(AFP) – Aug 30, 2010
UNITED NATIONS — An international review panel on Monday called on the UN global climate change body to carry out fundamental reforms after embarrassing errors in a landmark report dented its credibility.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was caught in an international storm after it admitted its landmark 2007 report exaggerated the speed at which Himalayas glaciers were melting.
The review panel said the IPCC has been "successful overall" but called for leadership changes, stricter guidelines on source material and a check on conflicts of interest.
The five-month probe ordered by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the IPCC should have a stronger scientific basis for making its predictions and recommended an overhaul of the position of IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri.
The InterAcademy Council, which groups 15 leading science academies, was brought in after an uproar over the IPCC's 2007 study, which highlighted evidence that climate change was already hurting the planet.
In the run-up to a climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the IPCC was rocked by a scandal involving leaked emails which critics say showed that they skewed data.
The mistake over the Himalayan glaciers -- a claim which was found to be sourced to a magazine article -- and an earlier error over how much of the Netherlands is below sea level also tainted the IPCC's image.
"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," he told reporters. "We think what we recommended will help."
The IPCC has admitted its mistakes but insisted its core conclusions about climate change are sound.
The review said the glacier reference showed the IPCC 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 said guidelines on source material for the IPCC were "too vague" and called for specific language, and enforcement, on what types of literature are unacceptable.
The review called for a new chief executive to run the IPCC and for the chairmanship to become a part-time post with a new holder for each landmark study carried out.
Pachauri, an Indian scientist primarily employed by the TERI think-tank, has come under criticism, with some arguing he had a vested interest due to his business dealings with carbon trading companies. He has strongly denied any conflict of interest however.
Pachauri told a press conference after the report that he would let member-states decide his future. The 194 nation IPCC is to hold a general meeting in Busan, South Korea in October.
The IPCC chairman criticized what he called "ideologically driven posturing" in the attacks on the climate group, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.
Ban said the review had in no way weakened the strength of basic climate science but he said nations had to act on the recommendations.
"Given the gravity of the climate challenge, the secretary general believes it is vital that the world receives the best possible climate assessments through an IPCC that operates at the highest levels of professionalism, objectivity, responsiveness and transparency," his spokesman said in a statement.
In Brussels, European Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard also said that "after all the fights" the main findings of the 2007 report are "still unchallenged."
"The bottom line, and this report says it, is that overall the IPCC has done a very good job, but there were some minor errors and they were corrected," she told AFP.
Environmental group Greenpeace pointed to severe weather this year -- including Pakistan's flood disaster and Russia's worst-ever heat wave -- as new 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," Greenpeace said.
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