1996 GCC “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing'” Memo, Corresponding Media and Open Letters

These documents reflect the Global Climate Coalition’s (GCC) aggressive attack on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process – targeting Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Dr. Ben Santer through a coordinated communications and media campaign. These documents were provided by Dr. Santer.

The industry-funded GCC opposed greenhouse gas regulations through direct engagement and collaboration with affiliated climate deniers from 1989 to 2002. Its membership spanned across the automotive, utility, manufacturing, petroleum, and mining industries. The GCC tracked the IPCC closely, often disputing aspects of its process and reports. This episode marked the climax of GCC’s direct, public attacks on the IPCC.

After the 1995 publication of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report, the GCC widely distributed a memo to media outlets titled, “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing.’” The memo argued that edits were made to Chapter 8 of that report that, “raise very serious questions about whether the IPCC has compromised, or even lost, its scientific integrity.”

Following the distribution of the GCC’s memo, Energy Daily, the Washington Times, and The Wall Street Journal amplified the GCC’s message. Coal-funded GCC member Western Fuels Association (WFA) also cited the memo in “Bait and Switch? IPCC pares down the consensus.” The GCC’s rhetoric gained mainstream coverage; in their own words, “[o]n at least the issue that has received more media and public attention than any other, [IPCC’s] published report on the science of potential global climate change defies both the letter and the spirit of the IPCC’s Rules governing its reports.” The GCC threatened that if the IPCC didn’t re-publish the report, “IPCC’s credibility will have been lost.”

The GCC also wrote Santer and the United Nations directly, asking for a re-publication of Chapter 8, citing “the Administration’s reliance on your chapter … for their recent shift in policy from voluntary measures to a cap on future U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” as a call to action.

In response to the controversy, Santer and others in the scientific community penned open letters and op-eds rebutting the GCC’s allegations. The American Meteorological Society (AMS), for instance, wrote “to support [Santer] and the other scientists who participated in the preparation of the recent IPCC report.” AMS warned of a, “concerted and systematic effort by some individuals to undermine and discredit the scientific process,” engaging in an opinion-based media campaign – conduct that has, “no place in the scientific debate about issues related to global climate change.”

In a separate letter, Chairman of the IPCC Bert Bolin also supported Santer. Identifying GCC’s Executive Director John Shlaes and Climate Council’s Don Pearlman as those “who have initiated these attacks on the IPCC,” Bolin rebuked the GCC and its allied dissidents: “I wish to state very clearly that the allegations are completely unjustified.”

“The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing'” Memo:

Santer email to all Lead Authors of the 1995 IPCC Report and all contributors to Chapter 8 (Includes the original Energy Daily article):

WFA Greening Earth Society’s Patrick Michaels covers GCC memo:

GCC’s Bronson Gardner reverberates IPCC criticism in Physics Today:

GCC Chairman O’Keefe letter to Santer:

GCC Chairman O’Keefe letter to United Nations Environment Program Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell:

American Meteorological Society open letter in support of IPCC process and Santer:

IPCC Chairman Bert Bolin letter to Santer:

Interested in more GCC documents? See more in the full Global Climate Coalition collection.

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