Britain’s Secret Bid To ‘Fix’ UN Climate Report: Impact On Economy Is Ramped Up

  • Date: 31/03/14
  • Ben Spencer, Daily Mail

British officials were last night accused of ‘political interference’ in a crucial report on international climate change. The economic impact of global warming was ramped up in the final draft by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Shortly before authors wrote the final version, a British Government official passed scientists a note complaining about an earlier, more moderate draft.

 The official, from Ed Davey’s Department for Energy and Climate Change, said the economic section of the report was at best an ‘under-estimate’ and at worst ‘completely meaningless’.

The final document, published today in Japan, increases the predicted economic impact of global warming.

Critics said the suggestion of political interference by the Coalition, which set out to be the ‘greenest government ever’, was alarming.

Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘It is always the same with climate change. If the facts don’t suit them, they change it to suit them.

‘A Government official interfering with an independent scientific report is ridiculous. What you want … is what the independent scientific community thinks – not what people want them to say for their political purposes.’

The IPCC report is the first comprehensive analysis in seven years of the global consequences of climate change. It warns that the world is ‘ill-prepared’ and that the effects are ‘already occurring on all continents and across the oceans’.

Rising temperatures, droughts and heatwaves will threaten food supplies and human health, while hundreds of millions of people will be hit by coastal flooding, it finds.

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The report, by more than 300 authors, informs policy decisions of governments around the world.

But one of its contributors has accused the IPCC of being too ‘alarmist’ – and demanded his name be withdrawn. Professor Richard Tol, an economist at the University of Sussex, said the drafts had been changed to make the findings more ‘apocalyptic’. He said colleagues ‘drifted too far to the alarmist side’ and were likening climate change to the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse’.

His section of the report, based on 18 economic studies, predicted in early drafts that global warming of 2.5C would cut economic output by between 0.2 and 2 per cent a year – much less than previous estimates of up to 20 per cent.

But the final IPCC report labels his predictions ‘incomplete estimates’. It states: ‘Losses are more likely than not to be greater … than this range.’

Britain, among other nations, lobbied for this highly significant change. On Friday, before final drafting discussions, the British government submitted a note faulting the draft.

It said: ‘The quoted figures of 0.2 to 2 per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] are at best an under-estimate, and at worst completely meaningless.’

Other governments including Belgium, France and Norway also complained. But Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC writers, last night dismissed criticism of the last-minute alteration and said the final report gave a ‘much clearer picture’.

Despite praising Professor Tol as a ‘wonderful scientist’, Professor Field of Stanford University, added: ‘There were a couple of meaningful errors in the way Richard had done his analysis.’

Mr Davey said: ‘The science has spoken … This evidence builds the case for early action … We cannot afford to wait.’ A DECC spokesman said climate change impacts could be ‘catastrophic’, adding: ‘These cannot be underestimated and the UK Government, as well as other countries, are seeking to make sure this is understood the world over.’

But Professor Gordon Hughes, an environmental economist at Edinburgh University, said: ‘The IPCC has been a political body ever since it started … this is political interference.’

Daily Mail, 31 March 2014