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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Background on Greenpeace/IPCC Author Sven Teske

The news was recently broken, by Steve McIntyre, that the IPCC’s recent renewable energy report’s most notable conclusion was based on a Greenpeace report. Not only that, but the same person who authored the Greenpeace report was also an IPCC author of the renewable energy report, unacceptable by any standard.

The author in question was Sven Teske. I had planned on doing an in-depth biography of him for curious readers following the story. After a few minutes of research, I realized my job was mostly already done for me by another blogger Donna Laframboise, who has the excellent blog NoFrakkingConsensus. I helped Donna as a citizen reviewer for the IPCC citizen’s audit. I can say with near certainty that no one has looked into the IPCC more thoroughly than she has.

So I e-mailed Donna and asked if I could re-post Teske’s background here. She agreed (thanks Donna!), and here it is. It’s from this article written way back in Jan 2010 about Greenpeace’s links to the IPCC. She wrote about two other Greenpeace IPCC reviewers before, and Teske is the third and last. Donna warned that some links may be outdated. Everything in between the following headings is from her post here.

Sven Teske’s background

The third Greenpeace representative given official standing as an IPCC reviewer is Sven Teske. When a Greenpeace protest vessel shut down Europe’s largest coal port in 2005, Teske was on board. Described as a renewable energy expert, he declared:

Climate change is now the single biggest threat facing our planet…Greenpeace is here today to expose Europe’s dangerous addiction to coal.

Elsewhere, he insists that: “Renewable energy is the true answer” to coal’s shortcomings [italics added]. According to this bio, Teske has a BSc in engineering and a masters in “wind energy technology.” Curiously, a 1995 Greenpeace press release described him as a “nuclear expert[screengrab here].

In April 2009, Teske was one of two speakers at a “Public Forum on Climate Justice” held in Ottawa, Canada. Although he resides in Amsterdam, a month later he was quoted in a Greenpeace press release calling for Canadian “political leadership” on green issues. A month after that, he called Australia “a global climate change pariah.”

Teske is a co-author of a Greenpeace publication titled “New Zealand Energy Revolution: How to Prevent Climate Chaos. It features a forward by (and photograph of) Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC’s chairman.

In 2006, Greenpeace released another report in conjunction with the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (a solar power lobby group). Teske is described as the “Greenpeace Co-ordinator and scenario analyst” in its credits and his name is one of two appearing at the end of that document’s forward.

This attractive, 50-page publication is an extended brochure of the sort distributed by solar energy marketing departments. Although it is data and graph-intensive, it contains a grand total of four footnotes. Although it mentions external documents in passing, no list of full citations is provided.

Thus, we read on page 14 that, “According to a WHO study, as many as 160,000 people are dying each year as a result of climate change.” Should we care to double-check this claim, we’re on our own.[a critique of the WHO study]

As incredible as it sounds, this publication/brochure is itself cited in the Nobel-winning IPCC report as evidence that a particular statement is true. Appearing in the list below as Greenpeace 2006, it is one of two references mentioned in a single sentence, as discussed above.

Which begs an important question: how did it get into the same room with serious scholars? Why would it even be under consideration by a scientific body tasked with producing an assessment of the latest scientific research?

There appears to be an interesting chronology here. First Teske is granted “scientific expert reviewer” status by the IPCC. Second, a non-academic, non-peer-reviewed document in which he was closely involved gets added to the climate change research canon by virtue of it being cited by the Nobel-winning report.

Third, Teske co-authors a new Greenpeace report that receives an extra measure of prestige when it features a forward authored by the high-profile IPCC chairman. Fourth, in a final flourish, Teske – like his Greenpeace colleauge von Goerne – gets elevated to lead author status of yet another IPCC special report (on renewable energy) due to be published this year.

Where does Greenpeace stop and the IPCC begin? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell.

[Well said, and recent events have made that even more true today.]

Environmental activist, renewable energy advocate, and IPCC author

Should Sven Teske have been an IPCC author on the renewable energy report? Well, he clearly has been involved with Greenpeace for a long time. That alone might be enough to disqualify him. Why? The IPCC is supposed to provide policymakers with the unbiased information they need to make decisions, not to prescribe certain policies themselves. Greenpeace is a campaigning organization to advocate for certain policy positions.

Sven Teske is Greenpeace International’s renewables director. Can we expect the director of Greenpeace’s renewable energy program to simply play an informative role and not be unbiased? No, and Sven Teske shows that. He is blatantly an advocate for renewable energy, especially solar.

For example, read this interview with Teske about solar power. Or read an article he penned himself entitled The Energy Revolution has Begun. In both he is advocating a massive effort towards renewable energy, including a massive amount of money.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to him in remarks made to a group of Argentinians before Copenhagen fell apart:

Developing countries paying $100 billion a year. I can’t believe anyone every thought that was viable.

Sven Teske has every right to advocate for renewable energy. He can even try to get governments to take our money and give it to other countries. But we must be clear what he is: a biased advocate for renewable energy. This disqualifies him from taking part in the IPCC report, if the IPCC wants to be unbiased. Quoting a Greenpeace/solar energy industry report and inviting the author on board is not unbiased. In fact, they even issued a press release with the primary claim (80% renewables by 2050) taken from that Greenpeace/solar energy industry report.

I think this is a crossroads for the IPCC. In the past, they have reacted very poorly to negative criticism. They circled the wagons and pretended there was nothing wrong. If they try that again, I can’t imagine anyone who would take them seriously. Who could ever repeat the “gold standard of science” claim with a straight face again?

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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in IPCC, UN, Uncategorized

 

Biochemist Climate Skeptic in a Laundromat

I just moved states, one reason I haven’t posted here very much recently. We moved from a home to an apartment, which means we now have to do laundry at a laundromat. I went with my wife and two young girls, bringing along a book with the silly goal in mind of actually reading it. Instead, I herded children around for a couple hours. However, as my youngest finally fell asleep in my arms (in such a position that I couldn’t attempt reading anyways) an elderly man approached and struck up a conversation.

He noticed my wife’s shirt which mentioned a state from which he had previously lived. We talked briefly about where we had lived, and why we had moved, which led to a discussion about my new job. Breaking the conventional rules of social conversation, I started talking politics. I mentioned that I was a libertarian, and he said he was a conservative. We talked a bit about politics in general.

At some point he told me his age – 85 this year – and I asked where he had worked previously. He said he was a biochemist who did research at Michigan State and other universities. It isn’t everyday you meet a biochemist (particularly in laundromats), so I began plying him with questions about various things. For an 85 year old man, his mind was very sharp.

Of course, I’d already broached politics, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask about climate change. I thought he might have a unique perspective on the issue, belonging to a sort of older generation of scientists (think Freeman Dyson). I was right. He had some fairly conventional skeptical views on the science behind climate change, believing they have vastly overstated their case and assigned far too much confidence to their knowledge of the future. But it was his view of the chemistry that was interesting.

Now, his statements here are from memory, after all, this was an offhand discussion in a laundromat. So I’m paraphrasing here. And, I asked for his e-mail address, hoping he might write up some remarks and let me post them. But he doesn’t have e-mail. You’ll get the gist of it though.

He was indignant that CO2 was labelled pollution. He told me that carbon is the entire basis for his field, organic chemistry. He said that the carbon which is present in every living thing comes (directly or indirectly) from CO2. In other words, Carbon dioxide allows for carbon-based life, or even more simply, CO2=life. To call this pollution is unthinkable.

While I’m sure many rational people believe this, it is nice to hear a knowledgeable scientist reaffirm it. The next time you hear someone say “carbon pollution”, remember this equation:

CO2=Life

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Uncategorized