Did sceptics take part in the review?

I’ve already commented on the review process for IPCC AR5 WG1, noting that the review took place in two stages (the FOD and the SOD) and that virtually anyone can sign  up to be an “expert reviewer”.  Around 1500 people registered for each round, with 659 submitting comments on the FOD and 800 on the SOD, according to this IPCC fact sheet.   The IPCC has now published a list of all the expert reviewers.  Presumably this list includes those who submitted reviews of the FOD or the SOD or both.

A (possibly) interesting question is whether many of those who take a sceptical view of climate science and the IPCC took part in the review process.  Sceptics are divided on this. On the one hand, some say that the entire process is irretrievably flawed,  that sceptical comments are ignored, and that the IPCC authors will just write what they like in the final version of the report, so engaging in the review is pointless.  Others argue that this is unduly cynical, that one should take part in the review process and that if you don’t, you are on weak ground if you complain later about the content of the report.

After a quick look through the list, here are some names of sceptics (interpreted in a fairly broad sense as those who are known for being critical of the IPCC) who did take part in the review:

  • John Christy – USA – Climate scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Petr Chylek – USA – Climate scientist at Los Alamos
  • Marcel Crok – Netherlands – blogger and author
  • Don Easterbrook – USA – Geologist, Western Washington University (emeritus)
  • Vincent Gray – New Zealand – Chemist (retired), prolific IPCC critic
  • Nicholas Lewis – UK – Independent climate scientist with some published papers
  • Paul Matthews – UK – Who?
  • Ross McKitrick – Canada – Economist, University of Guelph, co-author with McIntyre
  • John McLean – Australia – IT specialist, writes media and web articles
  • Christopher Monckton – UK – Universally acknowledged as a top expert in the field
  • Alec Rawls – USA – Writer, blogger and leaker of the AR5 SOD
  • S. Fred Singer – USA – Environmental scientist, University of Virginia (retired)

Of course there may be many more sceptical reviewers, whose names are not familiar to me. Please let me know if you spot some more.  Notable by their absence are the sceptic bloggers (Andrew Montford, Joanna Nova, Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts, Judith Curry, Jeff Condon, Lucia Liljegren, Donna Laframboise…).  As previously noted, McIntyre has stated that he was not prepared to agree to the confidentiality agreement, while Watts did register as a reviewer but presumably did not actually submit review comments.

4 thoughts on “Did sceptics take part in the review?

  1. Hi Paul

    Thanks for this. You’ll have seen my efforts trying to encourage as many people as possible to become reviewers (indeed I think it was my post on Bishop Hill that got you involved?). I specifically asked many of the people on your list if they’d consider it, and also Don Keiller and Jonathan Jones. In AR4 I tried in vain to get Roger Pielke Snr to review my assessment of land surface effects and non-radiative forcing. In all cases there seemed to be a general feeling that acting as a reviewer would somehow make them “part of the process”, and they simply didn’t wish to do that. While I do see that point of view, I also do think that your second point above is a good one, ie: that critics are on weaker ground afterwards if they’ve not at least tried to make their views known through the process. And despite some perceptions, these views do count.

    As an IPCC author myself (in the WG2 report, which is still 6 months from completion), I know that a lot of effort goes into responding to all the comments in an objective manner. Often there are contradictory comments on the same point. I have re-read a lot of papers these last 3 months, and read new ones, checking whether the previous draft’s text needed revising (and in many cases it did). We have to respond to every comment and say what we did in response, and why (especially if no change was made in response to the comment). Review comments definitely do make a difference.

    Thanks for taking part in the review of WG1!



  2. There is a relevant comment on sceptic involvement in the interesting BBC article by Matt McGrath:

    The view that the sceptics have positively impacted the IPCC is supported by Prof Arthur Petersen, who is a member of the Dutch government team currently examining the report.

    “The sceptics are good for the IPCC and the whole process is really flourishing because of this interaction over the past decades,” he told BBC News.

  3. I do think sceptics have contributed in man other ways, than by merely being an IPCC reviewer. ie Watts and Montford,

    even me a tiny bit on twitter, for example tweeting to Matt Collins, i hope they do not leave out Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Extent from the SPM, lest they be accused of cherry picking…

  4. Like McIntyre, I wasn’t prepared to agree to the limitations they placed on me. That, and noting that no skeptical review material seems to have made it into AR4, and noting the process didn’t improve in AR5, made it a pointless exercise for me.

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