04 February 2010

Pachauri: "I'm Not Aware of That"

The Economist interviews Rajendra Pachauri and asks him specifically about my claim that the IPCC lied about my views in the review process when it was challenged by an expert reviewer. Dr. Pachauri responds that he is unaware of this issue:

The Economist: There’s another case in which grey literature, in the form of a report from a meeting organised by Munich Re, was cited in preference to peer-reviewed literature on the same subject by Roger Pielke Jr.

Dr Pachauri: Actually, that particular piece of literature had been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal, but then the author decided to give it to a book—which also was peer reviewed, incidentally—because he had promised the editor of that book that he would make it available. At the time when it was accessed for the IPCC it had been accepted for publication in the peer reviewed journal … We have looked into this issue and I’ve been assured that that was the sequence of incidents that took place.

The Economist: In the review process on that, the authors’ response to some of the comments made by reviewers who brought up Dr Pielke’s work was that Dr Pielke had changed his mind, which he hadn’t done and they didn’t check and he had published literature that addressed exactly that point.

Dr Pachauri: I’m not aware of that. This is something that I have been told for the first time.

The Economist: If that were indeed the case, would you say that that was a mistake?

Dr Pachauri: I’ll have to look into it. I really would have nothing to say on that till I actually get into this issue.

The Economist: I would be interested if you do have anything to say at a later date.
For those interested in the issue involving the IPCC review misrepresentation of my views in the review process, see this post.

[UPDATE: Dr. Pachauri's claim to be unaware of the issue seems to contradict the new IPCC statement on its website about this issue:
Recent media interest has drawn attention to two so-called errors in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC, the first dealing with losses from disasters and the second on the subject of Amazon forests. The leadership of the IPCC has looked into both these instances and concluded that the challenges are without foundations.
I am happy for readers to evaluate for themselves whether the issues descried here are without foundations. More generally, how can the IPCC issue a blanket denial if its chairman is not even aware of the issues?]

On the IPCC grey literature, Dr. Pachauri is poorly informed (by contrast, The Economist gets it). The issue is not simply that the IPCC cited grey literature, which of course is necessary in many cases. The issue is that the IPCC included a figure that was "misleading" (according to an expert reviewer) and contrary to the scientific literature. Its reliance on the grey literature obscured this fact. The figure is shown below:

The reference for the figure is Muir-Wood 2006. The reference list shows this citation:
Muir Wood, R., S. Miller and A. Boissonnade, 2006: The search for trends in a global catalogue of normalized weather-related catastrophe losses. Workshop on Climate Change and Disaster Losses: Understanding and Attributing Trends and Projections. Hohenkammer, Munich, 188-194.
That paper was prepared for a workshop that I co-organized in 2006. Its text can be found online here in PDF. I encourage readers to actually look at the Muir-Wood paper and see if you can find anything remotely related to the figure above. You cannot, because there is no such figure.

Instead, the IPCC relied on a different paper, uncited in the IPCC report (as it was not published until 2008) but written by the same author team as Muir Wood et al., but a very different paper nonetheless -- Miller et al. 2008. Miller at al. did not include the above figure either, but presumably supplied the data which the IPCC smoothed as above to create the misleading figure. Remarkably, the analysis of Miller et al. concluded:
We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.
An expert reviewer of this section of the IPCC recommended removing the figure purporting to show a relationship of increasing temperatures and the rising costs of disasters, because it was "misleading":
I propose "Since 1970 the global normalized results do not show any statically significant correlationn with global temperatures." and to remove the end of the paragraph and the figure 1,5 because it can mislead a reader not familiar with correlation.
The issue here is not that the IPCC cited grey literature, as suggested by Dr. Pachauri. The issue is that the IPCC cited a study as being the source of a figure that did not actually appear in that study (which was a bit of misdirection to get around the IPCC deadline for publication). The unpublished study that the IPCC relied on said this:
"We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses."
The bottom line is that the IPCC indicated a relationship between increasing temperatures and the rising costs of disasters when no such relationship has been found in the literature -- in that literature cited by the IPCC or otherwise. This issue is not nuanced; it is not clouded by ambiguity.

Like the Economist, I look forward to hearing Dr. Pachauri's reactions when fully informed.

Meantime, do read the Economist interview in full, the exchange on glaciers is interesting to say the least.


  1. That glow in the distance is from Dr. Pachauri's pants being on fire from such a claim. How can he continue to act so disconnected from reality?

  2. Why doesn't he just resign and get it over with?

  3. Jae--
    He can't resign yet. I bet he'd resign on day 60 of this year and I want to win. http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/bet-when-pachauri-resigns/

  4. jae:
    I don’t believe Dr. Pachauri’s resignation would be enough to rehabilitate the IPCC. In his interview with The Economist, Pachauri admitted, “my institute [TERI], …developed the website of the IPCC, …expended its own resources for maintaining and running the website of the IPCC.”
    Another webmaster would have to be employed (and funded).

    Further, on the issue of conflict of interest, part of the interview exchange was:
    “The Economist: That seems odd compared to the standards of scientific publication, or the standards of the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation, which both have conflict of interest rules. Isn’t it rather remarkable that you should have this organisation [IPCC] that does not have any procedure for dealing with conflict of interest, regardless of whether there is conflict of interest.
    Dr Pachauri: Well, those are UN organisations and they are bound by UN rules, and you know that the IPCC is not a UN organisation, it is an intergovernmental organisation and in that sense we are distinctly different from UNEP and WMO or any of those organisations.
    The Economist: And it’s your position that distinct difference means that there is no need for any official procedure within the IPCC for dealing with conflict of interest?
    Dr Pachauri: I think if the governments who govern the IPCC determine that there should be something of this nature I’m sure that will be put in place.
    The Economist: And would you welcome that?
    Dr Pachauri: Of course, absolutely. I would have no hesitation. In fact, I would suggest it myself if I got the opportunity.
    The Economist: Well you’ve had the opportunity, surely, sir?”

    Remarkable, since the TERI creation shows UNEP and WMO logos on the web pages and in the IPCC organizational structure. It is furthermore stated at the website:
    Organization (in part):
    “The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences.”
    History (in part):
    “It is in fact because of the need of broad and balanced information about climate change that the organization was created back in 1989. It was set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as an effort by the United Nations to provide the governments of the world with a clear scientific view of what is happening to the world’s climate….”
    Funding of the IPCC (in part):
    “The IPCC is funded by regular contributions from its parents’ organizations WMO and UNEP, the UNFCCC and voluntary contributions by its member countries. WMO also hosts the IPCC Secretariat and WMO and UNEP provide one staff member each for the IPCC Secretariat. Information about contribution received and expenditures incurred is provided by the Secretariat to the Panel. It is contained in the document on programme and budget…”
    “The contributions form the IPCC Trust Fund which is administered under the Financial Regulations of the WMO. The Trust Fund supports the IPCC activities, in particular the participation of developing country experts in the IPCC work, and publication and translation of IPCC reports.” (emphasis added)
    “Governments provide further substantial support for activities of the IPCC, in particular through hosting Technical Support Units, supporting the participation of experts from their country in IPCC activities, hosting meetings etc.”

    If Dr. Pachauri has not indeed violated the proscriptions of at least the WMO, then it would appear administrative changes are needed at the WMO, the UN, and at the IPCC.

  5. Shameless, Lucia :)

    Now, that was a precision dissection of the twitching corpse. Wow, a journo with a comprehensive grasp of the details and issues.

  6. There is a reason that folks are wary of international organizations. If your city does not clear the streets of snow in a reasonable timeframe,you know and you can vote people out. If your country does something you don't like, politicians are accountable. If you expect any accountability from international organizations.. you are given some vacuous blather and ultimately.. disappointed.

  7. Roger,

    One thing that I find curious in this particular issue is the defence that coming from the IPCC that it was thought that you had "changed your view" on the point of disaster losses.

    Is that even relevant? Even if you had "changed your mind", unless you had changed it with the publication of a peer reviewed article the IPCC should not have given any weight to "what you thought", but stuck strictly to "what you have published" - as is supposedly required.

    Otherwise, couldn't we simply dispense with a lot of the expense and complexity of the AR prosses and simply call people and ask them what the think?

  8. Dr. Pielke, you do not seem to understand that 'truth' is whatever the IPCC says it is. Just because you think you said something different, they know better than you what you actually meant.
    The AGW movement is to climate science what eugenics was to biology.

  9. "Like the Economist, I look forward to hearing Dr. Pachauri's reactions when fully informed."

    I think he already gave his answer.
    Without any statement from Miller et al. 2008, this argument really has no foundation.

  10. Given that Muir Wood was a contributing author to that chapter of the WG II report (as well as being lead on Chapter 7) you might be barking up an empty tree on this one. Frankly the normalized economic losses look like a smoothed version of Fig 1 in Hohenkammer paper.

    If you have a complaint, ask Muir Wood.

    BTW, it's Fig 1.1 in the supplementary material for Chapter 1.

  11. I just read your blogs, papers, and the WG2 report. I think you (and, sadly the Economist) have the IPCC all wrong, regardless of your many journal papers.
    They are climate scientists; in research, climate scientists freeze a current state of a model and report on it, regardless if a better version of the model comes out during their analysis. Its very easy to see that is what the IPCC did here with including the disaster-trend graph in their report in 2007, where later a paper that the data came from, Miller et al. 2008, may contradict that data. Maybe they will correct this in their next report? Its 2010, wait 2 years and see. Or write a paper that doesn't get rejected by them.
    You make them out to be this monster.