IPCC Coordinating Author Gary Yohe Demonstrates Lack of Objectivity

Published September 4, 2010

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has announced the Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors, and Review Editors for its Fifth Assessment Report, scheduled for release in 2013. IPCC has been the subject of substantial criticism, from IPCC participants and outsiders alike, regarding its lack of scientific objectivity and its record of advocacy rather than dispassionate science.

The newly announced leaders for IPCC’s 2013 report, unfortunately, promise more of the same.

Gary Yohe, a professor of economics at Wesleyan University, has been appointed Coordinating Lead Author for IPCC’s important introductory chapter, “Point of Departure.” Coordinating authors are extremely powerful, deciding which studies and points of view will be credited and cited in the report, as well as which studies and points of view will be ignored. Objectivity, scientific expertise, and a lack of bias are absolutely vital for coordinating lead authors if the IPCC report is to have any meaningful value.

Unfortunately, and predictably, Yohe has demonstrated none of these qualifications or traits.

Calls for Tax Hikes
In a 2008 interview with the magazine Yale Environment 360, Yohe “argues that the uncertainties surrounding global warming … are no excuse for inaction.”

“As Yohe sees it, a prudent risk-management strategy dictates significant cuts in greenhouse gases and immediate planning to adapt to rising sea levels and other effects of climate change,” the article reports. “Such strategies can be fine-tuned later, he says, as the extent of warming becomes clearer.”

Yohe “dictates significant cuts in greenhouse gases” through substantial new taxes, the article notes. One of the new taxes Yohe would like to see is a 20-cent per gallon tax on gasoline that would steadily increase over time.

Said Yohe, “The fundamental thing is that a signal needs to be sent to the business community and to the world that from the U.S. perspective, carbon isn’t free anymore and that carbon should be more expensive next year than it is this year.”

Sending Compensation Overseas
Yohe argues the United States should commit to an agreement stronger than the Kyoto Protocol and should pay other nations to compensate for alleged climate change harms.

“What needs to happen is for a global agreement to be reached that includes the United States from the get-go as an active participant, with agreement on the next round of emissions targets so that they will be taken a lot more seriously than Kyoto was and be a lot more effective,” said Yohe according to the Yale Environment 360 article. “There also has to be an agreement on exactly how to fund and administer people who are at risk of climate impacts and vulnerabilities around the world—not just in developing countries but in developed countries as well. There is room for the United States to accept the responsibility of preparing for adaptation, learning how to do it, learning how to finance it, creating templates that can be applied around the world.”

No Room for Debate
Leaving no room for further study and discussion and putting the entire burden of proof on the opposition, Yohe said, “[P]eople who argue against doing anything then have to guarantee that humans aren’t changing the climate,” Yohe added. “They can’t do that, so they can’t argue against enacting some climate policy.”

In a 2009 article published by The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, Yohe argued news reporters should blackball skeptics and report only alarmist views and quote only alarmist scientists regarding global warming.

Said Yohe, “when it’s a scientific argument, when there’s 99 on one side and one on the other, it makes no sense to cover both sides.”

Ignoring Scientific Realities
In a 2007 interview with Scientific American, after global temperatures had been declining for nearly a decade, Yohe said, “The evidence over the last five years has essentially been moving in only one direction, and the new knowledge says that climate change is more of a problem than we thought even five years ago.”

Yohe added, “It is really dangerous to argue that uncertainty is a reason not to do something about this. For those who say climate change isn’t a problem I ask: Can you guarantee that you are right? Can you guarantee that humans are not the cause of climate change? Of course, they cannot.”

Yohe also told Scientific American he was concerned about losing the Arctic ice sheet. A month before Yohe’s interview, however, NASA scientists reported the recent decline in the Arctic ice sheet was due to a variance in local wind patterns, not global warming. Since Yohe’s 2007 interview, the Arctic ice sheet has been steadily increasing, as has the Antarctic ice sheet. The Arctic ice sheet grew 25 percent between 2007 and 2009.

And while U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been steadily declining for the past decade, the cumulative emissions for the rest of the world—including nations that agreed to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol—continue to rise. Yet in a 2006 interview with ABC News, Yohe said, “As long as they remain voluntary, meaningful cuts in greenhouse gas emissions simply won’t happen in the U.S.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.