UN scan on climate panel

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  • Published 12.03.10

New Delhi, March 11: An international council of science academies will independently review the UN climate science agency’s assessment procedures that have come under intense scrutiny after Indian scientists exposed a blunder in its predictions about Himalayan glaciers.

The UN has announced that the 18-member InterAcademy Council representing science academies from 15 countries, including India, will review the procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to “strengthen the quality” of its reports.

The IPCC, which shared the Nobel peace prize in 2007 with former US Vice-President Al Gore for work on climate change, is a body that reviews scientific evidence on climate change and releases reports to help governments shape policy.

The review will examine every aspect of how IPCC reports are prepared, including the use of non-peer reviewed literature and the reflection of diverse viewpoints, the IPCC said in a statement issued in Geneva yesterday.

Sections of Indian glaciologists had questioned the prediction in its 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers would disappear altogether by 2035.

India’s environment ministry had in November 2009 released a report that reflected their views and eventually forced the panel to admit the error.

It had then explained that the date had crept in because report authors had used non-peer reviewed literature.

“We recognise that we can improve. We have listened and learned from critics and we intend to take every action to ensure our reports are as robust as possible,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said, announcing the review.

The review by the InterAcademy Council is expected to influence how the IPCC will prepare its fifth assessment report which is to be published in 2013-14, Christopher Field, co-chair of a working group of the IPCC, said in a statement.

One Swedish scientist has in the past also questioned IPCC’s sea level predictions.

Nils Axel-Morner, formerly chairman of the international commission on sea level change, had claimed that there is no evidence that the world is experiencing unusual sea level rise. He also claimed there is no evidence to show that Maldives is threatened.

“Some of us have suspected the IPCC authors selectively pick data that fits in with a particular line on climate change, and ignore data that does not fit in,” said a senior glaciologist in India who is among those who questioned the 2035 prediction.

“This review is timely and important, as an aid to ensuring that future reports, which will assess new, updated (climate change) research, are optimal resources for making sense of climate change and helping policymakers respond,” said Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society and a board member of the InterAcademy Council.