UN climate body needs to 'fundamentally reform'
The UN climate panel should reform its structure and adopt stricter guidelines on acceptable source materials in order to avoid embarrassing errors, an international panel of scientists said in a report on Monday.
AFP - The UN's climate panel needs to "fundamentally reform" its structure to prevent the kind of embarrassing errors found in a landmark 2007 study on global warming, a review said Monday.
A UN-requested probe of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the Nobel Prize-winning body was largely successful, despite the political uproar that critics called the "Climategate" scandal.
But the five-month review called for changes including setting up an executive committee to replace the IPCC's largely part-time structure and stricter guidelines on acceptable source material.
It also asked for checks on conflicts of interest by board members and stricter limits on the terms of the chairman -- a position now held by Rajendra Pachauri.
The IPCC released a 938-page study in 2007 pointing to evidence that climate change was already hurting the planet, building momentum for global action to limit carbon emissions that mostly come from burning coal, gas and oil.
But in the run-up to a highly anticipated climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the IPCC was rocked by a scandal involving leaked emails which critics say showed that they skewed data.
One part of the 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, an opinion shared by mainstream scientists.
The UN review focused primarily on the structure, not the substance, of the IPCC but gave its endorsement overall to the panel's work, saying it has "been successful overall."
It said that guidelines on source material for the IPCC were "too vague."
It recommended "that these guidelines be made more specific -- including adding guidelines on what types of literature are unacceptable -- and strictly enforced to ensure that unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature is appropriately flagged."
Pachauri, an Indian scientist primarily employed by the TERI think-tank, has come under criticism, with some arguing that he had a vested interest in proving climate change by 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 IPCC's chair tenure -- two terms of six years each -- was 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, it said.
"Review editors should also ensure that genuine controversies are reflected in the report and be satisfied that due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views," it said.
The IPCC's study, known formally as the Fourth Assessment Report, helped earn it a Nobel Peace Prize which it co-shared with former US vice president turned environmental activist Al Gore.