IPCC and Conflicts of Interest

By Roger Pielke Jr.

Last year the InterAcademy Council recommended that

The IPCC should develop and adopt a rigorous conflict of interest policy that applies to all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports

The IPCC has thumbed its nose at the IAC and ignored this recommendation. Now we get treated to sights like the following:

. . . Steve Sawyer, who contributed a chapter to an upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on managing climate disasters, which will be published in May. . .

According to Sawyer, the forthcoming IPCC report will reveal that carbon emissions from nuclear power facilities clock up between 100 and 200 grams of carbon emissions per kilowatt hour (kWh). ‘Clean’ gas emits around 350 grams of carbon per kilowatt hour.

But wind turbines emit no carbon when producing electricity.

One life-cycle assessment of the Vestas V90-3.0MW onshore turbine – which includes the manufacture of components – found that even here, only 4.64 grams of CO2 per kWh were created.

“Nuclear power is generally the most expensive, complicated and dangerous means ever devised by human beings to boil water,” Sawyer said, summing up the anti-nuclear argument.

“Why anyone would want to use it to generate electricity is beyond me, unless they were interested – as most European states were in the early days of nuclear history – in what comes out the other end, which is fissionable material for nuclear weapons,” he added.

Who is this IPCC author Steve Sawyer you might wonder? He is the Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, an advocacy group for wind energy with a strong anti-nuclear stance, as Sawyer’s comments indicate. He also spent 30 years as a top official for Greenpeace.

Now, Mr. Sawyer may very well be a great guy and a world expert on climate and extreme events (bio here in PDF). However, the spectacle of an IPCC author with a clear conflict of interest writing part of the report and then using that same report in his political advocacy just does not look good. If the IPCC were recommending drug safety standards and an author happened to be a top official at a company benefitting from the recommendations, the issues here would be obvious and unacceptable. The IPCC however plays by different rules. Post.

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