photo via flickr
Last week, Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sent a letter to the IPCC's 831 lead authors and review editors an attempt to clarify the body's stance on media interaction. In fact, the letter did the opposite, raising concerns from journalists and bloggers, who worried that their access to the world's leading experts on climate change would be restricted. Pachauri warned to "keep a distance from the media" and send requests to identified spokespeople. He also issued a three-page primer on dealing with media interactions.
But now, one week later, after getting criticism from around the globe, Pachauri is singing a different tune. In a new letter, the IPCC head has reversed his earlier direction, opening up the channels of access and by doing so, taking away a new angle of attack from climate denialists and skeptics, who have been after the IPCC for the past year.
Here's a portion of the letter, re-published from the NY Times Dot Earth blog:
These documents sent contradicting messages on a vitally important subject -- how we communicate to the public. In my letter, I cautioned you to "keep a distance from the media" if asked about your work for the I.P.C.C. This was a poor choice of words on my part and not reflective of I.P.C.C. policy. My only intent was to advise new authors not to speak "on behalf of the I.P.C.C." because we are an inter-governmental body consisting of 194 states.
I want to reassure everyone the I.P.C.C. is a transparent organization. At a time when the work of climate scientists is undergoing intense scrutiny, it is essential that we promote clear and open communication with the media and the public.
While the media have at times been critical of the I.P.C.C., I have a profound respect for their responsibility to inform the public about our activities. A free flow of information is a fundamental component of our commitment to transparency.
Last weekend, a guide entitled "Background & Tips for Responding to the Media" was circulated to several hundred Working Group II authors. This document was produced to help scientists communicate effectively with journalists. However, I was unaware of its distribution. For those who received my letter and the media guide, it is understandable that you may be confused. So, please allow me this opportunity to provide a clear advice about your interactions with journalists.