anybody know a good lawyer?

May 23, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Or put another way, the IPCC's response to last year's IAC report is "— you!"
No, it doesn't inspire confidence and serves only to increase scepticism about its behaviour (already dubious) and findings (ditto).
You would imagine that an organisation like the UN would want its dealings in such important matters as the future of the planet to be open, transparent, and above board, wouldn't you? After all it's the people of the world who are likely to be affected. You think they might be allowed a say in their own future.

May 23, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

When someone tells me that they will do something "as soon as possible" I always respond by asking when will that be. As far as I am concerned, the phrase is meaningless. It is just a way of avoiding any commitment.

May 23, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

"Bish: Do you know who constitute the Panel that makes these decisions?

May 23, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Phillip Bratby "

Possibly the people with most at stake/risk?

May 23, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change
Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change if the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change planning session in October 2010 will be conducted under the terms of the Aarhus Convention. [5381]

Gregory Barker: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conducts its meetings in accordance with its own rules of procedure which are available on its website. Not all of the IPCC member states are party to the convention and we cannot comment on whether the IPCC's planning session will be conducted under the terms of the Aarhus Convention, although all papers from the meeting will be made available on the IPCC website. However, the UK is a party to the convention and we will continue encouraging the IPCC to continue to be as open in terms of its processes and procedures as possible.

http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Commons/ByDate/20100707/writtenanswers/part021.html

May 23, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

In simplified English, that long paragraph can be translated to just two words.

"Trust us"

May 23, 2011 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

Unfortunately, unless someone takes these people to court, nothing is going to change:

Posted by, David Holland (not verified)


DECC, the Met Office and others involved in the assessment of climate science continue to flout the Environmental Information Regulations and the Aarhus Convention. You only need to Google DECC's website with "IPCC" and "focal point" to establish that it has no EIR regulation 4 publication scheme in which it tells us that it is the focal point for the IPCC. It publishes none of it dealings with the IPCC.

Despite the Aarhus Convention duty to consult, Defra did not even publish the 2008 IPCC request for submissions to its consultation process on "the future of the IPCC". The new DECC has neither published information on the ongoing suggestions for improvements in the IPCC assessment process or sought the public consultation that the Convention requires.

http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/david-mackays-letter

May 23, 2011 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

What I find quite amazing, particularly given the various revelations over the last day or two in the UK, is how people are ever only too ready to believe that virtually any organisation is riddled with corruption (the FIFA being the latest example) yet regard the IPCC and associated organisations as being as pure as the (soon to be extinct) driven snow - and will attack anyone who dares to suggest otherwise

May 23, 2011 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter317

Bish and David Holland wrote:

Without a fanfare the IPCC has made a significant decision about the way it conducts its business.

From the two "decisions" I've looked at (fairly closely!) i.e. grey literature and Conflict of Interest - along with those I've looked at not so closely, including the one you highlight in this post - I'm inclined towards a conclusion that the IPCC has, well, redefined "transparency" without telling anyone!

IOW, there's really very little "meat" in any of their "decisions" vis a vis the IAC recommendations which would suggest that they are doing anything other than providing cover and and/or loopholes - to ensure that any future reports under their auspices will be produced in a "business as usual" manner.

May 23, 2011 at 11:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

More evidence of Sir John living too much in a world of his own imagining. A world in which he is both a prophet of doom from above thanks to our CO2 from below, and a chosen one to guide us back to salvation. His IPCC is a sacred vehicle for that purpose, and therefore is all things good, such as being transparent and sharing drafts etc. A pity about the reality there, and, for that matter, in the atmosphere. A pity that so many people have still to grasp each of them.

May 23, 2011 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

ZBD

Which would hardly be honest and sceptical now, would it.

Normally, a question is indicated with a question mark and not a period. Of course, if you are using post normal English, I guess anything could be acceptable.

May 24, 2011 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I'll tell you what, when those reports come out, it will be a feeding frenzy in the blogosphere. We'll strip those reports quicker than a shoal of piranha.

AND it will be an event. It will happen so quickly that the MSM actually have to cover it. It'll be buzzword-complaint (social media, social networking, emergent behaviour, massively parallel collaboration) in a way few events ever have or will.

Darn, those guys are pretty thick.

May 24, 2011 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

Zed,

At which point, all the things you're asking for, will be made public. So you're getting everything you wanted, as long as you exercise a little patience.

Variable amounts of patience. Sometimes the press releases appear before the meat. Sometimes the meat is accompanied by claims that the IPCC reports are the best compilation of peer reviewed literature assembled by the finest scientific brains on the planet. But like many collaborative complex works, it can contain errors.

Take a simple example like the glaciers melting by 2035 error. Simple, obvious, ended up in print. An extended peer review may have avoided that error and the embarassment that followed. The IPCC will probably end up making the same mistakes and AR5 will probably end up containing errors that could have been spotted during compilation. If the IPCC had a clue, it could also try doing some more sophisticated things. Much scepticism is due to poor communication rather than outright errors, so sceptics could be used as a focus group to test whether claims made sound convincing or not. Convince a sceptic, and they may become an advocate and much of the scepticism exists because claims made are unconvincing.

May 24, 2011 at 1:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

I agree with Hilary. At this point one can really do a simple headcount of the absolute total number of people who are 'watching' the IPCC. This is the time, the changes to the rules that will impact the future report is being laid down, and there is virtually no oversight whatsoever. Nature News simply parrots whatever's fed to them, for example.

Consider the peer-review issue for example. Does anybody know that the IPCC 'disappeared' their 'disappearance' of the relevant rule? Virtually no one. They do as they damn well please, they simply pass on the excuses their office secretaries gave them, because they have no one to answer to but their own consciences, which appear to be very easily salved.

IPCC: peer-review? what peer-review?

May 24, 2011 at 2:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

They risk inclusions of all manner of misunderstood phenomena that might have been winkled out by "outsiders" to the process.

I can understand a reluctance to have the rough drafts loose in public, but surely it is to IPCC's benefit not to mention the rest of us to have a public airing before the thing gets locked down.

May 24, 2011 at 2:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Post Normal Transparency at work here. Opacity is the new, and politically correct, clarity.
Once again the IPCC dances to its pay-masters' fiddling while the West burns and the East benefits.
Goodby and Tata to our previous prosperity.
It's the self-immolation that I really don't get!

May 24, 2011 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I doubt the IPCC will ever be transparent, they don't seem to care except for giving information to the high priests of CAGW.

May 24, 2011 at 4:40 AM | Unregistered Commentergenealogymaster

@zed

Do not be so naive... as someone who has been involved in drafting reports, it is called: "Singing from the same hymn sheet."

The point is not that information is released after the event. The point the information that is produced is different based on the rules in place at the time its creation/collation.

Of course this is in no way related to science, but if you want to produce a harmonious, coherent political manifesto then this is what you do... oh hang on...

May 24, 2011 at 6:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Shub wrote:


I agree with Hilary
[...]
the IPCC 'disappeared' their 'disappearance' of the relevant rule

Well, I'm glad you agree with me, Shub ... but ... Hey! That's my line, eh [as I wrote in]

Breaking news: IPCC posts text of decisions taken:

if you’ve been following this sorry saga, and if you follow the link to “Procedures” and carefully review the content of pp. 3 & 4, you will understand why I was considering naming this post IPCC disappears “disappearance” of “impractical” rule.

;-)

Seriously, though ... The IPCC has this down to a fine art - which is not surprising considering that they've been doing it for years!

Just as the SPM (and/or Executive Summaries in the case of those who are slightly more conscientious when it comes to exercising due diligence) are all that IPCC voting "members" are likely to ever read, IPCC Press Releases are all that MSM "science" mavens are likely to ever read (or paraphrase if they're feeling more energetic than than a run-of-the-mill churnalist) - particularly when the IPCC chooses not to announce the posting of actual decisions.

So the press release gets lots of fanfare (and headlines such as 'IPCC implements major reforms', OWTTE)

Clearly, when it comes to the pronouncements of the IPCC, the 'gold standard' assessor, surveyor, purveyor and promulgator of "climate science" - with some notable exceptions - good old-fashioned investigative journalism would seem to be as dead as a door-nail.

IMHO, as a consequence - as you quite correctly noted, Shub - "Virtually no one [knows]" the games that these people play.

About the only thing we can do to rectify this is to continue hammering away at those 'dead door-nails'.

May 24, 2011 at 7:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

I am sure that the report - as and when it is made public - will be subject to the most immediate and intense analysis by "crowd sourcing".

I am even more sure that it won't stand up to any level of analysis.

May 24, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

Zebedee, you obviously haven't sobered up yet. And don't drink strong black coffee, which will just make you a wide-awake drunk.

May 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

I sense another letter to my MP coming on.

May 24, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

So, basically, we've all got to wait until the whole document is published, before having an opportunity to do our own 'peer review'...
What is it they say - 'A lie travels round the world before the truth has got his boots on...'

May 24, 2011 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I can't wait to see if the Hockey Stick is retained. Damned if they do, damned if they don't, No Pressure!

May 24, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

The IPCC make FIFA look like an august body of sports officials.

May 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

I hardly think I agree with the Bishops statement "the IPCC seems to be determined on thumbing its nose ... at the governments who set out its guiding principles".

If governments notice at all at this stage, I would expect their endorsment. I would think that, at the moment, they are content to let the IPCC get on with producing the report they are paying for.

They will not expect the IPCC to facilitate the efforts of those who want mere scienctific considerations to displace far more important policy considerations that led them to establish the IPCC in the first place.

I remain a little surprised that people with enough education to participate in the 'Cambridge agreement' thread in today's main Bishop Hill page should expect to take any IPCC report seriously. They are mere polemics.

May 24, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

How is this a problem? This strikes me as an improvement over previous reports, where David Holland had to file FOIA to get draft review comments.

May 24, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

If I may suggest it, the word "open" should have been included by His Grace in his reference to the fundamental IPCC Principle that its assessments should be open and transparent.

When it came to MP's expenses, they were fairly transparent. In their expenses they usually called a duck house a duck house. But as they were not open and transparent you and I would never have known were not for the FOIA and a brave and determined lady.

Even without Steve McIntyre forcing the publication of the Experts' comments and Lead Authors' responses it still might have become public that not everyone agreed that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. Pachauri might still have been able to shut down the debate with his Voodoo claim but if that failed he could, without fear of contradiction, blame the Expert Reviewers as he did. The IAC Review of IPCC procedures only came about because we had the Expert Reviewers' comments, Lead Authors' responses and, importantly, the Review Editors' Reports which left the IPCC nowhere to hide. The Reviewers did their job and the writing team simply ignored them.

The "hockey stick", Glaciergate, and Climategate might not have happened if the IPCC was as open and transparent as it should have been. The Internet would likely find any errors or cheats and the MSN would probably join the hue and cry if the IPCC had been seen to "hide the decline", change deadlines and cite WWF as an authority on the Himalayas.

May 24, 2011 at 6:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

I've read a few times that some people think the IPCC isn't a scientific organization, it's a political organization. This non-transparancy reinforces this view IMO.

May 24, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterkramer

One point that should be made here is that the IPCC decision on confidentiality leaves the matter ambiguous – perhaps the “controlling circle” put it forward in this way hoping that it would not get much attention. If you read the 33rd session report they made several changes to the Appendix A procedures and could easily have incorporated a “confidentiality” clause into it. But instead they just recorded it as a decision of the IPCC.

Very few will look at session reports, but Appendix A is an appendix to the “Principles Governing IPCC Work” which have been re-affirmed repeatedly by the IPCC as recently as 2006. They are frequently referred to and cited. The fundamental principle is in clause 2 [my bold]:

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change [etc]

Thus the IPCC has recorded a decision that manifestly contradicts its guiding principle. To be consistent it should have deleted the words "open and transparent" from clause 2 of its Principles. This would have made clear to all but the most inattentive just what was going on.

So what is the purpose? UEA and Oxford have claimed to have IPCC documents that say drafts and comments are confidential. Now they have one although it contradicts the long-standing IPCC Principles. To prevent disclosure they still have pass a public interest test but they could take that all the way to the Supreme Court which could take beyond the 2013 release of AR5.

If I had pockets as deep as Greenpeace I would challenge the British Governments instruction to its IPCC delegation through judicial review, recalling Judge Sullivan's ruling:

Whatever the position may be in other policy areas, in the development of policy in the environmental field consultation is no longer a privilege to be granted or withheld at will by the executive. The United Kingdom Government is a signatory to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters ("the Aarhus Convention").

May 24, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

I said way above in this thread:

"The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change"

HERE'S THE WEBSITE SO YOU CAN READ FOR YOURSELF. http://www.ipcc.ch/about/about.htm

I like the words objective, open ans transparent basis.

I went looking for the IPCC Mission Sattement, this is what I found.
May 23, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

David Holland, thank you for backing up this comment of mine. You did elaborate on it in typical excellent fashion.

Being an ordinary guy with no degrees or suitable qualification, unlike David, it is great to be in such August company

Keep up the great work that you, the Bish, Phillip etc do. I will keep on hanging on your every utterance and hope to see the gougers of the IPCC, the BBC etc vanquished.

Peter Walsh

May 24, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

@matthu
Note that AR5 has not been used for policy and is therefore not subject to Access to Environmental Information - yet.

There is a shift in IPCC policy. For AR1-3, review comments and early drafts were confidential. For AR4, comments and drafts were reluctantly and belatedly made public. For AR5, the plan is happily and promptly.

As I argued here before, I think the IPCC is being silly. The early drafts will be leaked anyway. The choice for the IPCC is between an uncontrolled release of drafts and comments to the public and a controlled release.

The IPCC is not a monolith, though, see: http://ipccar5wg2ch10.blogspot.com/2011/05/minus-first-draft-on-markets-and.html

May 25, 2011 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

@Richard Tol

Richard, I hesitate to argue with you, but while policy use is important within Aarhus, the whole point of the Convention is to provide access to information and public participation in the "decision-making" process in environmental matters. It says so in its title. The AR5 assessment process is the world's most important decision-making process on the environment. From which policy will surely follow.

The Convention should, if honoured by European governments, guarantee that all the drafts, comments and responses are as freely and widely available as Sir John Houghton claimed they were in 2002. Releasing them after the IPCC decision to accept the AR5 Report is made may be described as "transparent", but the process will not have been "open" as the IPCC Principles require. Nor is that as the IPCC is represented to the public to be and nor is it in compliance with the Aarhus Convention.

At a minimum "participation" in a decision-making process must include full and prompt access to the information upon which the decision will be made, the right of the public to discuss it, and to make representations to their political representatives BEFORE the decision is made if they are unhappy with the way controversial issues are treated.

May 25, 2011 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

@David
Perhaps we should leave this to the lawyers. I think they would say that AR5 falls under Aarhus as soon as it is cited by a policy maker, but not before.

May 25, 2011 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard,

Why leave this to lawyers? Aarhus gives the public rights of access to environmental information held by public authorities. It also gives the public a right to inexpensive justice on environmental matters and while I have little stomach for it, in the UK I believe our system will deliver it.

In our UK implementation of Aarhus - the EIR - it applies to information received by public authorities or held on their behalf. Confidentiality counts for little. Under Aarhus 5(1) the government must

"ensure that public authorities possess and update environmental information that is relevant to their functions".
So using Gmail and clouds will not avoid the law. The "exception" being tried on by some is that it will adversely affect international relations, but even that is subject to the public interest test if it could be proved to to be true.

Have you understood where this IPCC "confidentiality" decision came from - and when? The proposed confidentiality decision came not from the Task Force considering the IAC Review, but from the Co-Chairs of WGI and appears in a document with a creation date of 12 May 2011 - in the middle of the IPCC 33rd Session.

It is an ad hoc stand alone "decision" to help fight FOIA requests in the UK but is in conflict with the Principles Governing IPCC Work which still say that the assessment process is open and transparent. Any party to the Aarhus Convention that did not vote against this decision, which is also in conflict with the Principles of the Convention, has broken Article 3(7). Not for the first time, I guess all the European governments forgot that. The IPCC is a rudderless wreck.

May 25, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

@David
The decision came from a desire to create a big media bang at the official publication date in 2014, and a misunderstanding of the power of the internet.

Aarhus applies to information that is used in the public decision making process. As AR5 does not yet exist, it is not yet used in decision making, and Aarhus does not yet apply.

May 25, 2011 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

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