THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) commissioned a review of its processes and procedures with a report handed down in October 2010, but only just now made publically available at its website.
I’ve only just started to examine the 100 plus page document, but my first impressions are that finally we have an official report that may impose a level of accountability on the IPCC.
OK. I’m expecting too much!
Well at least the report highlights past errors and acknowledges that they have been significant.
The section on “Evaluation of evidence and treatment of uncertainty” includes comment that:
Authors reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence, such as the widely quoted statement that agricultural yields in Africa might decline by up to 50 percent by 2020. Moreover, the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be disputed. In these cases the impression was often left, incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented…
Assigning probabilities to an outcome makes little sense unless researchers are confident in the underlying evidence…
The Working Group II Summary for Policy makers in the Fourth Assessment Report contains many vague statements of ‘high confidence’ that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put in perspective, or are difficult to refute. The Committee believes it is not appropriate to assign probabilities to such statements.
The section on “Governance and management” includes comment that:
The IPCC does not have a conflict-of-interest or disclosure policy for its senior leadership (i.e. IPCC Chair and Vice Chairs), Working Group Co-chairs and authors, or the staff of the Technical Support Units…
The lack of a conflict –of-interest and disclosure policy for IPCC leaders and Lead Authors was a concern raised by a number of individuals…
Questions about potential conflict of interest, for example, have been raised about the IPCC Chair’s services as an advisor to, and the board member of, for-profit energy companies, and about the practice of scientists responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work.
The report includes a case study on “Himalaya glaciers” and “the performance of the IPCC’s report review process” (page 22). The assessment refers to this “error” in the fourth assessment report by Working Group II and how the IPCC review process “failed”.
The IPCC should have released this report when it was first handed down in October 2010. Now, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation must report on it! But I’m not holding my breath.
1. Climate Change assessments: Review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC, October 2010 by InterAcademy Council. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/IAC_report/IAC%20Report.pdf