It is now clear that the IPCC has made several factual errors in their Fourth Assessment Report. The Himalayan glaciers will not melt by 2035, and more than half of the Netherlands are not below sea level. I may have found another error. If it is not an error, it is certainly some very sloppy work.
In AR4, WGIII, section 8.4.5 Potential implications of mitigation options for sustainable development:
“Agriculture contributes 4% of global GDP (World Bank, 2003) and provides employment to 1.3 billion people (Dean, 2000).”
That is a fairly specific number, 1.3 billion. What census, survey, or study did they cite that came up with this number? Dean, 2000 is referenced as:
Dean, T., 2000: Development: agriculture workers too poor to buy food. UN IPS, New York, 36 pp.
The UN IPS is the United Nations Inter Press Service. They cited a news article. This article was difficult to find, but I did get it.
Interestingly enough, the actual title of the article is different than the IPCC’s reference. The title is “Agriculture Workers Too Poor to Buy Food, Say Unions“. Here it is also referenced with the ‘say unions’ ending. But the IPCC’s reference drops the ‘say unions’ from the end. If you search for this article on IPS’ site, you get to see a link to the article with the title. It includes ‘say unions’. Is this an intentional omission of a reference to unions, or just sloppy work? Here is the article, see for yourself:
The article only mentions the 1.3 billion number in passing:
Currently, 1.3 billion people (out of a world population of about 6
billion) work in agriculture-related jobs, 450 million of whom are waged
The rest of the article is about how the workers are too poor to buy food. The magazine does not cite any source for its 1.3 billion number. I attempted to find out the correct number myself and found this paper:
Agricultural Workers and their Contribution
to Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development
Written by: Peter Hurst
in collaboration with Paola Termine and Marilee Karl
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
International Labour Organization (ILO)
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF)
All of those bodies are part of the UN. This paper states that:
“There are an estimated 450 million waged agricultural workers out of a
total workforce in agriculture of some 1.1 billion. They account in fact for over 40% of the total agricultural labour force and play a major role in feeding the world and in fibre production.” – Page 15
It was a fairly in-depth report using a list of 162 references. The 1.3 billion claim was made in 2000, inside a UN news article listing no references and only making the comment in passing. The claim of 1.1 billion was made in 2005, in a report for the FAO specifically about agricultural workers. Why did the IPCC choose to use the outdated reference from an UN news source instead of the recent source in a UN FAO report? If I could find that FAO report, certainly the IPCC could. Is this just simple laziness?
I don’t know the actual number of agricultural workers there are in the world. I don’t think the IPCC does either. It may well be 1.3 billion, but that isn’t the point. The point is this: The IPCC claims to be the gold standard, but it has now been shown that even some of the most simple claims they make are either false (think Netherlands) or based on bad sources (think boot). This may be both.