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Aug 312010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

A review ordered by the United Nations has determined that the global panel on climate change needs to “fundamentally reform” how it functions in the wake of errors in a key report that damaged the group’s credibility leading up to last year’s Copenhagen climate summit.

The review was conducted by the InterAcademy Council, which groups 15 leading science academies. It came about after the “Climategate” scandal erupted in the face of errors and lack of documentation found in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 study, which suggested that carbon emissions from burning coal, gas and oil were already hurting the planet.

The review recommends an overhaul of the position of Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. Just before the Copenhagen summit, the IPCC was rocked by a scandal involving leaked emails which critics say showed that the group had skewed data.

“I think the errors made did dent the credibility of the process — there’s no question about it,” said Harold Shapiro, a former president of Princeton University who led the review.

“Trust is something you have to earn every year. We think what we recommended will help.”

One part of the 938-page IPCC report said that Himalayan glaciers which provide water to a billion people in Asia could be lost by 2035 — an assessment later traced to a magazine article. The IPCC has admitted that the Himalayan glacier reference was wrong, but says its core conclusions about climate change are sound.

The review said the glacier reference showed that the IPCC — driven by a “confirmation bias” to prove ideas — did not pay close enough attention to dissenting viewpoints.

“There were a number of reviewers who pointed out that this didn’t seem quite right to them and that just was not followed through,” Shapiro said.

The UN review added that guidelines on source material for the IPCC were “too vague” and called for specific language  and enforcement on what types of literature are acceptable.

Pachauri, an Indian scientist, has come under criticism for having a vested interest because of business dealings with carbon trading companies. The review recommended creating a more permanent and professional position of IPCC chair, changing the current part-time arrangement. It also said that the chair tenure — two terms of six years each — is too long.

“Formal qualifications for the chair and all other bureau members need to be developed, as should a rigorous conflict-of-interest policy to be applied to senior IPCC leadership” and authors, the review said.

Greenpeace welcomed the review and cited severe weather this year — including Pakistan’s massive floods and Russia’s worst-ever heat wave — as evidence of global warming.

“Despite the muckraking and crude attempts to undermine the findings of the IPCC, the scientific consensus is clear, climate change represents a serious threat to the future of the environment and humanity,” the organization said.