UN climate panel agrees reformUnited Kingdom
Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Limited reforms to the way the world’s scientists present research on climate change have been agreed, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change took notice of recent criticisms of its operations.
But the panel of the world’s leading climate scientists, convened by the UN and meeting in South Korea, stopped short of sweeping changes to its activities, and the chairman of the panel, Rajendra Pachauri, will remain in charge in spite of calls for him to resign.
The IPCC agreed to reforms that would allow it to respond more quickly to allegations of errors in its reports, and strengthened its guidelines on reporting uncertainty around its scientific findings, and the guidelines on the use of research that has not been subject to the peer-review process.
The scientists also said they would set up a committee to advise on whether more sweeping reforms to their operations would be needed.
Mr Pachauri said: “These [changes] will strengthen the IPCC and ensure it is able to effectively perform its role in accurately assessing climate science.”
The moves were made in response to a critical report written by the InterAcademy Council, a body of the world’s leading scientific academies, in an independent review into the processes and procedures of the IPCC. The IAC published its review on August 30.
The IAC report was drawn up in response to the long-running controversy, known as “climategate”, over alleged flaws in the last report on climate science produced by the IPCC. That report, the 2007 Fourth Assessment of climate change, was a landmark publication that informed governments in the run-up to last December’s climate summit in Copenhagen.
One flaw was conclusively proven: a claim that most of the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 was found to be false. However, other claims – such as the extent to which the Amazon rainforest is at risk of dying, and the extent of potential crop losses in parts of North Africa – have been disputed. Some scientists said the claims should not have been included, but the IPCC said they have been misinterpreted.
The IAC report also hinted that Mr Pachauri, who was re-elected to serve a second term in 2008, should step down as chairman of the panel, saying that chairmen should serve only one six-year term.
On Thursday, the Indian scientist has resisted calls to step aside. He said he was determined to oversee the drawing up of the IPCC’s next report, which is scheduled for publication in 2014.
Mr Pachauri also reiterated the IPCC’s main findings: that climate change is happening and is in large part the result of human activities, which have led to a large increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
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