Background on Greenpeace/IPCC Author Sven Teske

19 Jun

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 Donna warned that some links may be outdated.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?


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


2 responses to “Background on Greenpeace/IPCC Author Sven Teske

  1. hro001

    July 30, 2011 at 12:22 am

    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.

    Indeed. And they just don’t seem to get it! The IAC handed them a lifeline that – for all intents and purposes (except those of “communications”), they’ve failed to grasp.

    To the surprise of few, I suspect, the Guardian‘s Damian Carrington has taken up the “cause” of defending the IPCC against its critics on this latest faux-pas. For my take on this pls see:

    In defence of the IPCC, “journalist” ignores the real scandal

    For some reason, this post seems to have drawn the attention of one of the IPCC’s stellar stable of “climate scientists” who, during the course of his defense of Carrington’s defense of the IPCC, offered the following rather remarkable statement:

    it is this line-by-line approval process that results in the actual consensus that the IPCC is famous for, and which is sometimes misunderstood. The consensus is not a consensus among all authors about every issue assessed in the report; it is a consensus among governments about the summary for policymakers.

    So, after all these years, it turns out that there is no “overwhelming scientific consensus”. Amazing, eh?!


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