InterAcademy Council Delivers IPCC Review Report

30 August 2010: The InterAcademy Council (IAC) has delivered its independent report into the processes and procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report was delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IPCC Chairman Rajenda Pachauri during a press conference held at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 30 August 2010. The review examined the management of the IPCC, its procedures for communication with the public, the use of non-peer reviewed literature and the incorporation of various viewpoints. The IAC's recommendations will be reviewed by the IPCC at its 32nd Plenary Session, to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 11-14 October 2010.

The IAC report concluded that the process to produce its assessments has been successful but that the IPCC needs to reform its management structure and strengthen it procedures. The report recommends establishing an executive committee, including members from outside the IPCC, to act on the Panel's behalf and ensure ongoing decision-making capability. It suggests the appointment of an executive director, and states that the IPCC Chair, Executive Director and Working Group Co-Chairs should be limited to one-assessment period. It highlights the need for: formal qualification requirements for the Chair and Bureau members; and a conflict of interest policy for all IPCC leaders, authors, reviewers and staff.

On the review process, the IAC concludes that the existing process is thorough, but stresses the need for stronger enforcement of existing IPCC review procedures. It calls for review editors to reflect genuine controversies, and underscores the need for increased consistency in the characterization of uncertainty. The IAC also suggests the continued use of gray literature, noting that more specific guidelines for evaluating gray literature sources are required.

On the response to revelation of errors, the IAC suggests that the IPCC implement a communications strategy that includes a plan for rapid but thoughtful responses in crisis highlighting the need for guidelines for who can speak on behalf of the IPCC.

At the press conference, Pachauri welcomed the review, highlighting that "only by challenging scientific findings do we expose weak arguments and substantiate strong ones." He underscored the IAC's qualifications to conduct the review, as an organization to mobilize scientists and engineers to provide objective advice to international bodies.

Pachauri explained that the IPCC could not yet comment on the report as it had not reviewed it. He underscored that the IAC review was limited to the IPCC's processes and procedure, but noted that "none of the other studies found flaws with the fundamental science of climate change." Pachauri stressed that the governments forming the IPCC will review the IAC's recommendations and that these governments will decide the actions to take. He highlighted that almost 831 unpaid experts were selected from 3,000 nominations to join the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and noted that it will be published in 2013-2014.

The IAC review was funded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). [IPCC Press Release] [IAC Press Release]