UPDATE, Oct. 31, 2013: see here for a new development
Scandalously, her profile on both the Celebrity Speakers website and the BCC Speakers Bureau website claim that she is “one of the Nobel Prize-winning Canadians” to have served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This is misleading on two counts. First, Duncan is the author of Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist’s Search for a Killer Virus. The scientist referred to in the title is herself.
In the sciences, a Nobel Prize is the highest honour imaginable. In that milieu it should be unthinkable to describe yourself as a “Nobel Prize” winner if, in fact, you’re associated with a Peace Prize. The two are worlds apart and should never be confused.
Moreover, half of the 2007 Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore (an individual). The other half went to the IPCC (an organization). The IPCC says it’s improper to call any person associated with it a Peace Prize winner or a Nobel laureate.
Contrary to her speaker’s profile, therefore, Duncan is not a “Nobel Prize winning Canadian.” Not only has she never won a science Nobel, there is no legitimate basis on which to call her a Peace Prize winner, either.
So why does her Facebook page continue to falsely claim that she’s a “Nobel Peace Prize laureate”? Here’s a screenshot taken this morning:
This isn’t about splitting hairs. In everyday life this fake Nobel is being used for political purposes – both to inflate Duncan’s reputation and to dismiss other people’s point-of-view.
On his website, Liberal Party strategist Warren Kinsella has attempted to deflect criticism of Duncan by pointing out that “she’s the only Nobel Prize recipient in the House [of Commons].” Except for the inconvenient fact that she’s not.
Similarly, someone on Twitter has declared that, since Duncan is a “Nobel Prize Winning climate scientist,” her opinion is more trustworthy than that of Canada’s former Environment Minister, Peter Kent.
Given all of the above, one is left wondering what Duncan’s contribution to the IPCC actually is. It turns out she was one of hundreds of people who worked on a 517-page report titled The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability. Published in 1997, this wasn’t one of the IPCC’s opus climate assessments, but a smaller publication.
The Canadian contingent for that report included 22 individuals. Another 22 contributors came from New Zealand and 63 more came from Australia. The US sent 102 people, Cuba seven, Kenya six, Zimbabwe five and so on. You can see the full list here.
Duncan was one of 39 who helped write Chapter 8, which discusses how climate change might affect North America. The report had 11 chapters overall.
That is the basis on which people all over the world have claimed that Duncan is a Nobel Prize winner. A 1/39th contribution. To one chapter out of 11. Of a not-very-important IPCC report.
Until recently, Duncan was her party’s Environment Critic and a Vice-Chair of Parliament’s environment committee. Her profile on the party’s official website tells us she’s “passionate about…taking action on climate change, our most pressing environmental issue.”
It’s too bad she isn’t passionate about other things. Like making it clear that a Peace Prize is not equivalent to a science Nobel – and that she has never received either.
- info for a symposium held earlier this month in Turkey, that says Duncan is a “Nobel Peace Prize Winner” (backed up here; see here also)
- a 2008 college newspaper article describing Duncan as a “Nobel Prize winner” (backup)
- a 2009 statement from then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff calling Duncan a “Nobel Laureate” (backup)
- a Young Liberals of Canada event listing describing Duncan as a “Nobel Laureate” (backup)
- a speaker’s listing for a 2010 conference held in New Delhi, that says Duncan is a “Nobel Prize Winner 2007” and a “Nobel Laureate – 2007” (backup)
- a 2011 news article describing Duncan as a “Nobel winner” (backup)
- a video associated with a 2012 human rights conference, the accompanying text of which claims that “Dr. Duncan is a recipient of the Nobel Prize” (backup)
- a 2012 event listing that describes Duncan as a “Nobel Prize winner” (backup)
- the 2012 Tweet in which Duncan is described as a “Nobel Prize Winning climate scientist” whose opinion therefore trumps that of Canada’s Environment Minister (backup)
- a claim by a university that Duncan, who provided one of their students with an internship, “has won the Nobel Prize” (backup)
- Duncan’s Celebrity Speaker’s profile is backed up here; the BCC profile is backed up here
big hat tip to reader Mark