A Simon Fraser University economist declared, on his blog in May, “I have never spoken or written of myself as a Nobel laureate.” After I unearthed written testimony to the contrary, he quietly rewrote the post, removing that denial.
In April of this year, the public relations firm Hoggan & Associates misled the world. It issued a press release about Simon Fraser University economist Mark Jaccard that bore a headline which began like this:
Canadian Nobel Laureate Testifies…
The very next day, a headline on the front page of the Calgary Herald newspaper dutifully described Jaccard – who had appeared before a US congressional subcommittee – as a “Nobel winner.” Mission accomplished.
As I argued at the time, it beggars belief that Jaccard and the PR firm had no knowledge of a then five-month-old Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) statement that makes it crystal clear the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the organization as a whole. It is improper, says that statement, to refer to anyone who worked on an IPCC report as “a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.”
A month later, in a blog post titled Correcting some misinformation out there: the facts on the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Jaccard denied that he’d ever “spoken or written of myself as a Nobel laureate.”
I subsequently unearthed 2011 written testimony, submitted to a British Columbia Utilities Commission inquiry, in which he’d declared:
I have been honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize (2007) as an author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… [see page 4, numbered as page 2]
I also called attention to a poster for a 2009 event held at a public library. It features a photograph of Jaccard alongside large lettering that describes him as an “author and Nobel Laureate.” And then there was the listing with the National Speakers Bureau that said he is a “Nobel Peace-Prize Winner.”
Since then, history has begun to be re-written. The Speakers Bureau listing, which the WayBack Machine tells us had been unaltered since 2010, has finally changed. Its headline now describes Jaccard as a “Climate Change Expert” rather than a Nobel winner.
This is progress. Organizations with money to spend for a guest speaker are now not being misled about Jaccard’s credentials.
But something less wholesome has also taken place. Jaccard has made extensive revisions to the above-mentioned blog post – yet provides no indication to the reader that this has occurred. What used to be 249 words and three paragraphs, now consists of 409 words and four paragraphs.
His earlier declaration, at the beginning of the second paragraph, that he’d “never spoken or written of myself as a Nobel laureate” has now disappeared. The post currently says that “someone” wanting to discredit him has
accused me of falsely portraying myself as a Nobel laureate. I have never presented myself as a laureate…I received no instructions on how to present myself, but I never used the term laureate which sounded inappropriate for the contribution of one individual among hundreds if not more than a thousand co-authors. [bold added]
This, of course, is semantic game playing. He didn’t lay claim to a tiny sliver of Nobel glory, he told an official body that he had been “honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.” That would make him a Nobel laureate. Whether or not he, personally, ever used the word “laureate” is beside the point.
According to him, none of those other occasions are his fault, either. People promote events in which he’s involved, he says, without consulting him. The library, the film festival, the PR department of Simon Fraser University, and the journalists – all of those people called him a Nobel laureate of their own accord.
But where did they get the idea in the first place? I’m fairly certain that fellow economist Richard Tol, who has made a more significant contribution to the IPCC over a longer span of years, hasn’t encountered this problem. I’m not aware of a single instance in which Tol has been described as a Nobel laureate against his will.
Demonstrating that taking responsibility isn’t one of his strong suits, Jaccard ends his new-and-improved blog post the way he began it – by alluding to those who want to discredit him:
I ask anyone who hears that I have misrepresented myself to please check the allegations carefully and then contact me. Like others, I have been subject to threats and various efforts to discredit me. I don’t expect this to stop any time soon. [bold added]
Mark Jaccard, Canada’s very own class act.