IPCC bases claim of 1.3 billion agricultural workers on news article, changes title

05 Feb

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
agricultural workers.

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)

October 2005

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.


Posted by on February 5, 2010 in IPCC


Tags: ,

21 responses to “IPCC bases claim of 1.3 billion agricultural workers on news article, changes title

  1. DougT

    February 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    very nice job. There are many part of the IPCC reports hat have the smell of a rushed undergraduate essay. Write what you want to say and, at the last minute, rush around trying to find factiods and references to back up what you have already said.

  2. JohnRS

    February 6, 2010 at 4:05 am

    It’s begining to look as if any so-called fact in this report just isnt!! An exageration, I know, but the feel of the thing is that it’s a total fabrication.

    And we’re supposed to sit still and let these people tax us death in New World Order?

  3. John Bowman

    February 6, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Error or deliberate deception? A pattern is emerging. Either those on the IPCC are completely incompetent and know not what they do, or they are quite competent and know exactly what they are doing.

    Which ever it is, the IPCC should be shut down; its reports used for fire lighters to provide lots of plant food.

  4. JTurner

    February 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Well done for sniffing out another rat in the woodpile. At last people are starting to realise that the IPCC is faith based, not evidence based. The true believers will soon be calling for burning the heretics at the stake, then they’ll have an argument as to whether there isn’t a more green alternative to the stake.

  5. John F. Pittman

    February 6, 2010 at 9:18 am

    This is a mistake that could be acceptable except for all the other mistakes that are worse. At what point does the death of a thousand cuts occur for such a flawed piece?

  6. Agile Aspect

    February 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Good work! Yet another nail in the IPCC coffin. The IPCC is clearly incompetent.

  7. Albert

    February 6, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    There is also a claim that a portion of Bangladesh will disappear when the satellite data shows that Bangladesh surface grows at a rate of 20 sq km/year.
    I think it would be interesting to investigate more.
    Here is the link:

    Another total lie has been that the Sunderbans in Bangladesh are sinking on account of the rise in sea level. The IPCC claimed that one-fifth of Bangladesh will be under water by 2050. Well, it turns out this is an absurd, unscientific and outrageous claim. According to scientists at the Centre for Environmental and Geographical Information Services (Cegis) in Dhaka, its surface area appears to be growing by 20 sq km annually. Cegis has based its results on more than 30 years of satellite imagery. IPCC has not retracted this claim. As far as they are concerned, Bangladesh is a goner by 2050, submerged forever in the Bay of Bengal.

  8. SteveCase

    February 7, 2010 at 10:35 am


    I think their sea level claims are in the tank as well. They say a rise of .59 meters by 2100 plus land ice melt. What little I’ve dug up doesn’t support that.

  9. Hu Duck Xing

    February 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Here’s a great report/interview on the sea level hoax;

  10. julie

    February 8, 2010 at 12:38 am

    is there a single sentence in the AR4 that can be relied upon?

  11. NewPoster

    February 8, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Here is another allegation of a dodgy citation in IPCC report – covered in the Sunday Times – – This time about North African agriculture. Some quotes:

    The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

    The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.

    The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”.

    “Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.

  12. shmelly

    June 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Unfortunately they also spelled the author’s name wrong on the citation. It was quoted as “Dean” but actually spelled “Deen” in the news article. Oops.

  13. shmelly

    June 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Another thing… We need a more balanced approach to agriculture. The same IPCC documents admits that many of the proposed ‘mitigation’ measures like Hydro and Biomass systems could increase the vulnerability of poor people to climate impacts (like reduced rainfall). This is not something we often hear about, though.

    There is only a short chapter on potential conflicts of adaptation and mitigation.. which could be potentially serious.. It undermines the extent to which a focus on adaptation would benefit the poorest farmers.

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