UN to hold independent review of IPCC: Ban

UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon reacts during a press conference in Copenhagen in this Dec. 19, 2009 picture. Photo: AP  

The United Nations has initiated, in tandem with the Chair of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, “a comprehensive, independent review of the IPCC's procedures and processes”, including its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday.

While arguing he had seen no credible evidence challenging the main conclusions of the IPCC report and the consensus on climate change, he admitted, “Regrettably, there were a very small number of errors in the Fourth Assessment Report.” He added that it was important to remember that the report was a “3,000 page synthesis of complex scientific data.”

The Report found that the warming of the climate is outpacing natural variability, driven largely by human activity. The U.N. however acknowledged that its credibility had come into question after revelations that the landmark publication contained some mistakes, including over the rate of Himalayan glacier melt.

According to sources the Report’s claim that most Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, was based on information from the environmental group WWF. Similarly the claim was that global warming might destroy 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest was “based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had no scientific expertise.”

The IPCC Chairman, Rajendra Pachauri has also recently come under fire for such lapses. Amid calls for his resignation on Wednesday he said, “We have received some criticism. We are receptive and sensitive to that and we are doing something about it."

The review would be conducted by the InterAcademy Council (IAC), an international scientific organisation, Mr. Ban clarified, saying “It will be conducted completely independently of the United Nations.” It will be led by IAC co-chairs Robbert Dijkgraaf, who heads the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, and Lu Yongxiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to the U.N.

Scientists will be selected to serve on a “voluntary and unpaid basis to prepare a draft report on their findings, which will then undergo an intensive peer review by other scientists”. Characterising the task as “forward-looking,” Mr. Dijkgraaf said that there are “no preconceived conclusions.” He said the IAC would consider issues of data quality assurance and control; procedures for correcting errors; and analyzing the IPCC’s communications strategies.

The endeavour would be funded by the U.N. and its final report would be submitted to Mr. Ban, the IPCC, with subsequent transmission to the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation.

Outlining the main purpose of the review Mr. Ban said, “We need to act based on the best possible science. We need to ensure full transparency, accuracy and objectivity, and minimise the potential for any errors going forward.”

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