Climate panel to be probed

The United Nations is to commission an independent group of top scientists to review its climate change panel, which has been under fire since it admitted a mistake over melting Himalayan glaciers.

The experts will look at the way the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) operates and will recommend where they think changes are needed.

The panel will be part of a broader review of the IPCC, full details of which will be announced by the UN next week. Nick Nuttall, of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), told Reuters: ‘It will be [made up of] senior scientific figures. I can’t name who they are right now. It should do a review of the IPCC, produce a report by, say, August, and there is a plenary of the IPCC in South Korea in October. The report will go there for adoption.”

The IPCC reviews climate change science on behalf of the world’s governments. Its most recent report, in 2007, concluded that there was a 90% certainty human activities are causing global warming.

Nuttall said the broader review of the IPCC would examine its use of reports from outside conventional academic journals, so-called ‘grey literature”.

A report from campaign group WWF is blamed for introducing into the IPCC’s 2007 report the false statement that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

Achim Steiner, executive director of Unep, said he did not support a ban on the use of grey literature and the media had exaggerated the IPCC’s mistakes. In a separate move UK climate secretary Ed Miliband has written to the head of the IPCC to express concern over the glaciers mistake.

In a letter to IPCC chairperson Rajendra Pachauri, Miliband said: ‘Mistakes such as the IPCC statements on Himalayan glaciers are inevitably damaging. This is a matter of concern because the reliability and good name of the IPCC is vital to ensuring all countries recognise the dangers of climate change.”

Miliband said the IPCC needed to review its procedures and the way it responded to media criticism. It should also find a way to correct errors and to minimise future problems, particularly with reports drawn from grey literature.

‘Clearly this is only the outline of a strategy,” the letter said. ‘There is a great deal of work to do in turning it into a detailed plan for change. The British government is happy to assist you in that process.” —

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David Adam
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