Key words :
conflict of interest
The 2007 IPCC Assessment Process - Its Obvious Conflict of Interest
27 Sep, 2007 01:13 pm
If, instead of evaluating research in climate, suppose a group of
scientists introduced a new cancer drug that they claimed could save many lives.
There were side effects, of course, but they claimed that the benefit far outweighed these risks. The government then asked these scientist to form an assessment Committee to evaluate this claim. Colleagues of the group of scientists who introduced the drug were then asked to serve on this Committee, along with the developers. If this occurred, of course, there would be an uproar of protest! This is a clear conflict of interest.
In a previous climate assessment, I made a recommendation as to how to correct this defective assessment process. This is discussed in the report Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report "Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences". 88 pp including appendices (available for download at http://climatesci.colorado.edu/publications/pdf/NR-143.pdf), where I wrote "Future assessment Committees need to appoint members with a diversity of views and who do not have a significant conflict of interest with respect to their own work. Such Committees should be chaired by individuals committed to the presentation of a diversity of perspectives and unwilling to engage in strong-arm tactics to enforce a narrow perspective. Any such committee should be charged with summarizing all relevant literature, even if inconvenient, or which presents a view not held by certain members of the Committee.
Assessment Committees should not be an opportunity for members to highlight their own research and that which supports their personal scientific conclusions without properly placing into perspective the diversity found in the peer literature. When the Chair of such a committee seeks to limit the focus of an assessment Report in a specific direction, such as was the case with this Committee, the advancement of our understanding of the scientific issues involved suffers."
"..Unfortunately, the Report advocates a narrow perspective on science shared by the majority of the committee, rather than dealing comprehensively with the issues under its charge and found in the broader scientific literature. As such it does a disservice to those interested in a comprehensive review of the relevant science."
We need recognition among the scientific community, the media, and policymakers that the IPCC process is obviously a real conflict of interest, and this has resulted in a significantly flawed report.
Real Climate has sought to argue that the IPCC process is transparent (see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/transparency-of-the-ipcc-process-2/#more-463). They clearly contradict themselves in their post, however, where they write "The authors of the report used the input from the reviewers to improve the report. In some cases, the authors may disagree with the comments - after all, it is them who are the authors of the report; not the reviewers."
This means that the authors are gatekeepers who can prevent alternative perspectives from being presented. They did exercise that power in preparing the 2007 (and earlier) IPCC Reports. The conflict of interest can be shown clearly in this candid admission from Real Climate. We need to move towards more objective assessments of climate science, if we are to avoid poor policy decisions to respond to the human role within the climate system".
Key words :
The above line of reasoning was also one of the many errors in logic that Michael Crichton perpetuated in his novel "State of Fear." For a complete repudiation of Crichton's arguments, readers should visit the following Union of Concerned Scientists web site:
Unlike members of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Crichton did have a financial incentive, using controversy to sell his novel, and therefore a financial conflict of interest. Even though he is not a practicing physician, as someone who attended medical school, Crichton would have been wiser to remember that part of the Hippocratic Oath that cautions physicians to first do no harm.
Conflict of interest involves more than just financial reward (although that is part of it with respect to professional advancement and in research contracts, for example). I invite you to read a set of excellent weblogs on this subject on Prometheus:
Two examples are listed below:
I also recommend you read the book
Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. Cambridge University Press
FN 1) H.H. Lamb, Meteorological Office Bracknell, Berkshire (UK), The New Look of Climatology, NATURE, Vol. 223, September 20, 1969, pp.1209ff;