Experience: None necessary
The Risk-Monger was astonished to receive an advertisement from one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) members (the government of the Netherlands) to recruit students “who have an affinity with climate change” to review the 30 chapters of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report – Working Group II (WG II). For students, this surely is exciting and the Dutch government offers: “the opportunity to be part of an important, ambitious and unique project and develop your analytical and review skills”.
Maybe I am jumping to conclusions, but with all of the mess of the last IPCC Assessment Report (including a non-scientific WWF campaign document predicting the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers getting through the review process and becoming one of the IPCC’s main conclusions), shouldn’t they try to do a more rigorous review process this time around? Students, working for free, are not perhaps the ideal choice of reviewers needed to challenge the experts. WG II concerns Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability related to climate change, so we can assume that the students will not dare to critically challenge the experts on whether there is any bias on the actual effects of climate change. Talk about a tough review process.
What troubles the Risk-Monger more here is that many environmental activists are working on their PhDs and would jump at the opportunity of shaping the IPCC’s subjective conclusions to match their personal political biases. I suppose Greenpeace or WWF will pay their time-sheets to help shape the IPCC’s most socially important chapters.
In a letter to students wishing to volunteer (and asking them to let the Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency know which chapters they would like to review according to their interests), the thoroughness of the IPCC review process is revealed:
As a member of the review team you will contribute to the quality of the IPCC report. Through this review you will help IPCC in their aim to produce policy-relevant and policy-neutral information on climate change. Additionally, you are part of the unique and ambitious undertaking to do a thorough review of over 2,000 pages within one month.
Strangely, in that month when the entire review process will be done, students will also be taught about what the IPCC is, and how to review a document (I really wish I was making this up). The review process starts with a drink on April 12 and ends with a dinner on May 13. One lucky reviewer will receive € 250; the rest go home with nothing.
I am going to go out on a limb here and predict that the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will be loaded with more than just spelling mistakes.
Addendum 27 March 2013: I have been informed by one of the lead authors of the IPCC that the review process for WGII has just been opened up this week to any experts wishing to take part. See: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/press-releases/25March2013_WGII_SOD_Review.pdf