Judith Curry: Time For Post-Pachauri IPCC Reform

  • Date: 04/03/15
  • Judith Curry, Financial Post

He may now finally have gone, but the damage he did to the IPCC’s credibility as a serious scientific body is irreparable.

Rachendra Pachauri, IPCC Chair since 2002, has resigned from his position. His resignation was triggered by charges of molestation, stalking and sexual harassment. Pachauri’s defense is that his email accounts, mobile phone, and messages have been hacked. His arrest in India has been delayed owing to Pachauri’s hospitalization for a heart condition and UTI.

So, what does all this mean for the IPCC?  Are the peccadilloes and trials of an individual – Pachauri – capable of adversely impacting the reputation of the IPCC and the forthcoming policy negotiations in Paris?

Inside Climate News argues that the credibility of the IPCC and negotiations in Paris will not suffer. On the other hand, the Telegraph writes: “He may now finally have gone, but the damage he did to the IPCC’s credibility as a serious scientific body is irreparable.

National Post

Donna LaFramboise highlights what I regard as the most serious issue for the IPCC’s reputation.From Pachauri’s resignation letter: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion and my dharma.

In 2013 I wrote: “Diagnosis: paradigm paralysis, caused by motivated reasoning, oversimplification, and consensus seeking; worsened and made permanent by a vicious positive feedback effect at the climate science-policy interface.”

Perhaps the Pachauri scandal will jolt the IPCC out of its paralysis.  Hopefully a new Chair can provide the impetus for torqueing the IPCC in a better direction.  I am not optimistic, but there is a window of opportunity here.

The IPCC needs to regain its scientific objectivity.  [IPCC Working Group 1] needs to begin addressing natural variability in a more serious and comprehensive manner.  If the model projections and observations of surface temperature continue to diverge [see graph],  continued high confidence in attribution and future projections will become ludicrous.  The IPCC should abandon its consensus seeking approach and do a more serious job of assessing uncertainties, ambiguities and areas of ignorance.

The issue of conflict of interest is a critical one – not just financial and political conflicts, but conflicts associated with lead authors assessing their own research.  A serious effort at identifying conflicts and managing them would go a long way towards rebuilding the credibility.

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