Giving Jim his Nobel dues

The Green Party’s persistence in describing climate scientist Jim Salinger as a Nobel Prize winner needs exploring.

Alf – uncharacteristically – might have been a tad dismissive two days ago.

At the time of the award, The NZ Herald recognised the work of Salinger (who composts his food scraps and uses energy-efficient light bulbs) and Dr David Wratt (who uses public transport and plants trees):

But the personal contributions of the Niwa climate scientists in tackling the issue of global warming go way beyond commitments to reduce their carbon footprints.

For years the pair have devoted huge amounts of time to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was this month awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

The organisation shares the prize with former United States Vice-President Al Gore for his film An Inconvenient Truth, in recognition of their efforts to raise awareness and impetus around the threat of climate change.


The article described the IPCC as an international body of scientists and officials who have collaborated to assess the available scientific literature on climate change.

Among them have been about 30 New Zealand researchers who have contributed their expertise to the organisation which was established in 1998 by the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Dr David Wratt, leader of Niwa’s national climate centre, has been involved virtually from the start and overviews the IPCC process.

Dr Wratt was one of two co-ordinating lead authors for the Australia-New Zealand chapter in the 2001 assessment and is currently the only New Zealander on the 40-member IPCC bureau.

His colleague Dr Jim Salinger at that time had been studying climate change for 30 years.

Dr Salinger was the lead author for the scientific assessment of climate trends in the 2001 IPCC report and was lead author for climate impacts in the Australia-New Zealand chapter of the fourth assessment.

Back in 1975 a scientific paper of Dr Salinger’s was published suggesting the globe was warming up.
“So it has been a long time convincing people.”

Dr Salinger was quoted as saying the IPCC had worked quietly behind the scenes and deserved recognition, although “we were all surprised” by winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

The panel does not undertake research, or monitor climate. One of its key tasks is to publish special reports on the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty acknowledging the possibility of harmful climate change. Panel reports are drawn from peer reviewed and published scientific literature.

A Jewish web-site in Australia, listing Australian Nobel Prize winners, includes Salinger:

The IPCC acknowledged the outstanding contribution to the Award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize of the New Zealand climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger. Dr Salinger was a lead author for the scientific assessment of climate trends in the 2001 IPCC report and was lead author for climate impacts in the Australia-New Zealand chapter of the fourth assessment.

Dr Salinger who is a Principal Scientist with the NZ NIWA ( National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research aka Taihoro Nukurangi ). was elected President of the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 2006.

Dr Salinger is a member of Beth Shalom, the Progressive Jewish Congregation of Auckland, NZ.

This hopefully explains why the Greens describe Salinger as a Nobel Laureate and why newspapers – generally – are inclined to acknowledge he was a contributor to work that won a Nobel Prize.

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