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« Norfolk Vice | Main | Dark Matter: What's science got to hide? »

IPCC declares itself above the law

Richard Tol reports from the IPCC WGII lead author meeting in San Francisco:

...the IPCC member states have ruled on freedom of information legislation. Specifically, it has been decided that FoI does not apply to IPCC material. This is false. FoI is national legislation. These laws can only be interpreted by the relevant courts. These laws can only be changed by the relevant parliaments. The civil servants that speak on behalf of their countries have no right to usurp FoI legislation, and the IPCC has no say in this matter.

This of course is a continuation of this story.

George Monbiot was winning considerable plaudits on the Dark Matter thread for his strong stand on freedom of information. He is also, of course, a fan of the IPCC. It would be interesting to see what he makes of this.


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Reader Comments (107)

Why would the most honest, transparent, scientific process in history need exemption from the FOIA?

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Is it not also in the UK that environmetal legislation applies to release of information. Surely in the UK, every involvement with the IPCC has to be publicly available?

Why are these meetings always held in some nice touristy location and why can't they be done by video link?

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This Austrian reporter is supposed to have shit himself live on air
But its a fake

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

When Richard Tol says 'the IPCC member states have ruled' surely he means that an interpretation has been made by the IPCC , not an actual ruling .

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

George Monbiot was winning considerable plaudits on the Dark Matter thread for his strong stand on freedom of information. He is also, of course, a fan of the IPCC. It would be interesting to see what he makes of this.

I like it. A devil in Bishop's clothing....

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

It seems theres a whole load more wind turbines catching fire clips on youtube

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Hengist: Why don't you go the Richard's site and ask him?

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

If it is indeed only an interpretation Hengist, do you agree with the interpretation?

A waffle-lite response would be appreciated.

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

Surely it is the business for IPCC member states to maintain their own laws, which is what Tol seems to be accusing them of doing . So where is the IPCC declaration that the IPCC is above the law, as promised in the headline of this post ?

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Might not have much legal standing, but might be a jolly good delaying tactic, let the requesters get bored and go away. "We'd love to give you the data but since it was prepared at IPCCs behest we can't, so sorry, take it up with Pachi..." Squeezing stuff out of UEA has apparently been a difficult enough job, I'm sure someone a few thousand miles away will carry obfuscation and irrelevance to new heights, all the while his legal bills being paid by taxpayers. What better use for a widow's mite?

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Oh, well ... looks like the IPCC has tightened up their redefinition of "transparency" - not to mention (as Tol also reported) implementation of any "principles based" conflict of interest guidelines.

Do they even care about restoring even the tiniest measure of credibility?! Obviously, they are still operating in ... well, Delinquent Teenager mode!

Dec 14, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Hengist, you ask - So where is the IPCC declaration that the IPCC is above the law, as promised in the headline of this post ? Perhaps it is a declaration that will not be made public, rather like the conflict of interest declaration that Professor Tol also mentions -

Essentially, we all signed a form declaring that we have no conflicts of interest. This is defined narrowly: pecuniary, personal, direct benefit from deliberate bias. There is no audit of these declarations, and they will not be made public.

They may have well sworn the no conflict of interest declaration on a copy of Courant and Hilbert. A Samual Goldwyn verbal declaration - not worth the paper it's written on.

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

This is good news on CoI and FoI.

We have been given a licence to say as often as we like that IPCC authors are dishonest and the IPCC is itself corrupt because of their continuing secretive and duplicitous behaviour.

I wonder what Richard Betts has to say on this, he is after all an IPCC AR5 Lead Author for WG2???

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@GrantB your suggestion that we are talking about " a declaration that will not be made public" takes us into a contradiction in terms . To declare means: to make known or state clearly, especially in explicit or formal terms

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Hengist are you really that lame? Professor Tol states that WE, and in particular he, made the declaration. His declaration to the IPCC will not be made public.

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

Hengist, probably a good idea to read the whole Tol article. It is quite short and easy to understand ;-)

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Re: Hengist

Surely it is the business for IPCC member states to maintain their own laws..

Yes it is up to IPCC member states to maintain their own laws.

I've searched Hansard to try and find when my democratically elected representatives debated and amended or passed the law that exempted UK participants in the IPCC from FOI requests and can not find it. I don’t know what the French, German, Italian, Swiss, Indian, etc equivalent of Hansard is but I'll bet they haven't passed or amended any laws regarding this either.

I guess that means that IPCC participants can overrule laws passed by their member states. Since they can overrule any law they do not like this puts them above the law.

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

"Specifically, it has been decided that FoI does not apply to IPCC material."
That statement says all I need to know about the freedom of the I.P.C.C Hengst and as they won't allow anything in public the only sources for what was truly intended in their Ruling/declaration/hopes/dreams
is hidden so maybe you should be poking them !

Dec 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered Commentermat

Rule by decree. Nothing new there, but not compatible with any form of democracy I've ever come across - who are these blighters *supposed* to be answerable to?

Dec 14, 2011 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

“Interesting to see what Monbiot makes of this”?

George has squared more circles in his coverage of climate change (or “climate confusion” as he so aptly calls it) than you’ve had hot winters.
Three years ago he went skating “for possibly the last time”, then last year he was telling us snow is what global warming is all about.
After Muir Russell he took a vow of silence (a world first for an investigative journalist?) and took up badger culling as the greatest threat to our civilisation.
Climategate 1 led to his calling for Phil Jones’s resignation; Climategate 2 was ignored. Expect nothing.

Dec 14, 2011 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff: good summary of the problem. But Andrew's excellent final question can also be seen as a rhetorical one. Perhaps Monbiot will read it, then the Richard Tol post, and begin silently to ponder. Perhaps as a result the next time he is called upon to debate or speak on openness in science he won't be so fast to hold up the IPCC as an example of excellence. He may never thank Bishop Hill for that. But it will be an improvement.

It takes patience as well as boldness, this caper. And this will remain one of my favourite BH posts of all time.

Dec 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

As I say sceptics can now declare open season on IPCC AR5 authors for it transpires that they are up to their old 'tricks' again - openess and transparency is just a sham.

These people, loose term, have learnt nothing and are unwilling to change their behaviour. Ethically, morally they all stand in the gutter. We can pronounce and denounce them as liars, cheats, swindlers, etc and they have no comeback in the public domain all because they have created these very unconvincing notions that they are above the law of the land with regard FoI, subject only to their own importance, and that they are pure as the driven snow because they signed a piece of paper on CoI.

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The dodge is earlier in Richard Tol's report:

The IPCC pretends that its authors operate in their personal capacity, even if people work on their chapters in their bosses' time.

FOI, in the UK at least, applies to public bodies such as universities, not to what the staff may do in their spare time
But I would expect a UK court would see through this.

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAQ42

Am I wrong?

Scientists involved with the IPCC work for their respective Universities, producing work for and on behalf of the University. Therefore any work and communication of that work with any outside body falls under the relevant FOI legislation. The UEA, in particular, clearly state their people work with the IPCC, therefore any correspondence between UEA employees and the IPCC is subject to FOI regardless of what the IPCC says

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMangoChutney

Richard Betts, where are you? Your presence and comments on this post would be welcome.

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Here are Monbiot own problems on facts and being factual with regard BBC prgrammes and global warming.

"So the Frozen Planet polar bear exposes the BBC's sinister ways. Really? Climate-change deniers have upped their BBC-bashing recently. Somehow, this zoo footage is meant to bolster their case"


"Top Gear's electric car shows pour petrol over the BBC's standards - Why is Top Gear apparently exempt from the BBC's editorial guidelines and the duty not to fake the facts?"

Poor old Beeb, same old Monbiot.

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I suspect that David Holland's series of FOI requests for information on AR5 which have all been refused seem destined for appeal and will sort all of this out once and for all.

Dec 14, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

The Conflict of Interest material can be found here:

We were told that we should sign this in our personal capacity. My contract with my employer forbids that. I signed in my professional capacity without implying the organization I work for. In other organizations, the clause "without implying ..." does not hold.

I cannot find the decisions on Freedom of Information. Google does not index cq prioritize this part of the IPCC site.

The IPCC has member states. Countries are represented in the IPCC by members of the executive rather than by members of the judiciary or legislative. IPCC decisions therefore have no legal standing.

I can imagine that quite a few judges or parliamentarians would be upset if they learn that civil servants have decided that the law does not apply to them.

Dec 14, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard: If everybody was asked to sign it in their personal capacity, does that mean everybody that actually signed it in their personal capacity had funded the trip to San Francisco themselves and were all on leave from their employer?

Dec 14, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Here's an interesting comment indirectly referring to our Mr Huhne (from Judith, quoting Kloor, who was quoting Broder in the NYT) on the success/failure of Durban.

“There is a fundamental disconnect in having environment ministers negotiating geopolitics and macroeconomics,” said Nick Robins, an energy and climate change analyst at HSBC, the London-based global bank.

Dec 14, 2011 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

Mac writes:

Here are Monbiot own problems on facts and being factual with regard BBC prgrammes and global warming.

"So the Frozen Planet polar bear exposes the BBC's sinister ways. Really? Climate-change deniers have upped their BBC-bashing recently. Somehow, this zoo footage is meant to bolster their case"

Lies matter, George. You should brush up on the morality of lying. Also consider the psychology of lying. Why do people lie? Most often the answer is to control others, though we soften our wrong by calling it "controlling the situation." When the BBC presented faked nature as nature they lied for the purpose of controlling their audience. That is a serious matter. Finally, please get over your shyness about using the word 'lie'. People are not criticizing the BBC for being sinister but for plain old lying. Do recognize that the BBC lied before you undertake a defense of them.

Dec 14, 2011 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

That's one interpretation. Another interpretation is that travel reimbursements were a gift.

Dec 14, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Dec 14, 2011 at 9:56 AM |Hengist McStone

Just let me/us know when a sovereign country is overruled by a bunch of undemocratic, unelected leaders and then you can continue to post (To be fair, Bish holds that stick!). When anyone from the WWF or Green***** have a democratic majority party and are elected by a majority...then and only then you and ZDB can come along and shout! Until then any NGO or climate scientist has to realise that "Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the sceptics, not from some farcical Hockey stick ceremony! They can then do as they will but we will not accept your.their garbage. (H/T to the M/P. lot!)

Again, as with the runaway Zed...Show the empirical evidence that CO2 is leading to runaway global warming. Show us the "Hotspot" As with Zed, we await your answer with interest and unlike her we expect peer stuff, nor models!

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Richard: Gifts (travel and accomodation) are taxable and have to be declared.

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Richard tol,
It is clear you have been caught up in a fundamentally corrupt process regarding the IPCC.
You are one of the very few who has stood up and pointed out the failures conflicts and corruption of the UNFCCC/IPCC.
Do you get muhc pressure from the silent witnesses to change your story? do you think others willeventually join you in your brave stand?
Another question is this: How is it, if the CO2 crisis is so severe, that time and time again the IPCC and other AGW community organs rely on flawed and corrupt processes data and communications? If the case for the extreme actions sought by the AGW community was supported by evidence, why do so many in the AGW world rely on the opposite?

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:13 PM |Phillip Bratby

One wonder where the costings are done for RC as Nasa employee's seem to spend work time on the site!
When you think about it it was not graft and corruption that brought Al Capone down! If memory serves me right it was the IRS that put him away..........Instead of the Cops looking at the CRU emails maybe it should be the IRS digging, They seem to have more power than the cops!

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H


I like the way that Monbiot thinks it is perfectly okay for the BBC programme Frozen Planet to indulge in a spot untruthfulness and fakery in support of global warming, but demands that BBC editors of another BBC programme, Top Gear, have a duty not to fake the facts, in this regard electric cars (which we are being continually told will save the planet)

This not double standards, it is not even hypocrisy, this is Monbiot being caught in the act of double-thinking of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.

To demand the truth, the facts and at same time not demand the truth, the facts epitomises the consensus over global warming and the crooked debate that flows from it.

Monibiot deserves the moniker "Moonbat".

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The real problem lies with the giver of the gift. Why do I get a trip to SF and you do not?

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Not all witnesses are silent:

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

This is turning into one of my favourite posts on Bishop Hill too. The claim in the headline is that the IPCC has made a declaration. But when pressed to see that declaration neither Richard Tol nor Andrew Montford are able to point to it. Between them they are unable to substantiate their claim. The claim in the headline on this post is nothing but sophistry and the so-called skeptics that follow this blog have swallowed their misleading nonsense wholesale.

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Richard: The giver of the gift in this case is the taxpayer. He who pays the piper calls the tune (well he did in the old days).

Dec 14, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

In email 3249, from Dec 2008, Phil Jones says
"According to the FOI Commissioner's Office, IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI. "
Similarly in 2440 he says
"I've been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. "

The latter is well worth reading. He advises AR5 co-chair Thomas Stocker to delete all emails. He also advises Stocker to stick to the IPCC rules and says that they all did so with AR4!

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Here's the relevant section for the UK:

Information provided to the IPCC is, clearly, not exempt.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

USA needs to get out of UN asap.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeo D

I think what we are seeing here is a development of a series of international back-channels, be it communication, sharing of resources, funding, even expenses that prevents prying eyes for seeing how IPCC AR5 is being authored by climate scientists, nay advocates, nay simple-seekers-of-truth.

Unfortunately in doing so the IPCC and IPCC scientists loses all public credibility with regard openess and transparency. AR5 is already a dead duck.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@Paul (ctd)
The Aarhus Convention does not exempt international organizations.

These are the countries bound by Aarhus:

The EU ratified as well, so Ireland is bound too.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

"George Monbiot was winning considerable plaudits"

Its been a long while coming Bish and it will be even longer before any trust exists! Maybe a move to a different paper would help?

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

The IAC report - remember that? Here is what it had to say on transparency and integrity at the IPCC;

Because the individuals involved in the IPCC assessment process carry the burden and responsibility of maintaining the public’s trust, it is important for all involved to act with transparency and integrity and to abide by appropriate codes of conduct. Public trust in science also depends on effective communication, and there are many opportunities to enhance the usefulness of IPCC assessments as tools for informing policymaking and public discourse.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I have to say I don't understand where I am supposed to look to be struck by a claim that the IPCC member states have "ruled" on anything. I've looked at the two pages where COI is discussed via the IPCC link Richard Tol gave, and I can only make out some very turgid recommendations from various countries, no mention of FOI.

Are the IPCC saying that authors can't respond to being FOI'd in their own country?

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement


Pachauri dealt with the IAC report thus;

"Of course if you look at conflict of interest with respect to authors who are there in the 5th Assessment Report we’ve already selected them and therefore it wouldn’t be fair to impose anything that sort of applies retrospectively." (Interview with Morton of The Economist and covered at C.A.)

One can only conclude that there is much to hide.

Dec 14, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

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