The Risk-Monger

Salary: None

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:



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  1. I regret this lack of trust in the skills of PhD students and the arrogant remark that “the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report will be loaded with more than just spelling mistakes”, suggesting how illiterate PhD students are. I dare to say that the PhD students are the least biased and the most scientific-oriented and this is, I believe, the reason why IPCC has decided to recruit them as reviewers. Who else will be less biased? Experts working for the industry, for certain lobby groups, for a political party, all those who even if they do not want, HAVE to see things through a certain prism?
    In conclusion, I would like to underline that I am not a PhD student, current or past, neither am I affiliated to IPCC.

    1. Thanks for your comment Daniela. I don’t disagree. A group of students combing over the 30 chapters of WGII should find the spelling mistakes. But the last IPCC Assessment Report badly lacked critical analysis with a lot of politically motivated assertions making their way through the review process. As a professor, I know that students at this level will be more in awe of the UN and the chance to be part of a process (at least within the month they will be busy learning about the IPCC), than to direct their energy towards seriously challenging the conclusions of the IPCC’s internal climate community that has let bias and subjectivity lead them in their data selection. When the IPCC formed, they excluded several well-known climatologists who did not agree with their views – it is hardly a consensus community. Rather than students, the IPCC would need to have climate experts whom they have deemed as ‘skeptics’ to review their documents, but that would entail that this organisation is a legitimate, consensus-minded institution. Under the present head, Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC seems to be headed in the other direction, towards using scientists to drive an environmentalist political agenda. Will the students be able to stand up to the bias existing in this document? Will they challenge the views of the experts when they have pushed conclusions that are not evidence based? I don’t think so (but they will at least correct the spelling). There are, as you say, many prisms and not only from industry. The last report lacked statistical expertise as scientist themselves work in silos. Solar scientists are predicting completely other things. To think that the scientific community is united except for some lobbyists and industry groups is to fall for the paranoid myopia of the IPCC PR team. Will students get this if most of the rest of us do not?

  2. If you want to be an independent reviewer of the IPCC AR5 Working Group 2 volume (on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”), you can just email the Technical Support Unit on and they will send you details of how to register. You then just have to self-declare your expertise. A number of sceptics (e.g.: Anthony Watts) already did this for the WG1 (“Physical Science Basis”) volume.

    The review of the WG2 volume starts tomorrow, and last until 24th May. Further info is here:

    Incidentally, I’m an IPCC lead author, on the chapter on Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems in the Working Group 2 report. I look forward to your review comments!

    I can also be found on Twitter as @richardabetts if you want a chat 🙂

  3. That’s the way to get skeptics on board. Invite them to put up or shut up.

  4. I know you’re trying to be cosinientcous and do what you think is right, but please, PLEASE look into climate change before you go any further. It’s a proven fraud. Haven’t you heard about Climate Gate? It’s all about money, money, money. IPCC members have admitted that they wanted to create hysteria at the outset in order to get money. Special interest groups lobby, do favors, get favors that’s all this is about. Money makes the world go round. For crying out loud, you can find out that the science in “An Inconvenient Truth” was faulty just be Googling the facts. Al Gore, who started the hysteria with his film, is a lying hypocrite. There are hundreds of scientists in the U.S. alone trying to speak out about this but they’re being blackballed by their colleges (again money). Do you know these scientists held a convention in NYC to discuss how this hysteria is affecting their field and careers? I doubt it. Most people didn’t because the media conveniently overlooks anything that doesn’t fit their agenda.Warming and cooling has been happening cyclically since weather conditions have been recorded. There is absolutely no crisis happening here. If you want to motivate people in positive way, start researching this economic meltdown and what is happening to our nation. Now THAT is a crisis. You can start with a book called “The 5000 Year Leap.” Easy to read and certainly not what you learn in public schools. This is what people need to wake up to and get involved in.

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