Chicanery revealed in the IPCC records

Copyright David Holland 2012 -- All moral rights asserted and reserved


The following comprises part of the arguments in an appeal against Decision Notice FER0408711 in which the Information Commissioner’s office upheld the University of East Anglia’s decision to refuse to disclose a letter sent on 26 February 2010 by the Working Group One Technical Support Unit for current IPCC Fifth Assessment Report to the Lead Authors and Review Editors of the now five year old 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.


1.    The second quotation in the Commissioner’s Paragraph 11 is far more troubling, and although, as I will show, the IPCC decision that it alludes to is not relevant to these matter, the chicanery by which it was arrived at and the part the UEA’s Professor Jones played in it most definitely is relevant.   Presumably, AR5 WGI rather than the IPCC is being quoted as having written,

“... the succession of requests in the UK has already led us to reconsider some of our working arrangements in order to protect the freedom of the author team to work undisturbed, and to preserve the integrity of the IPCC process including confidentiality of interim documents in accordance with IPCC procedures”

2.    The Commissioner at the end of his paragraph 11, presumably referring to the UEA states, “It said that this position was reaffirmed in the letter dated 16 November 2011.”   While I have no idea who this letter is from or what it might say, in the IPCC 34th Session 18-19 November 2011 the WGI Co-Chair Professor Thomas Stocker succeeded in tricking the IPCC into changing the Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC work in line with the wishes expressed by Professor Jones and his colleague Dr Osborn in the Climategate emails.

3.    The actual IPCC formal decision is not relevant to this case because it refers only to

“The drafts of IPCC Reports and Technical Papers which have been submitted for formal expert and/or government review, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments will be made available on the IPCC website as soon as possible after the acceptance by the Panel and the finalisation of the report. The IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.”

There is no recorded IPCC decision upon which the UEA can justify its pretence that international relations or the interests of the individual concerned could be prejudiced.   However and to the contrary, the publicly documented process, which, in 2011, tricked the IPCC into making a confidentiality decision, gives conclusive evidence that no possible prejudice could happen to international relations or the individuals who sent and received the document that is the subject of this appeal.

Climate scientists will not accept national FOIA laws

4.    The Climategate emails show that, long before anyone used the FOIA or EIR to prise information out of the UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, Professor Jones was worried.   In CG1 email 1107454306.txt dated 2 February 2005, dated 2 February 2005 Professor Jones told Professor Mann

“If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

5.    Well before Climategate, Glaciergate and the stalled COP15 talks brought the controversies in climate change to global attention, Dr Osborn wrote to Professor Stocker who had been appointed as Co-Chair of WGI for AR5.   In CG2 email 1526.txt, he expressed his concerns if the Commissioner, who was investigating my complaint against the UEA for refusing the requests that I had made in May 2008, decided in my favour:

If he wins his appeal and we release the AR4-related correspondence, his opinion seems to be that this precedence will open up access to AR5 correspondence "as soon as it is held".    All UK-based authors would then expect to receive regular requests for their AR5 correspondence *during* the drafting process.  This would, in my opinion, adversely affect the relationship between UEA (and all UK universities/public institutions such as Met Office) and the IPCC -- it would be very supportive if someone who currently represents IPCC (or at least IPCC WG1) could indicate that this is also the view/position of the IPCC.

Climategate and Glaciergate are game changers

6.    Much of what I had requested from the UEA was released in CG1 and confirmed not just my suspicions but those of many scientists and other professionals worldwide that had other concerns about the way the IPCC assessment process was being run by the climate scientists and the lack of any oversight by their governments or the IPCC.  

7.    The Glaciergate incident, in which it was falsely stated that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, may have been the last straw and, on 10 March 2010, the UN Secretary General asked the InterAcademy Council (IAC) to review the IPCC Policies and Procedures and report to the IPCC 32nd Session in October 2010 with proposals for reform.

8.    This could have been a turning point for the IPCC, had those like Professors Jones and Stocker not been allowed to pervert the process that the IPCC laid down at it 32nd Session in 2010.   The IPCC set up Task Groups to work out in detail how the IAC recommendations should be translated into changes to its written rules.   The Task Group on Procedures was required to send a draft report to government ‘focal points’, such as our DECC, by the end of 31 January 2011.   The ‘focal points’ were to submit their government’s comments to the IPCC secretary by 28 February 2011

The Office Holders strike back

9.    I requested these documents from DECC under the EIR, but it refused knowing that the appeal process would have taken us past the IPCC meeting date of 10-13 May 2011, at which the IPCC decision was taken.   DECC routinely breach the Aarhus Convention obligation to proactively disseminate information on important proposed IPCC decisions, in time for public discussion prior to them being made.   This invites the sort of chicanery that was to follow.

10.                       The draft Task Group Report and the comments of the UK government and other IPCC members, which DECC had refused to disclose to me are now incorporated into a 267 page composite file at the IPCC website.   From this I have extracted the draft Task Group Report on Procedures, which DECC had refused to disclose, and the comments on its Section 11 from IPCC member governments including those of DECC and IPCC ‘Office Holders’.

11.                       The purpose of the Task Groups mandated at the IPCC 32nd Session in 2010 was to translate the IAC recommendations and some further matters discussed at the IPCC 32nd Session into detailed proposals for rule changes for the IPCC 33rd Session to agree after consultation with the IPCC members’ focal points.  

12.                       The IAC Report, its supporting evidence and the Report of the IPCC 32nd Session are readily available on the Internet, easily searchable. They can be seen to include not the slightest hint of any confidentiality proposal.   Yet out of these, in the draft Task Group Report on Procedures, one emerged and the IPCC in plenary meetings was deceived into agreeing it in first May 2010, and then into extending it in November 2011.   British public authorities involved in the IPCC AR5 assessment are now all citing the IPCC confidentiality decision to refuse disclosure of any IPCC information even though it does not apply to all IPCC information.

13.                       In its introduction on page 2, the draft Task Group on Procedures Report states [note my underline]:

The Task Group recommendations relate to Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work (Procedures for the preparation, review, acceptance, adoption, approval and publication of IPCC Reports.) and its Annexes, hereafter called ‘Procedures’. The proposals of the Task Group are presented in sections 2 to 10 of this document.

To some extent the Task Group also discussed some suggestions that were related to the IAC report recommendations but may be viewed as being not strictly within the mandate given by the 32nd session of the IPCC. The Task Group considered these suggestions useful for further discussion and includes them in this document under the Addendum “Issues for further discussion on Procedures” (section 11 of this document).. Please note that this addendum does not reflect any consensus by the Task Group.

14.                       Page 10 of Section 11 begins with the heading [note my underline]:

11. Addendum: Issues for further discussion on Procedures

In this section 11 of non-consensus issues is found a paragraph that was not part of the Task Group’s proposals but was a request for guidance – which supposedly had been the job of the IAC but which did not advocate any confidentiality in the assessment process.   In the middle of page 11 it states,


Clear guidance may be needed on what the rules are for citation/publication of draft reports and other documentation during drafting and review and how the draft report need to be kept confidential without contradicting the needed transparency and openness, while different versions of the draft should be accessible after the completion of the report.”

Since confidentiality is the logical opposite of openness and transparency, this was self-evidently an impossible task for the government members of the IPCC to whom the draft Report had been sent.   The IPCC principle of an open and transparent assessment process was widely used to justify its claim to authority.   Coming after the revelations in Climategate it seems remarkable that any objective person might want to press for any confidentiality.

15.                       Of the 195 member countries of the IPCC only 23 appear to have made any response at all to the Task Group Reports, which in itself is very disturbing, considering the global importance of the IPCC Assessment Reports and the great public concern over the governance of the IPCC, which had led to the IAC Report.   On one particular decision only 4 governments made any comment at all.   Of the 23 governments, 12 were European parties to the Aarhus Convention all bound by it article 3(7) to promote, in the IPCC, the Convention Principles, which are for the fullest possible disclosure on environmental decision-making processes.

16.                       Only 13 governments commented on section 11 of the Draft Task Group on Procedures report which contained the non-consensus issues.   The individual “issues” in subsection 11.3 were not separately referenced in the draft Task group report.   However, not a single country government mentions the word “confidentiality” let alone supports it, for which in any case there was no fully formed proposal for a decision as was required in the Task Group mandate from the IPCC 32nd Session.  

There is no possibility of adverse effects from disclosure

17.                       On the basis of these comments there was no obvious desire from any IPCC member country to pursue the request for guidance on confidentiality in the assessment process, which was in conflict with the IPCC Principle of openness and transparency.  

18.                       The documented total lack of any international support for any confidentiality decision is the strongest possible evidence that British interests in international relations would not be prejudiced in any way by the disclosure in the UK of any of the IPCC documents that are widely distributed to the hundreds of participants in the IPCC assessment process.      The Canadian government view was stated clearly on first page of the extract of the 267 page composite file of government and office holders comments:

“Canada notes that the issues raised in the Addendum have not undergone sufficient analysis by the Task Group and require much further discussion. There are a number of issues in section 11.3, such as the proposals under "crosscutting issues" and "range of scientific views," that would pose significant implementation challenges. It is suggested that the Task Group recommend that during IPCC-33 the Panel focus on the body of the proposal only. Canada would support an ongoing process after IPCC-33 for governments to consider other issues identified by the Task Group (in conjunction with the Bureau and TSUs).”

19.                       Also on the first page, the Malaysian government had commented:

“Since the Task Group members do not have the mandate given by the 32nd session of the IPCC to consider the issues as noted in the Addendum, therefore, the maters must go back to the Panel of the IPCC for consideration – the 33rd Panel of the IPCC should further discuss those issues and make decision.”

20.                       Three of the ‘Office Holders’, the Co-Chairs of WGI and WGIII, Professors Stocker and Dr Ramón Pichs-Madruga, and the IPCC Secretary, Dr Renate Christ, on the other hand argued for a confidentiality rule, with Professor Stocker, on page 5 of extract of the the comments, proposing that the issue be moved into the first part of the Final Task Group Report on Procedures, even though there was no proposed decision that had been presented in advance to any government for detailed consideration.

21.                       On 12 May 2011, the penultimate day of the IPCC session, according to its electronic properties, the final Task Group on Procedures Report was created by the IPCC Secretariat.   This left no reasonable time for any consideration of new or controversial text and for any oversight whatever by any government departments.   In its introduction, the document states untruthfully [my underline]:

The Task Group on Procedures also further discussed the IAC recommendations in the context of increasing transparency and further improving the quality of the assessment reports. This has led to an ‘Addendum’ in the Geneva document, containing proposals that were not the result of a consensus within the Task Group, but were believed to be relevant for further consideration by the Panel.

There was no IAC recommendation that could conceivably have led to a proposal for a confidentiality decision and none had been put to government members of the IPCC in the ‘Addendum’ to the Geneva document.   It contained only a request for guidance on the matter.

22.                       In the draft Task Group Report the ‘Addendum’ items had been described as “Issues for further discussion on Procedures”.   However, without any due process or time for the representatives of the IPCC members to consult their governments on it, the request for guidance on confidentiality had been changed by the IPCC Secretary and the Working Group Co-Chairs into a fully formed proposed decision.   Since there was no proposed decision on confidentiality in the draft version and no government commented specifically on the confidentiality issue, this last minute document states untruthfully on its page10 [note my underline]:

6bis Additional proposed decisions on the assessment and review process (cat. II)

These issues were raised in the ‘Addendum’ of the Geneva document and addressed by government comments.

23.                       The government comments are published and not one expressed any desire for a guidance on confidentiality and there was no detailed proposal put forward and no IAC recommendation for it.   However, on the page marked as 12 of the final version of the Task Group on Procedures Report, it states:

6bis 4.2 Proposed decision (cat II)

All drafts of IPCC assessment reports (including the final draft) will be considered to be confidential material, not for public distribution quotation, or citation until acceptance by the Panel of the final IPCC report. The first order draft, second order draft and the final draft, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments on both drafts will be made available on the IPCC open website on a clearly visible place, within xx weeks after the acceptance of the report by the Panel.

24.                       The proposed decision shown above appears to have been modified at some point and in the formal decision document is described as below:

At its 33rd Session, the Panel decided that the drafts of IPCC Reports and Technical Papers which have been submitted for formal expert and/or government review, the expert and government review comments, and the author responses to those comments will be made available on the IPCC website as soon as possible after the acceptance by the Panel and the finalization of the report.  IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.


Edited 14:16, 14 May 2012   links corrected

Edited 15:28, 14 May 2012   1525.txt should have been 1526.txt