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Call for overhaul at UN climate panel

United Kingdom
Financial Times
30/08/2010
Clive Cookson

The UN climate change panel needs a thorough overhaul of management and procedures, so as to reduce the risk of bias and errors appearing in its reports, the world’s scientific academies said on Monday.

They said the response of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the revelation of errors in its last assessment was “slow and inadequate”, and the IPCC needed a better review process to catch mistakes before publication.

But the InterAcademy Council, whose members include the US National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society, did not challenge the fundamental conclusion of IPCC reports – that the world needs to tackle man-made climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The IPCC, which has been the official voice of climate science in global policy discussions since 1988, welcomed the recommendations in the academies’ report. They will be reviewed at its plenary meeting in October by the 194 national governments that make up the IPCC.

To enhance its credibility and independence, the IPCC must have a powerful executive committee, including members who work outside climate science, and an executive director to provide stronger leadership than the IPCC secretary can give today, the academies say.

“Grey literature” from unpublished or non-peer-reviewed sources, which has given rise to errors, must be reviewed rigorously and flagged in IPCC publications, they recommend.

The report dissected the failure of the review process, which allowed one glaring error to slip into the last IPCC assessment report – that Himalayan glaciers were likely to disappear by 2035 if the Earth continued to warm at its current rate.

It found that two official reviewers had challenged this statement but the authors of the IPCC assessment failed to consider their comments or change the text of the assessment in response.

Later, when the Himalayan glaciers statement was challenged by outside critics, “the IPCC’s official statement on the matter — issued more than a month after the error was widely publicized — did not state whether an error, in fact, had occurred or whether an erratum would be issued,” the scientific academies said.

The errors “did dent the credibility of the [IPCC] process,” said Harold Shapiro of Princeton University, who chaired the committee that wrote the academies’ report.

The report called on the IPCC to institute a “rigorous conflict of interest policy” for its leadership.
“It was beyond our charge to review the conflict-of-interest controversies that have been reported in the press,” said Prof Shapiro, “but we did note that the lack of a conflict of interest policy was troubling to many of the stakeholders we heard from.”

Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman, said such a policy was “a good suggestion, and I think that it should be implemented”.

At a press conference responding to the report, Mr Pachauri said he passed on all his consultancy fees from to his charitable foundation. But he added: “Why should we not give advice to business organisations? They are a necessary part of the change, if there has to be a change.”

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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