Claims by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Amazon rainforests could suddenly and dramatically deteriorate because of even slight climate change were not based on a single peer-reviewed scientific study, and were instead the result of misquoting an advocacy paper published by two environmental activist groups.
IPCC’s most recent report, published in 2007, claims, “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation.…”
A close look at the references for IPCC’s assertion, however, reveals only a single one—a paper copublished by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) environmental activist groups. Of the two individual authors, one is a policy analyst whose main job experience is studying forest fires in places other than the Amazon, and the other is a freelance journalist whose primary focus is fighting tobacco use and supporting environmental activist groups.
The WWF/IUCN paper falls far short of IPCC’s alleged objective, peer-reviewed standards. Additionally, IPCC appears to have taken the activist groups’ publication out of context, as the “40%” claim does not appear anywhere in the paper.
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.