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expert reaction to BBC/Greenpeace exposé of governments lobbying IPCC climate science

The leak of documents shows a number of countries and organisations arguing that the world does not need to reduce the use of fossil fuels as quickly as the current draft of the UN report recommends.


Prof Piers Forster, Professor of Climate Change and Priestley Centre Director, University of Leeds, said:

“In my over 20 years’ experience of writing IPCC reports there has always been lobbying from multiple directions. It is important to note that the authors get the last word as ultimately the report rests on peer reviewed science, not opinion.    

“The ‘I’ in IPCC means ‘Intergovernmental’ for a reason. The governments of the world eventually agree the text unanimously. This the crucial for the IPCC becoming the trusted source of climate science for all nations.  This would not be possible unless all countries felt free to air their views and have them respected, listened to and responded to by the authors.


Prof Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:

“IPCC reports are scientific documents and the authors respond to review comments on the basis of their scientific merit. It’s important that government representatives can comment on the science, and very often they make valid, useful suggestions based on their own knowledge of the literature, but IPCC authors are keenly alert to the possibility of political pressure and strongly resist it.”


Prof Martin Siegert, Co-director Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“The BBC’s report exposes the behaviour of certain nations that have attempted to hold back progress on decarbonisation through the IPCC process. This lobbying has no impact on the scientific credibility of the IPCC report, however. That the IPCC upholds the science in the face of such forceful vested interests is a triumph, and we should be grateful to the scientists involved for not yielding to such pressure. Be under no illusion, decarbonisation at the level we need to avoid dangerous climate change will be opposed by some, perhaps many, in the fossil-fuel industry and by a number of people, companies and nations that benefit financially from fossil fuels.”


Prof Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science, University College London, said:

“Countries have always been encouraged to comment on all the IPCC climate change reports.  Many countries take this as an opportunity to lobby the scientists to change their conclusions – for example Australia wanting to support coal, Saudi Arabia wanting to support oil, Russia natural gas and Brazil beef production.  But it has no effect on the reports.  Scientists, social scientists and economists that work on these reports are led by the evidence and what is best for the world and all of its peoples.  This is why the public and politicians all around the world trust scientists and the IPCC reports as they know they will not be influenced by petty politics. 

“The lobbying also drives home what we need to do to reduce climate change: stop using coal as soon as possible, phase out oil and natural gas usage as soon as possible, stop deforestation and start reforestation and move to a more plant-based diet and definitely cut down the amount of beef we produce. Not only will this reduce our carbon emissions but it will save millions of lives due to massively improved air quality and diet.”



Declared interests

Prof Maslin: “nothing to declare.”

Prof Forster: “I am currently Coordinating Lead Author for the AR6 Working group one report and was Lead author for the IPCC special report on 1.5C (2018), Lead author of the 5th Assessment Report (2013), and Coordinating Lead Author for the Fourth Assessment Report (2007)”

Prof Betts: “I’m a Lead Author on the AR6 Working Group 2 report (still in preparation) and was previously a lead author on the AR5 WG2 and AR4 WG1 reports.”

No others received.


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