The Heat Is Online

IPCC Solicits Independent Review of Report Process

Climate change panel seeks outside review on reports

The Associated Press, Feb. 28, 2010

Because of recent criticism of its work, the Nobel Prize-winning international panel studying global warming is seeking independent outside review for how it makes major reports, the panel said.

Critics have found a few unsettling errors -- including incorrect projections of retreats in Himalayan glaciers -- in the thousands of pages of the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Scientists say the problems, ranging from typos in key dates to sloppy sourcing, are minor and have nothing to do with the major conclusions about man-made global warming and how it will harm people and ecosystems. But researchers acknowledge that they have been slow to respond to criticisms in the past three months. And those criticisms seem to have resonated in poll results and news media coverage that have put climate scientists on the defensive.

"The IPCC clearly has suffered a loss in public confidence," Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field, a chairman of one of the IPCC's four main research groups, told the Associated Press on Saturday. "And one of the things that I think the world deserves is a clear understanding of what aspects the IPCC does well and what aspects of the IPCC can be improved."

An independent review "is much needed," said University of Colorado environmental studies scientist Roger Pielke Jr., a longtime critic of the IPCC. "The IPCC has a long road ahead to regain trust," he said by e-mail.

In a statement released Saturday by IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, the group of volunteer scientists said it tries to be accurate and follow procedures. "But we recognize the criticism that has been leveled at us and the need to respond," Pachauri said in the statement.

One example of the criticism was a Senate speech this month when Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) called problems with the IPCC "the makings of a major scientific scandal."

The panel shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former Vice President Al Gore. The panel was created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization.

Pachauri's statement said the panel consulted with the United Nations and plans to find "distinguished experts" to review how it write its reports.

There were no details on how the review would be done. They will come sometime in early March, Pachauri's statement said.

But one of the troubles is that the IPCC reports are written by most of the world's top experts in climate science. And the experts who don't write them, often review them, so it's hard to find someone both independent and knowledgeable.

That's why the IPCC is most likely to find an outside organization -- such as a scientific society -- to run the review, Field said.