The IPCC scientists “Final Draft” on climate change impacts before government editing negotiations


Before the 23-page Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific assessment of climate change impacts was approved for publication on April 6, a “Final Draft” by the lead-author scientists had to be revised and approved line-by-line in negotiations with government representatives from around the world.  During a lengthy and contentious session, with interventions by government representatives from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, numerous edits were made to the scientists’ draft prior to final joint approval by scientists and diplomats.  Numerous changes appear clearly to have the effect of “toning down” the scientists’ own draft language on likely damaging impacts of climate change.  Climate Science Watch has obtained a copy of the scientists’ embargoed “Confidential Draft in preparation for Final Government Review,” i.e., the unedited draft, and posts it here as a public service.  (See Details) 

Also see our April 6 post.

The IPCC Working Group II Summary for Policymakers as finally approved.

Working Group II Contribution to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Fourth Assessment Report

Climate Change 2007:
Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Summary for Policymakers
Confidential Draft in preparation for Final Government Review

We have reviewed this draft and compared it in detail with the Summary for Policymakers that was finally approved.  We will present our findings in a subsequent post.

For some of the press coverage that touches briefly on the controversy in Brussels, see:

Contentious Climate Conference OKs Report
U.S., China, Saudi Arabia Raise Most Objections At International Meeting
CBS News, April 6, 2007

An international global warming conference approved a report on climate change Friday after a contentious marathon session that saw angry exchanges between diplomats and scientists who drafted the report.

“We have an approved accord. It has been a complex exercise,” chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters after an all-night meeting.

Finalizing the report, which was years in the making, came down to an all-night session, described as very contentious, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

“I’m wearing the same suit I wore yesterday morning and I’ve been sitting in a chair all night,” said Pachauri.

Several scientists objected to the editing of the final draft by government negotiators but in the end agreed to compromises. However, some scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change vowed never to take part in the process again.

The climax of five days of negotiations was reached when the delegates removed parts of a key chart highlighting devastating effects of climate change that kick in with every rise of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and in a tussle over the level of confidence attached to key statements.

The United States, China and Saudi Arabia raised the most objections to the phrasing, most often seeking to tone down the certainty of some of the more dire projections.

The lead U.S. official at the meeting, Sharon Hays, said climate change is a global challenge that needs more study.

Bleak U.N. report on global warming derided as too soft
LA Times, April 7, 2007

A new global warming report issued Friday by the United Nations paints a near-apocalyptic vision of Earth’s future: more than a billion people in need of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a planetary landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

But despite the harshness of its vision, the report was quickly criticized by scientists who said its findings were watered down at the last minute by government bureaucrats seeking to deflect calls for action.

Scientists’ stark warning on reality of a warmer world
Hundreds of millions may be put at risk, says report; Complaints of political interference with findings
Guardian (UK), April 7, 2007

The world’s scientists yesterday issued a grim forecast for life on earth when they published their latest assessment of the impacts of climate change.

A warming world will place hundreds of millions of extra people at greater risk of food and water shortages and threaten the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals, they said. Floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts are all expected to increase, with people in poorer countries suffering the worst effects.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the panel that published the report, said: “It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit.”

The report’s release was delayed by arguments between scientists, who wrote the report, and some government representatives present, who must agree the final text and insisted some of its conclusions were weakened.

“The authors lost,” one scientist told journalists. “A lot of authors are not going to engage in the IPCC [the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process any more. I have had it with them.” Scientists walked out of the talks at one stage and several lodged protests.

Scientists, governments clash over warming report
Reuters, April 6, 2007

Scientists clashed with government officials at a U.N. panel on climate change on Friday over how strongly global warming is affecting plants and animals and the degree to which humans are causing temperatures to rise.

More than 100 nations in the U.N. group agreed a final text after all-night talks that were punctuated by protests from researchers, who accused delegates of ignoring science and watering down a summary version of the report for policymakers.

Environmentalists say governments tried to weaken the report in order to avoid taking strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were the main culprits at the meeting, delegates said.

“It looks like very blatant vested interests are trying to stop particular messages getting out,” said Neil Adger from Britain’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Climate change agreement reached
BBC, April 6, 2007

The wording of the summary of the report, which will be sent to world leaders in time for a G8 summit of industrialised nations in June, was finally decided after scientists and government officials from more than 100 countries worked through the night.

Several delegations, including the US, Saudi Arabia, China and India, had asked for the final version to reflect less certainty than the draft.

This entry was posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Science-Policy Interaction. Bookmark the permalink.