Independent review proposes fundamental reforms to UN climate change panel

09:16, August 31, 2010      

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A recent independent review of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the UN's climate science branch, has concluded that the organization must make fundamental reforms to its management structure and procedures in order to ensure that its credibility can be upheld as the global debate on climate change gains momentum and controversy.

The InterAcademy Council (IAC), a group of scientists who provide independent and expert advise to international organizations, was asked on March 10 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, to provide an assessment of the panel's processes and procedures.

"Given the gravity of the climate challenge, the secretary- general believes it is vital that the world receives the best possible climate assessments through an IPCC that operates at the highest levels of professionalism, objectivity, responsiveness, and transparency," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said here Monday.

The UN request came after errors were discovered in IPCC's climate change science reports and conflicts of interest were alleged among IPCC members.

"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," Harold Shapiro, chair of the IAC committee said.

Shapiro told reporters about the reforms his committee proposed here Monday at a press conference.

One major structural reform the IAC recommended in its findings was the creation of an executive committee by the IPCC "to act on its behalf in order to maintain an on-going year around decision- making-capability."

"This committee should include members from outside IPCC or even outside the climate science community in order to give it more credibility and independence," Shapiro said.

In its report the IAC proposed that the IPCC appoint an executive director with more autonomy and responsibility than the current IPCC secretary.

"A full time chief executive, serving alongside a part-time chair, we think would work well with IPCC," Shapiro said.

Shapiro added that term limits would be appropriate for all executive-level positions in within the IPCC, including the proposed executive director in order to maintain "the overall vitality of the assessment process."

As for the procedures of the IPCC, the IAC committee recommended a better policy to root out conflicts of interest within the panel as Shapiro said the current lack of such a policy "was troubling to many stakeholders we heard from, and that many government and non-governmental institutions that conduct assessments provide scientific advice have adopted such policies to ensure the integrity of and public confidence in their results. "

The IAC committee also encouraged the IPCC to strengthen the review process of its papers and findings "to ensure that all review comments are adequately considered."

Shapiro said that the IAC has issued recommendations to streamline the review process because there are so many comments submitted to the IPCC on its climate change findings, and they deserve to be read.

In addition, the IAC has recommended that the IPCC develop and enforce clearer guidelines on what types of non peer-reviewed literature is considered credible in their work. The use of such " gray literature" has become somewhat controversial in climate science.

Pachauri welcomed the report of the IAC as the "definitive examination of how the IPCC conducts climate science," while speaking to reporters at a briefing here Monday.

"As a science-driven organization its important for the IPCC to question," he said. "Only by challenging scientific findings do we expose weak arguments and substantiate strong ones."

The IPCC chairman said that while he welcomed the findings of the IAC he wanted to stress that the group's findings were not about the questioning the legitimacy of climate science, but about examining the operations of the panel.

"By overwhelming consensus, the scientific community agrees that climate change is real," he said.

Pachuari said that the 194 national governments that are members of the IPCC will formally discuss the findings of the IAC evaluation in October during the IPCC plenary session in South Korea. These governments will then decide how to proceed.

Source: Xinhua


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