Monday, January 16, 2012

Don't Remove the ZODs

It seems some blogs have received formal notices from the IPCC to remove documents and discussions of leaked 5AR drafts. I hope these bloggers choose not to do so.

On December 12, 2011 documents titled "Zero Order Draft" (ZOD), purportedly from the IPCC 1st Working Group (they're the ones who summarize the science) appeared on the Web. On Jan 4th a site named Galloping Camel received a request from the IPCC to remove them (link here):
The Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has learnt that a number of chapters of its interim draft reports, the so-called Zero Order Draft (ZOD) of the IPCC Working Group I and Working Group II reports, have been posted on your website. These interim reports were sent for review to invited experts for their comments. The ZOD is a preliminary, draft report, not meant to be cited, quoted or distributed as specifically indicated on the document itself. This draft was provided to a number of expert reviewers under the condition that they did not disseminate it.

It is likely that these preliminary drafts will undergo many changes during the IPCC's revision process. It could, therefore, be misleading to draw conclusions from these versions -- which is why they are not widely circulated.

The IPCC Procedures in Article 4.2 of the Principles Governing IPCC Work state that "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." ( We therefore request the immediate removal of the ZOD chapters from your website.

In accordance with the IPCC Procedures, subsequent drafts, the so-called First Order and Second Order Drafts, will be made available for review by experts and by governments and experts, respectively. After finalization of the report, these drafts together with review comments and responses by authors will be made available on the IPCC website.

Please note that the First Order Drafts (FOD) of the Working Group contributions to AR5 will be made available for open, expert review according to the schedule posted on the IPCC web sites, and the Working Groups welcome comments that are submitted through the appropriate channels. For Working Group I, the review period has already begun and is open until 10 February 2012. Information for experts interested in registering to review the WGI AR5 FOD can be found on the web site Registration to serve as an expert reviewer of the WGII AR5 FOD will open in June 2012. One of the conditions of the review, to which reviewers must agree in order to access the chapters of the WGI AR5 FOD, is that the drafts may not be cited, quoted or distributed.

Yours sincerely,
IPCC Secretariat
7bis, Avenue de la Paix
P.O. Box 2300
1211 Geneva 2
Tel: +41 22 730 8208/8254/8284
Fax: +41 22 730 8025/8013
The owner of Gallopingcamel, Peter Morcombe, seemed a little too happy to be in such a position of leverage, but removed the documents and sent back this reply:
Subject: Zero Order Draft (ZOD) of IPCC Reports
To: IPCC-Sec IPCC-Sec (Add as Preferred Sender)
Date: Sunday, Jan 08, 2012
From: Peter Morcombe


Your request that certain files be removed from my website was done in a non threatening way so it may be possible to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement. Please be assured that my intentions are entirely constructive.

As a gesture of good faith, access to the files posted on the Gallopingcamel website will be restricted by the time you receive this email. The files will only be available to the team that is reviewing the documents.

I am the owner of the web site in question and therefore can make binding agreements relating to it. If the IPCC is prepared to enter into discussions I will need to know what authority their representative has.

You may be wondering how the ZODs came into my possession. All I can tell you is that there are insiders who believe that the deliberations of government working groups should be open to the public unless matters of national security are involved. It follows that you can no longer count on maintaining secrecy, especially given the huge financial implications of your work.

It is clear that the IPCC's review procedures have some shortcomings given the large number of serious errors that were found in AR4. Many of these embarrassments would have been avoided if early drafts had been open to the public.

If you agree to allow my team to receive updates of the Working Group drafts we will undertake to send you our comments without making them public. None of us will be applying for registration as “Expert” reviewers as that might compromise our independence.
Peter Morcombe
I think he should have just ignored the request. He has not obligations to the IPCC, whose request strikes me as breathtakingly imperious.

A few days later Steve McIntyre received a similar notice. As is usually the case with him, following the story is like reading a 1903 Hungarian engineering document for the plot (Michael Tobias said something like whatever Steve writes, you can be sure there is less to it than there seems), but it seems he's still mulling it over. I hope he, too, declines to remove any ZOD discussions.

The thought that everyone is just supposed to wait until the IPCC Kingdom hands down its findings, on a problem of this magnitude, complexity, and consequence, is very rich. (Tone deaf, too.) They have no authority to impose such requests, and if they don't like leaks they should plug them. (They've given no indication that the ZODs were obtained via illegal means.) They -- and the UN in general (and for that matter, all governments around the world, including mine) are already too much of a closed book. This issue affects everyone, and the more information we have about it the better off we are. Yes, I know that's inconvenient for the IPCC. But the IPCC's lack of transparency has its problems too. Just not for them.

I think what I find most galling was asking McIntyre to remove discussions of the ZODs. As if the climate problem is people talking about it too much. As I said, extremely imperious.

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