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African crops yield another catastrophe for the IPCC

By Christopher Booker | The Telegraph | February 13, 2010

Ever more question marks have been raised in recent weeks over the reputations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and of its chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. But the latest example to emerge is arguably the most bizarre and scandalous of all. It centres on a very specific scare story which was included in the IPCC’s 2007 report, although it was completely at odds with the scientific evidence – including that produced by the British expert in charge of the relevant section of the report. Even more tellingly, however, this particular claim has repeatedly been championed by Dr Pachauri himself.

Only last week Dr Pachauri was specifically denying that the appearance of this claim in two IPCC reports, including one of which he was the editor, was an error. Yet it has now come to light that the IPCC, ignoring the evidence of its own experts, deliberately published the claim for propaganda purposes.

One of the most widely quoted and most alarmist passages in the main 2007 report was a warning that, by 2020, global warming could reduce crop yields in some countries in Africa by 50 per cent. Dr Pachauri not only allowed this claim to be included in the short Synthesis Report, of which he was co-editor, but has publicly repeated it many times since.

The origin of this claim was a report written for a Canadian advocacy group by Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan academic who draws part of his current income from advising on how to make applications for “carbon credits”. As his primary sources he cited reports for three North African governments. But none of these remotely supported what he wrote. The nearest any got to providing evidence for his claim was one for the Moroccan government, which said that in serious drought years, cereal yields might be reduced by 50 per cent. The report for the Algerian government, on the other hand, predicted that, on current projections, “agricultural production will more than double by 2020”. Yet it was Agoumi’s claim that climate change could cut yields by 50 per cent that was headlined in the IPCC’s Working Group II report in 2007.

What made this even odder, however, was that the group’s
co-chairman was a British agricultural expert, Dr Martin Parry, whose consultancy group, Martin Parry Associates, had been paid £75,000 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for two reports which had come to totally different conclusions. Specifically designed to inform the IPCC’s 2007 report, these predicted that by 2020 any changes were likely to be insignificant. The worst case they could come up with was that by 2080 climate change might decrease crop yields by “up to 30 per cent”.

British taxpayers poured out money for the section of the IPCC report for which Dr Parry was responsible. Defra paid £2.5 million through the Met Office, plus £330,000 for Dr Parry’s salary as co-chairman, and a further £75,000 to his consultancy for two more reports on the impact of global warming on world food supplies. Yet when it came to the impact on Africa, all this peer-reviewed work – including further expert reports by Britain’s Dr Mike Hulme and Dutch and German teams – was ignored in favour of a prediction from one Moroccan activist at odds with his own cited sources.

However, the story then got worse when Dr Pachauri himself came to edit and co-author the IPCC’s Synthesis Report (for which the IPCC paid his Delhi-based Teri institute, out of the £400,000 allocated for its production). Not only did Pachauri’s version again give prominence to Agoumi’s 50 per cent figure, but he himself has repeated the claim on numerous occasions since, in articles, interviews and speeches –such as the one he gave to a climate summit in Potsdam last September, where he boasted he was speaking “in the voice of the world’s scientific community”.

Only last week, in an interview available on YouTube, Dr Pachauri was asked about errors in the IPCC’s 2007 report and his own Synthesis Report, with specific reference to the loss of North African crops. His reply was that – aside from the prediction that the IPCC has now had to disown, that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035 – the reports contained “no errors”. Passages such as those on African crops were “not errors and we are absolutely certain that what we have said over that can be substantiated”.

In the wake of all the other recent scandals, “Africa-gate” may be the most damaging of all, because of the involvement of Dr Pachauri himself. Not only is the reputation of the IPCC in tatters, but that of its chairman appears irreperably damaged. Yet the world’s politicians cannot afford to see him resign because, if he goes, the whole sham edifice they have sworn by would come tumbling down.


February 14, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 5 Comments

Preserving the Golden Rule as a Piece of Anti-Nuclear History

By Lawrence S. Wittner | February 8, 2010

The Golden Rule is in danger.  No, not the famed ethical code — though proponents of selfishness certainly have ignored it — but a thirty-foot sailing ship of the same name that rose to prominence about half a century ago.

The remarkable story of the Golden Rule began in the late 1950s, as the world public grew increasingly concerned about preparations for nuclear war.  In the United States, the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) was launched in November 1957, and polls showed rising uneasiness about the nuclear arms race — especially giant atmospheric nuclear weapons tests that spewed radioactive fallout around the globe.

Although SANE quickly became the largest peace organization in the United States, smaller groups, committed to civil disobedience, sprang up as well.  One of them, Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, drew the participation of Albert Bigelow, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  With the bombing of Hiroshima, Bigelow had concluded that “morally, war is impossible,” and a month before he became eligible for his pension, he resigned from the U.S. Navy Reserve.  Joining the Society of Friends, he plunged into the growing campaign of resistance to nuclear weapons.

In January 1958, Bigelow and three other pacifists wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower of their plan to sail the Golden Rule into the U.S. nuclear testing zone in the Pacific.  “For years we have spoken and written of the suicidal military preparations of the Great Powers,” they declared, “but our voices have been lost in the massive effort of those responsible for preparing this country for war.  We mean to speak now with the weight of our whole lives.”  They hoped their act would “say to others:  Speak Now.”

Of course, this was just what the U.S. government most feared.  Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) officials, and the U.S. Navy brass began frantic conversations on how to counter the pacifist menace.  The U.S. commander-in-chief in the Pacific warned that this group of “Communists or misguided humanitarians” hoped to either “stop tests by preventing us from firing . . . or if we did fire and killed a few people” to “create additional anti-atomic test support.”  Eventually, the administration decided to have the AEC issue a regulation blocking entry by U.S. citizens into the test zone, while U.S. intelligence agencies swapped data on Bigelow, including information on his private telephone conversations and legal plans.

Meanwhile, captained across a stormy Pacific by Bigelow, the Golden Rule arrived in Honolulu, where a U.S. federal court issued an injunction barring the rest of its voyage.  Nevertheless, the four pacifists decided:  “We would sail — come what may.”  And they did.  Overtaken by the U.S. Coast Guard on their journey to Eniwetok, they were arrested, tried, convicted, and placed on probation.  Undaunted, they set sail once more on the Golden Rule for the very heart of darkness, that section of the Pacific unilaterally cordoned off by the U.S. government for its hydrogen bomb tests.  Once again, their voyage was halted by U.S. authorities, and they were arrested, tried, convicted and — this time — given sixty-day sentences and imprisoned.

But their example proved contagious.  An American anthropologist, Earle Reynolds, his wife Barbara, and their two children attended the final trial in Honolulu, and concluded not only that the U.S. government was lying about the dangers of radioactive fallout, but lacked the constitutional authority to explode nuclear weapons in the Pacific.  As a result, determined to complete the voyage of the Golden Rule, they set sail for Eniwetok aboard their own ship, the Phoenix.  On July 1, Reynolds went on the radio to announce that they had entered the U.S. nuclear testing zone.  Soon thereafter he was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a two-year prison term.

These events, which received considerable publicity, triggered a surge of activism.  Picket lines sprang up around federal buildings and AEC offices all across the United States.  In San Francisco, 432 residents — proclaiming that they were guilty of “conspiring” with crew members — petitioned the U.S. attorney to take legal action against them.  Reynolds, out on bail before a higher court ruled in his favor (and, implicitly, in favor of the crew of the Golden Rule), gave a large number of talks on radio and television, as well as to college, high school, and church audiences, on the dangers of nuclear testing.

Not surprisingly, U.S. government officials were horrified.  Appearing on CBS television, AEC chair Lewis Strauss, implied — as he often did when discussing critics of nuclear weapons — that the whole thing was part of a Communist conspiracy.  “At the bottom of the disturbance there is a kernel of very intelligent, deliberate propaganda,” he insisted.

Subsequent events went badly from Strauss’s standpoint.  Within a short time, he was ousted from office, and the Eisenhower administration — barraged by public protests against nuclear testing — felt obliged to halt it and begin negotiations on a test ban treaty.  In 1963, these negotiations culminated in the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear tests by the great powers.  SANE and other peace groups were delighted with this first nuclear arms control treaty, as was Bigelow, who only two years before had challenged authority once more, this time as a Freedom Rider.

As for the aging Golden Rule, it has now drifted into obscurity, and is currently housed in a small shipyard in Eureka California, whose owner, Leroy Zerlang, would like to save it from destruction.  If the Smithsonian or another museum decided to preserve the ship, it would provide a fine symbol to future generations of the courageous men who sailed it, of government efforts to halt their activities, and of a nation that ultimately turned against nuclear weapons and nuclear war.


February 14, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Preserving the Golden Rule as a Piece of Anti-Nuclear History