Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Climate Panel to Appoint Committee to Review Its Procedures

The world's leading authority on climate change announced Saturday it is appointing an independent committee to investigate whether it needs to change its procedures to ensure it practices rigorous science.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, beset in recent months by a string of allegations of factual mistakes and improper scientific behavior in the preparation of its high-profile reports, said it will share details of how the independent review will work in early March.
A story in The Wall Street Journal on Friday detailed the IPCC's current effort to resuscitate its reputation and a longstanding tension within the organization between the desire by policy makers for clear, usable conclusions about climate science and the massive complexities of that science, many aspects of which scientists continue to debate.

In the statement, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said that leaders of the United Nations-sponsored organization "stand firmly behind the rigour and robustness" of the IPCC's 2007 report. That report concluded that climate change is "unequivocal" and is "very likely" caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuels.
"But we recognize the criticism that has been leveled at us, and the need to respond," Mr. Pachauri said in the statement.
The IPCC won a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the 2007 report, a prize the organization shared with former Vice President Al Gore. The report helped push climate change to the top of the political agenda in much of the world, including in the U.S., where it intensified discussion in Washington about potential legislation to cap greenhouse-gas emissions. But since late last year, several revelations have raised questions about the IPCC's objectiveness and accuracy in producing its reports.
IPCC leaders, and many scientists, say the disclosures don't call into question the IPCC's fundamental conclusion that human activity is changing the climate. But combined with the recession, which polls suggest has dampened public willingness to spend more for lower-carbon energy, the revelations about the IPCC have intensified calls by some politicians for a slowdown in the push to regulate carbon emissions.
In November, more than 1,000 emails hacked from a prominent U.K. climate-research lab and posted online seemed to show researchers there trying to squelch scientists who challenged their work pointing to a human influence on the climate. The lab, the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, produced extensive research on long-ago temperatures that featured prominently in IPCC reports.
Last month, the IPCC expressed "regret" at what it said was an error in its 2007 report. The report erroneously claimed that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
In the statement Saturday, Mr. Pachauri said the 2007 IPCC report's "key conclusions are based on an overwhelming body of evidence from thousands of peer-reviewed and independent scientific studies. Most significantly, they rest on multiple lines of analysis and datasets."
IPCC officials discussed the establishment of an independent review committee with government officials in meetings last week in Bali organized by the U.N. Environment Program.
"The mechanism by which such an independent review will take place is under active consideration," Mr. Pachauri said in the statement
Write to Jeffrey Ball at jeffrey.ball@wsj.com