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« Worse than we thought | Main | A blast at Nordhaus »

Stocker in Action

This is a guest post by David Holland

Simon Anthony’s excellent report on Thomas Stocker in Oxford reminds me that I should add a postscript to the piece that Andrew and I posted after the 33rd IPCC Session when the IPCC decided to make the drafts and comments of its Assessment Reports confidential. We did not say so at the time but that was the handiwork work of Thomas Stocker. How he did it is a good story in the style of the "hockey stick" and I have posted a rough draft of it here. In short, it was achieved by the sort of chicanery that we have come to expect from the "directing circle". However for the first time to my knowledge the British Government seems to have has woken up to what’s going and in a letter sent to my MP, has stated,

We are aware that this new text would mean that reviewers would not have the opportunity to see how their comments had been addressed by IPCC authors before acceptance of the final report. It was not the IPCC’s intention to change the procedures in this way and it is likely a drafting error. Indeed, the intention of the update in the procedures was to increase openness in the way that IPCC reports are prepared. We understand that the IPCC is aware of this issue and intends to address it at the next appropriate opportunity.

We shall see - but I will not be holding my breath. If the rule is agreed to be that Expert Reviewers get to see the responses to their comments before each draft of the AR5 Report is published what is to stop them from blowing the whistle if we have another bit of chicanery?

Update:  As Paul points out in the comments, Steve McIntyre did a great forensic post on Stocker's earmark in January this year.

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Reader Comments (25)

'Addressing issues' - How I detest that banal politician-speak.

May 14, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

This is news to me. Last December, the official IPCC line was indeed post-hoc transparency" We will tell you what we did, but only after it is too late to change anything.

May 14, 2012 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Presumably "next appropriate opportunity" is after AR5 comes out.

May 14, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"the IPCC is aware of this issue and intends to address it at the next appropriate opportunity."

Maybe some time in, say, 2035...

May 14, 2012 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

Maybe some time in, say, 2035...

er, shouldn't that be 2350?

May 14, 2012 at 2:08 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

... it is likely a drafting error.

Even Forrest Gump wouldn't buy that one.

May 14, 2012 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

" We did not say so at the time but that was the handiwork work of Thomas Stocker. "

Wasn't this made clear in Steve Mc's post Stocker's Earmarks?

[Tiny correction to your document - the Osborn - Stocker email is 1526].

May 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It's sooner than you think. Here are the documents and this one, if approved, (see page 5) goes only half way to meeting what our Minister Gregory Barker had asked for. Critically, and I doubt that it is inadvertent, they have not formally allowed allowed the Governments and Expert Reviewers to see the Lead Author's responses to the comments before the AR5 Report is published. Lets see if our delegation is asleep at the next Session as they obviously were at the last two.

And yes, Steve McIntyre did a good post this.

May 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

If this were industry that I am familiar with, the issue would be addressed "immediately" or heads would roll. There is no need for any delay whatsoever.

May 14, 2012 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

However for the first time to my knowledge the British Government seems to have has woken up to what’s going

But the bigger question is whether sceptics have woken up to the need to change our game?

Many people still seem to be talking as if we are a washed out bunch of nobodies without a hope of being listened to. That is no longer true. We are getting the sympathy of the public and now the tacit sympathy of politicians. But we are going to have to change our game to win. We can no longer sit here grumbling about everyone who doesn't 100% agree with us and start talking nicely to those who want to hear from us.

Just my twopence.

May 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottish Sceptic

Thanks for the links David. Doc 11 from your second link is interesting, it says that the wording about reviewers being able to see the comments was erroneously deleted and should be reinstated. I would be happier if it said reviewers could see comments and author responses.

Steve Mc now has an update post on this.

May 14, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Richard Tol is right, it's not entirely correct that the review comments and authors' responses are "confidential" - they will be released publicly once AR5 is published.

In the meantime, if you want to see the drafts you can ask/volunteer to be an expert reviewer. For the forthcoming Working Group 2 First Order Draft, the review starts in June, email the Technical Support Unit at to sign up.



May 14, 2012 at 7:07 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard, note that this is a change towards less transparency from AR4.

I requested a copy of FOD Review Comments for chapter 6. I don't think any reviewer had made a similar request. They eventually sent me a paper copy - interpreted by me as they being as annoying as possible.

I later asked for SOD Review Comments. They refused saying that the comments would be available only during the "review process" and I had not asked during a review window.

I later asked for digital versions and they refused. Saying that review comments would be available only at harvard Library and then only for limited copying due to copyright. So I sent an FOI to NOAA for their copies - resulting in dissembling replies from NOAA who denied having the documents.

IPCC relented and the situation was improved.

But in the clawback after the IAC, the window to see FOD Review COmments from other reviewers got lost. Maybe it will be restored.

May 14, 2012 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

May 14, 2012 at 7:07 PM | Richard Betts

it's not entirely correct that the review comments and authors' responses are "confidential" - they will be released publicly once AR5 is published. [emphasis added -hro]

Unless they plan to speed up the process so that there is far less time twixt press release of SPM and "publication" (not to mention that, typically, "publication" of all three WG reports is a phased process - which raises the question: will they wait until all three reports are "published" or will the release of comments be phased in accordingly?), then - for all intents and purposes - it looks like it's going to be business (i.e. non-transparency) as usual.

Even if they plan to do this in a more timely manner than in the past (and experience with the lag on the SRREN and SREX reports suggests that this is not likely to be the case), how does this "schedule" address the matter of expert reviewers being able to confirm that their issues - and those of others - have been addressed in the drafts on which they've commented?

As I've noted previously, Stocker was also responsible for accomplishing the remarkable feat of disappearing the "rule" that gray literature be duly flagged in the references. It's worth noting that in this instance - one suspects in no small measure due to Stocker's stick-handling - sometime between Oct. 2010 (an "informal" TG report, submitted by Stocker, in which consultation with the TSUs left the rule intact) and the Feb. 2011 "formal" recommendation to the Panel the TSUs evidently concluded that this rule had somehow become "impractical".

Amazing, eh?!

May 14, 2012 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Re: Steve McIntyre, May 14, 2012 at 7:17 PM

These guys truly are slow learners, aren't they?

Or else playing a deeper game than we think??

In either case, "Coercive Utopians", in the Isaacs memorable terminology.

May 14, 2012 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter D. Tillman

Meant to add a link:

May 14, 2012 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter D. Tillman

I'm feeling hat-tip envy there... No hard, feelings, Paul...

Anyway, this reminded me of one of the most amazing things I read our host's Hockey Stick Illusion (p. 343), concerning the reviewer comments on the 4th assessment report:

According to IPCC policies, once the final report was published, the second draft review comments would be placed in a public archive. [... When McIntyre asked to see them he was told that] "the review comments were now available from George Clark, the curator of the Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives at Harvard University. This seemed simple enough, but when McIntyre submitted a request to Clark for a copy, he received an extraordinary reply:

"[P]lease let me know your desired time to visit (no later than one week prior) so that I can make sure the materials will be ready for you."

This being 2007, when electronic document transmission was but a twinkle in the eye of Tim Berners-Lee (?).

There's more, and it is mostly worse, though the documents are I believe now available electronically. You can also read it straight from the horse's mouth at ClimateAudit.

Tony Blair would no doubt approve this approach to transparent information.

May 14, 2012 at 8:52 PM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Steve, Hilary,

I'm not defending the process, just clarifying what it is!

However now you mention it, personally I don't see any reason why authors' responses to the FOD comments should not be made available to reviewers at the time of the SOD - IIRC we will need to send such responses at the same time as submitting the SOD. That is my personal view though, not an official IPCC or Met Office view.

I guess it might be extra work for the TSU (who, it must be said, work hard enough as it is!)

Of course it's not up to me, I'm only an author not a member of the panel itself. Nevertheless, I might ask about that.

Being the UN then it would probably take ages to decide though, it would probably have to go through at least one meeting of the panel.

If readers here wanted to see that then the most effective way would probably be to make your views known to your IPCC Focal Point. In the UK this person is in DECC, so you could write to the relevant Minister or Secretary of State, or get your MP to ask a Parliamentary Question.



May 14, 2012 at 8:53 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

For some reason, my brain interprets the name 'Stocker' as 'Shocker'. :-)
A 'Coercive Utopian' indeed!

May 14, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Jeremy Harvey: I'm feeling hat-tip envy there... No hard,... :-) Jeremy, I posted on the earlier thread just now:

From Steve McIntyre (h/t Jeremy Harvey):

On May 11, 2009, I reported my request for CRUTEM station data from the Met Office. In a comment, David Holland noted that the AR5 Working Group 1 TSU was in Switzerland and that Switzerland was in the process of adopting the Aarhus Convention on freedom of information.

Jones read this comment and became worried about the prospect of IPCC being subject to the Aarhus Convention. Jones immediately emailed Stocker (May 12 – [CG2] 4778)

...If you click on the link below and then on comments, look at # 17. [here] This refers to a number of appeals a Brit has made to the Information Commissioner in the UK...
...I suspect that someone will have a go at you at some point. What I think they might try later is the same issue:
Who changed what and why in various chapters of AR5?
When drafts of chapters come for AR5, we can’t review the chapter as we can’t get access to the data, or, the authors can’t refer to these papers as the data haven’t been made available for audit.

Neither of these is what I would call Environmental Information,as defined by the Aarhus Convention. You might want to check with the IPCC Bureau. I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody will remember to do it...

Jones also notified Peter Thorne of the Met Office that he had alerted Stocker to Holland’s comment.

The next day, Stocker (May 13 – 4378) replied, telling Jones (cc Pauline Midgeley) that allowing access to climate data under laws prescribing “open access to environmental data” would be a “perversion”...

Steve McIntyre's post is well worth reading in its entirety. I get the feeling there is an iron fist inside the velvet glove here.

May 14, 2012 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

oddly enough, they made their decision to place the AR4 Review COmments and Author Responses online in 2007 virtually on a dime.

The problem that they then faced was that Susan Solomon had used NOAA email for all her IPCC work. NOAA absurdly argued that they held no IPCC documents. There is some strange contradictions in the NOAA Inspector General report on inconsistencies in SOlomon's evidence, that was left unexplored.

By caving, the FOIs to NOAA became moot and were not pursued. My guess is that the IPCC (prudently) decided that they did not want to the NOAA FOI refusal to be tested.

Since then, the IPCC has instigated systems to conceal correspondence from national FOI.

May 14, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

I made 1,898 comments to the WGI AR4 Report, 16% of the total, yet I only found out that there was a new report from friends. It was not announced on their website and they only notified the existence of a new Report to THEIR friends. They set a deadline over the Christmas period hoping to to keep out serious reviewers. I eventually succeeded but they will not like what I said and I do not expect any reply. I have reviewed all of the Reports and AR4 was the first time that my comments were published at all, because of the Official Information Act. I have never had a reply sent to me for any of my comments and with the early ones I had to go through the final report to see whather they had taken any notice. The idea that we could actually argue with them would be desirable but if it happens they are lost.

May 15, 2012 at 12:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterVincent Gray

Hi Vincent

Thanks for your comments in AR4. I was on the Radiative Forcing chapter, to which I remember you paid particular attention :-)

Are you seriously claiming that the IPCC did not announce the start-up of AR5 on their website? That is completely incorrect. It was announced, and has been an obvious feature of the IPCC website for at least 2 years now. There have been open calls on there for reviewers.

I also gave details of it on here on Bishop Hill in August last year, including pointing out that anybody could sign up as a reviewer, and indeed some Bishop Hill readers (such as Paul Matthews) did sign up.

If you want to review the WG2 First Order Draft, please email the Technical Support Unit at

If I may offer some advice on making your review comments effective: please give reasons to support your suggested changes, and cite the evidence behind that reason (preferably something in the scientific literature).

Don't just say things like "insert 'not' here" as this is is very easily rejected on the grounds that no reason has been given, and makes it look like time-wasting as opposed to making genuine comments.

I look forward to reading your comments!

Best wishes


May 15, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

I do not read the IPCC website routinely. On all previous IPCC Reports I was automatically informed when a new draft was being sent out., One of my friends mentioned that he had received the invitation and wondered whether I had seen it. I immediately looked up the website where there was a general statement that a new draft was being prepared but I did not find any indication that it had already been issued, or an invitation to participate. When I applied I was surprised that such a short deadline had been set, over the Christmas period.

There have been very few genuine arguments in the last few reports and I would be interested to know how many people reading this website have actually submitted comnmenhjts on WGI.

I admit that the large number of comments I made on the last Report included errors in grammar. I also refrained from repeating reasons for my comment which had been stated already a number of times. I was amazed that this time I was allowed to know what the response had been..

This time I have given my reasons every time I wish to raise what is essentially the same question. I often had difficulty in quoting published literature which supported my argument because of the control of the peer review process which is spelled out in the "climategate" Emails, so I have attached several relevant documents which have failed to pass through the peer review censorship.

I will see what I can do with WGII.

'I very much welcome you as a participant in genuine discussion of problems in climate science

May 15, 2012 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterVincent Gray

David, Steve and others,
I asked members of the Dutch IPCC delegation what this was all about. They told me the removal of the sentence "all written comments etc." was an error and showed me a link to a corrigendum:

They don't expect problems to get this through in Geneve next month. So in the end it seems there is at least no change in procedures compared to AR4. Steve and others can go ahead to ask for review comments.
Steve, when you did this for AR4, did you receive the reactions of the lead authors on the comments as well? This would be pretty helpful before reading the SOD.

May 16, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarcel Crok

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