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UNEP Executive Director Defends IPCC Assessment Findings

6 February 2010: Responding to recent criticism for a mistake made in the 2007 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, has defended the Panel's findings.

In an op-ed published in Turkey's English-language Today's Zaman, titled "No time to put climate science on ice," he acknowledges that "it is quite right to pinpoint errors, make corrections, and check and re-check sources for accuracy and credibility." However, he dismisses "the myth that the science of climate change [..] is sinking fast on a sea of falsehoods" and adds that "over the course of 22 years, the IPCC has drawn upon the expertise of thousands of the best scientific minds."

He states that the IPCC "has striven to assemble, order, and make sense of a rapidly evolving scientific puzzle for which new pieces emerge almost daily while others remain to be found." Steiner recalls that “the overwhelming evidence now indicates that greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within the next decade if we are to have any reasonable chance of keeping the global rise in temperature down to manageable levels.”

He warns that even without climate change, the fact remains that a global transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient future is necessary, given the world's population is to rise from 6 to 9 billion in the next 50 years. He calls for improving management of our atmosphere, air, lands, soils and oceans, stressing the need for "an urgent international response to the multiple challenges of energy security, air pollution, natural-resource management, and climate change.”

Steiner stresses that the Panel "remains without doubt the best and most solid foundation we have for a community of more than 190 nations to make these most critical current and future global choices." He concluded that rather than undermining the IPCC's work, efforts should be re-doubled to support its task in assembling the science and knowledge for the Fifth Assessment Report, due in 2014. [UN Press Release] [Op-ed in Today's Zaman]