The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up 22 years ago to provide science advice to governments as they try to deal with global warming, needs to overhaul the way it runs itself, according to a report released Monday.
Among those needs: more transparency; a rigorous set of conflict-of-interest rules; wider representation of dissenting views among practicing climate scientists in its final reports; and a limit on the number of reports scientists can take a lead role in producing.
The review and its recommendations come from a panel made up of 12 experts from 10 countries. The members were selected by the InterAcademy Council, an organization representing 15 national academies of science in developed and developing countries.
The review panel, assembled in May at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, did not address the science of global warming itself. Instead, it focused on management issues raised in controversies that erupted during and after the IPCC issued it last set of climate reports in 2007.
Many of these controversies came to light within the past 10 months. Emails leaked from the University of East Anglia revealed a handful of influential climate scientists displaying a circle-the-wagons mentality as some analysts tried to gain access to their data and analysis methods. Critics alleged that the emails also held evidence of fudged results.
In addition, some global warming skeptics have identified mistakes in the 2007 volumes, including a claim that a warming climate could deprive the Himalayas of their glaciers by 2035. [a claim subsequently retracted by the IPCC – the IPCC was forced to admit that the claim was not supported by data but was, instead, based upon an interview]
Still, “there’s no question that the IPCC’s trust was somewhat dented by all these controversies,” said review-panel chairman Harold Shapiro, an economist and professor emeritus at Princeton University. Panel members “think that what we have recommended will help restore” trust in the IPCC’s work.
Among its 22 recommendations, the panel calls for the adoption of conflict-of-interest policies that cover everyone directly involved in producing the reports. It recommends limiting the IPCC chairman, as well as a handful of other top IPCC participants, to overseeing only one set of periodic climate reports, after which they would be replaced for the next set. And it seeks a more transparent, thorough discussion in IPCC reports of credible dissenting views on aspects of climate research and projections, along with a clearer, more consistent description of uncertainties surrounding conclusions the IPCC reports offer – particularly in the influential summaries for policymakers.
Taken as a whole, the report and its recommendations are “remarkably hard-hitting,” says Roger Pielke Jr., who specialized in science policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s not at all the rap on the knuckles that some commentators had expected.”
Assuming the recommendations are adopted as a package, and not picked over, “this could mark the moment when climate science joins the 21st century as far as science advice is concerned,” Dr. Pielke says. “It’s had some practices that were too ad hoc for its prominent role.”
The next step must come from the 194 governments that make up the IPCC. The first opportunity to discuss these recommendations as a group and perhaps act on them comes at the IPCC’s plenary session in Pusan, South Korea, in October.
The next set of IPCC reports is due out in 2013.
McAuley’s World Comments:
In a strange an obviously desperate act Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri interjected his opinion on Monday, defended the science itself … stating that the science is “sound”. The InterAcademy Council study and findings offered no such support for the IPCC. The InterAcademy Council did not replicate the studies, a number of research groups are doing that at present, the InterAcademy Council analyzed and criticized the IPCC”s failure to incorporate and follow basic elements of the “scientific method”.
From the InterAcademy Report (PDF LINK BELOW): “We found in the summary for policymakers that there were two kinds of errors that came up — one is the kind where they place high confidence in something where there is very little evidence. The other is the kind where you make a statement … with no substantive value, in our judgment.”Rajendra Pachauri, head of UN climate change body, under pressure to resign:
IPCC report raises fresh questions over Dr Rajendra Pachauri’s leadership
The UN’s climate change panel must introduce a structure to prevent conflicts of interest, according to a report by the world’s top science group that raised fresh questions over the leadership of the body.
In response to accusations that Dr Rajendra Pachauri had compromised his position as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because of his role in an environmental consultancy, the report described the claims as “troubling”.
The report exposed a number of procedural management failings, highlighting the role held by Dr Pachauri as needing particular scrutiny.
The Indian engineer has been chairman of the IPCC since 2002, renewing his initial six year term in 2008.
However there have been repeated calls for his resignation, most notably following the incorrect claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
The questions over the IPCC led to a review of his organisation by the InterAcademy Council, a grouping of the world’s most prestigious science organisations.
“It was beyond our charge to review the conflict-of-interest controversies that have been reported in the press,” said Prof Harold T. Shapiro, chairman of the investigating committee, “but we did note that the lack of a conflict of interest policy was troubling to many of the stakeholders we heard from.”
He added: “Operating under the public microscope the way IPCC does requires strong leadership, the continued and enthusiastic participation of distinguished scientists, an ability to adapt, and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained.”
Following criticism that the position of chairman was too powerful, the report also suggested that no one should be allowed to serve more than one term. It did not comment on whether Dr Pachauri should be able to serve out his second term.
Dr Benny Peiser, Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said Dr Pachauri was now “damaged goods”.
“The criticism of the management process is quite severe,” he said. “It is an indirect call for Dr Pachauri to step down,” he said.
The role of chairman is a part time, unpaid role.
Dr Pachauri has been accused of a conflict of interest in the past because of his other role as leading The Energy Research Institute (Teri), a think tank promoting sustainable development. [and actively engegaed in the trading of “carbon credits” in Europe]
It was alleged that he could have vested interest in proving climate change by business dealings with carbon trading companies. However he was cleared on any financial wrongdoing recently by an independent review.
Dr Pachauri has always made clear that to the IPCC that he as another role as director of TERI.
Asked if he would consider resigning if requested to, he said he would abide by any decision the IPCC made.
Dr Pachauri has stood up in the past against what he called “ideologically driven” attacks on the IPCC.
“The IPCC will be strengthened by the IAC review and by others of its kind this year,” he said.
“We already have the highest confidence in the science behind our assessments.
“We’re now pleased to receive recommendations on how to further strengthen our own policies and procedures,” he added.
A PDF of the InterAcademy Council Report: Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC
In a related issue: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli continues his attempts to obtain what should be “public research data” from the University of Virginia. The Attorney General has been trying to complete an investigation into whether a prominent global warming proponent may have “doctored research data” to obatin Federal Research funds fraudulently … There is no reason for scienitific reason the “Climate Data” should be held in secret is there? … there is no proprietary interest that could be compromised by a public review and analysis of the data is there? … thew “scienitific methiod” would then dictate a release of the data for “peeer” or “State” review …. if the “data” wasn’t “cooked’ for personal or prefessional benefit, what would one have to fear?
Updated: Judge sides with UVa in climate case, dismissing Cuccinelli demands
An Albemarle County judge has dismissed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s demand that the University of Virginia turn over documents related to the research of a prominent climate change expert.
Cuccinelli, a vocal climate change skeptic, had been investigating the possibility that climatology professor Michael Mann fraudulently obtained five taxpayer-funded research grants while employed at UVA between 1999 and 2005.
In an opinion issued this morning, Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli failed to show a sufficient “reason to believe” that UVA possessed any documents related to Mann that suggested a fraud occurred.
UVA fought Cuccinelli’s demand for documents, saying the attorney general’s investigation violates the principle of academic freedom and would have a chilling effect on scientific research of controversial subjects.
In his ruling, Peatross set aside Cuccinelli’s civil investigative demands “in their entirety, without prejudice to the Commonwealth to proceed according to the law.”
Cuccinelli did not show, Peatross wrote, any evidence that Mann’s work was “misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Peatross added, however, that the attorney general is within his rights to issue CIDs — which carry the legal weight of subpoenas — to investigate taxpayer-funded research grants awarded to professors such as Mann.
Cuccinelli said in a statement that he will send a new CID to UVA to continue his hunt for proof that Mann defrauded Virginia’s taxpayers in obtaining grants that funded his climate change research.
“While this was not an outright ruling in our favor, I am pleased that the judge has agreed with my office on several key legal points and has given us a framework for issuing a new civil investigative demand to get the information necessary to continue our investigation into whether or not fraud has been committed against the commonwealth,” Cuccinelli said.
A UVA spokeswoman said a statement on Peatross’ ruling will be forthcoming.
Mann, who now works at Penn State, said he is “very pleased” the judge set aside Cuccinelli’s subpoenas.
“It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests,” Mann said in an e-mail to The Daily Progress. “I’m looking forward now to trying to get back full time to the things I really care about: doing research and extending the forefront of our scientific understanding of the science of climate and climate change, advising students and postdoctoral scholars, and doing the best I can to communicate to the public important scientific findings.
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