IPCC Author Selection Process Plagued by Bias, Cronyism: Study

Published September 1, 2008

The selection of authors for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose 2007 assessment report is often referred to as the definitive consensus regarding climate science, has been riddled with bias and cronyism, falling far short of the broad scientific consensus by which IPCC describes itself, reports a new study by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI).

“The IPCC is a single-interest organization, whose charter directs it to assume that there is a human influence on climate, rather than to consider whether the influence may be negligible,” lead author John McLean, an Australian researcher, observes in the study.

The study documents that instead of seeking input from a wide array of scientists representing a broad swath of the scientific community, IPCC’s climate science assessment is dominated by a small clique of alarmists who frequently work closely with each other outside the IPCC process.

Key Chapter Biased

Focusing on chapter 9 of IPCC’s latest assessment–the crucial chapter asserting greenhouse gases are the primary cause of the Earth’s modest recent warming and predicting a substantial acceleration of warming in the near future–McLean reports, “More than two-thirds of all authors of chapter 9 of the IPCC’s 2007 climate-science assessment are part of a clique whose members have co-authored papers with each other and, we can surmise, very possibly at times acted as peer-reviewers for each other’s work. Of the 44 contributing authors, more than half have co-authored papers with the lead authors or coordinating lead authors of chapter 9.

“It is no surprise, therefore, that the majority of scientists who are skeptical of a human influence on climate significant enough to be damaging were unrepresented in the authorship of chapter 9, most of whose authors were climate modelers unwilling to admit that their models are neither accurate nor complete,” McLean observes.

Activists Control Agenda

Two coordinating lead authors were in charge of establishing the procedures and overseeing the substance of chapter 9’s final product, the SPPI study notes. The two coordinating lead authors and seven additional lead authors selected the 44 contributing authors for the chapter.

The two coordinating lead authors for chapter 9 were neither objective nor willing to seek broad representation in the selection of contributing authors, the SPPI study documents. One of the two lead authors is a staffer for the environmental activist group Environment Canada, and the other is an alarmist from Duke University who previously co-authored papers with at least 12 of the 44 contributing authors selected for chapter 9.

Own Work Is ‘Consensus’

Of the 53 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and contributing authors chosen to write chapter 9, 41 co-authored papers together … which they then cited in the IPCC final report. In short, a close-knit group of IPCC authors cited their own prior work to justify their alarmist assertions, and then passed this off as the “broad consensus” of the scientific community, the SPPI study shows.

Disturbingly, at least eight of the authors had previously co-authored articles with Environment Canada’s Francis Zwiers, raising serious concerns about their objectivity. Scientists and scientific papers that dispute and contradict the assertions of this close-knit group of alarmists were frequently and predictably ignored by them.

Moreover, lead authors frequently chose their subordinates to compose the report. For example, Peter Stott of the British government’s Hadley Center for Forecasting was chosen as a lead author, and then eight additional Hadley Center staffers were chosen to work under him as contributing authors of chapter 9.

Far from ensuring a wide range of opinions from a broad cross-section of scientists, more than 20 percent of the chapter 9 contributing editors consisted of staff from the Hadley Center working in a supervisor/subordinate structure.

Conclusions ‘Predetermined’

Of the remaining contributing authors, 23 also had pre-existing work relationships with each other. For example, two Duke University staffers were chosen to be lead authors. Coordinating lead author Gabriele Heger, who would supervise them for IPCC, was also from Duke University.

All told, 32 of the 53 chapter 9 authors had pre-existing and ongoing relationships with other authors as coworkers, supervisors, or subordinates. That is in addition to the previously documented 41 of 53 authors having previously co-authored papers together.

“This network of relationships between most of the authors of chapter 9 demonstrates a disturbingly tight network of scientists with common research interests and opinions. The contrast between this close-knit network and the IPCC’s stated claim to represent a global diversity of views is remarkable and does not augur well for the impartiality or reliability of chapter 9’s conclusions,” the study noted.

As a result, the study summarizes, “Governments have naively and unwisely accepted the claims of a human influence on global temperatures made by a close-knit clique of a few dozen scientists, many of them climate modelers, as if such claims were representative of the opinion of the wider scientific community. On the evidence presented here, the IPCC’s selection of its chapter authors is so prejudiced towards a predetermined outcome that its entire process is valueless, its scientific assessment of the climate meaningless, and its conclusions useless.”

Study Confirms Suspicions

“The McLean analysis of the processes of the IPCC 4th Assessment Report supports prior criticisms of IPCC processes and results,” said Robert Ferguson, president of the Science and Public Policy Institute.

“We now have a better understanding of how the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report ‘hockey stick’ fiasco, in which bogus statistical data was presented to support a nonexistent warming record, was allowed to occur,” Ferguson noted. “That is to say, the UN’s IPCC is a political organization feigning science as a cover for its political ends.

“The UN’s careful selection of layers of like-minded ‘authors’ for the critical chapter 9 shows it quite successfully counted on a small clique of authors avoiding any meaningful peer review of their assertions,” Ferguson said.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

John McLean, Prejudiced Authors, Prejudiced Findings: Did the UN bias its attribution of ‘global warming’ to humankind? Science and Public Policy Institute, July 2008: http://www.heartland.org/article.cfm?artId=23573