12 Experts To Review U.N. Climate Panel’s Work

  • Date: 03/05/10

Harold T. Shapiro, a former president of Princeton University and the University of Michigan, will lead a 12-member panel that will review the practices of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has been criticized for errors.

Dr. Shapiro, an economist, will lead a group that was assembled by the InterAcademy Council, an organization of the world’s leading scientific academies, at the request of the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. It will look into the management and review policies of the I.P.C.C. that led to errors in the panel’s most recent report, including a faulty estimate of the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers and several smaller mistakes.

The I.P.C.C. has been faulted for failing to consider alternate views of climate science, sloppy citation of sources and for reliance on some research that was not properly peer-reviewed. The panel will make recommendations on how to avoid such problems and how to identify and quickly correct errors in future reports.“We approach this review with an open mind,” Dr. Shapiro said in a statement. “I’m confident we have the experts on this committee necessary to supply the U.N. with a stronger process for providing policymakers the best assessment of climate change possible.”

The United Nations panel draws on hundreds of scientists to produce periodic reports that are supposed to be the definitive assessment of current climate science. The panel does not make policy recommendations, but its work is used by policymakers around the world in deciding what action to take to combat global warming. Its most recent report was published in 2007; the next is due in 2014.

Scientists and officials say that the panel’s findings that the earth is warming and that human activity is almost certainly a cause remain indisputable. But critics have used the errors to raise doubts about the credibility of the entire 3,000-page study.

The I.P.C.C.’s chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, has been accused of conflicts of interest involving a research organization he heads. He has vigorously disputed the allegations, citing an independent audit of his finances.

The academic review board’s task is to look at the group’s research and management practices, not the soundness of its science. But it is authorized to make recommendations on virtually all aspects of the I.P.C.C.’s work.

The InterAcademy Council is expected to deliver its report by Aug. 30.

The review panel members were nominated by science and engineering academies around the world and include experts from the United States, Brazil, China, the Netherlands, Japan, India, England, Germany and Malaysia.

The vice chairman of the committee will be Roseanne Diab, executive officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa and a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.

 

The New York Times, 3 May 2010

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