Science & Environment

UN climate change panel to face errors verdict

Himalayan herdsman on glacier
The IPCC came under fire after using the wrong date for Himalayan glacier melt

An international committee reviewing the "processes and procedures" of the UN's climate science panel is set to report on Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has faced mounting pressure over errors in its last major assessment of climate science in 2007.

The review was overseen by the Inter-Academy Council, which brings together bodies such as the UK's Royal Society.

The findings are to be unveiled at a news conference in New York.

The IPCC has admitted it made a mistake in its 2007 climate assessment in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

Rajendra Pachauri
Dr Pachauri has said he welcomes a "vigorous debate" on climate science

But officials at the UN organisation said this error did not change the broad picture of man-made climate change.

In February, the IPCC suggested setting up an independent review, feeling that its 20-year-old rules and working practices perhaps needed an overhaul.

There was also a sense the UN body may have been ill-equipped to handle the unprecedented attention in the wake of "Himalayagate" and the release of e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and the the University of East Anglia, in the UK.

Governments endorsed the idea, and in March UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned the review from the Inter-Academy Council (IAC), an international umbrella body for science academies.

The council established a a 12-member review panel, chaired by US economist Professor Harold Shapiro, a former adviser to two former US presidents, George H W Bush and Bill Clinton.

'Grey literature'

The IAC will deliver its report to Mr Ban and to IPCC chair Dr Rajendra Pachauri in New York on Monday. A source told BBC News that no advance copies of the report had been shown to UN officials.

The review will not address the state of knowledge in climate science, but will instead review processes at the UN body, including the use of non-peer reviewed sources, and quality control on data.

The use by the IPCC of so-called "grey literature" - that which has not been peer-reviewed or published in scientific journals - has been subjected to particular scrutiny, partly because this type of material was behind the glacier error.

A conflict of interest charge has also been levelled at Dr Pachauri over his business interests.

Speaking at the review's opening session, held in Amsterdam in May, Dr Pachauri admitted his organisation had been ill-prepared and ill-resourced to deal with the recent criticism it has received.

"We have to listen and learn all the time and evolve in a manner that meets the needs of society across the world," he told the review panel.

Critics have previously called on Dr Pachauri to resign, a step the IPCC chair has said he has no intention of making.

Referring to the Himalayas error at an IAC session in Montreal in June, former IPCC chair Professor Robert Watson told the committee: "To me the fundamental problem was that when the error was found it was handled in a totally and utterly atrocious manner."

He added: "The IPCC needs to find a mechanism so that if something needs to be corrected there is a rapid way to get a correction made."

The IAC was established in 2000 to assist in providing evidence-based advice to international bodies such as the United Nations and World Bank.

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