Credibility-hit IPCC orders systems review

The United Nations (UN) has ordered a review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) after widely criticised reporting errors.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon ordered the review after the IPCC’s credibility was hit by errors in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report on climate change, including that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman, said: “The IPCC’s mandate is to provide objective scientific assessments for decision-makers.

“The IPCC stands firmly behind the rigor and reliability of its Fourth Assessment Report from 2007, but we recognize that we can improve.

“We have listened and learned from our critics, and we intend to take every action we can to ensure that our reports are as robust as possible.”

The InterAcademy Council (IAC), a panel of top scientists, carry out the independent review of IPCC processes, it was announced last week.

It will examine how the IPCC prepares reports, its use of non-peer reviewed literature and how it communicates findings to the public.

The Fourth Assessment Report errors, coupled with last year’s ‘climate gate’ scandal involving stolen e-mails between scientists at the Climatic Research Unit based at the University of East Anglia, have fuelled doubt about human-induced global warming.

Sceptics claimed the hacked data showed researchers were trying to manipulate the information to boost the case that humans are responsible.

UK opinion polls have since shown a dramatic fall in the proportion of people who believe climate change is human-induced.

But Dr Christopher Field, co-chairman of IPCC Working Group II, one of the panel’s three working groups, has no doubt about the link between humans and global warming.

He said: “We expect the recommendations from the IAC’s review to inform how the IPCC prepares its fifth major assessment of global climate change, due to be published in 2013-2014.

“Meanwhile, the conclusions from the IPCC’s 2007 report remain entirely valid. The climate is changing due to human activity, and the effects are already being felt around the globe.

“If anything, more recent data indicate that the IPCC’s 2007 assessment underestimated the degree to which human activity is changing our climate.”

The IAC is the umbrella organization for various national academies of science from countries around the world.

Its co-chairmen Dr Robbert Dijkgraaf, president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, and Professor Lu Yongxiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will lead the review.

David Gibbs

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