Published March 10, 2010
The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the embattled head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have ordered a newly formed outside scientific panel to review its "procedures and practices" -- and more significantly, its management.
The hastily assembled panel will be headed by Prof. Robbert H. Dijkgraaf, head of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-chairman of the InterAcademy Council. The investigation will be carried out by the Council and will be composed of unpaid volunteer scientists. The panel's formation, it was acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday, was a direct reaction to criticism of the way the IPCC put together its last report on climate change.
The Council is composed of the heads of national science academies in 15 countries, according to Dijkgraaf, a theoretical physicist.
The IPCC is a U.N.-funded organization that gathers and publishes authoritative reports on the state of climate research. Governments and policy makers rely on its findings to battle climate change, because it is expected to present the best analysis and assessment of data available.
But the IPCC has faced a torrent of criticism since November, when leaked e-mails raised doubts about its handling of data and its fairness. At least five significant errors have been reported in the panel's findings, and its credibility has been severely undermined both among scientists and the public.
On several occasions during Wednesday's press conference, Dijkgraaf said that the mandate of the new panel is not to look at past mistakes but to ensure that the IPCC's next report, its fifth, on the state of climate science will be accepted by the public and the scientific community.
He sidestepped questions about the IPCC's troubles, saying "we are to be forward looking." But when it came to questions about conflict of interest focused on the outside activities of IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri, he said his panel will look into them as part of its management review.
In another sign of trouble for Pachauri, the U.N. announced earlier Wednesday that he was to appear at the press conference along side Dijkgraaf, but Pachauri failed to show up.
The outside assessment is to be completed by late August so that the findings can be used at the Oct. 5 meeting that will begin the effort to put out the latest report. Dijkgraaf admitted it will be a hurried task since no other members have been appointed and there still isn’t a budget for the panel.
Asked if there will be an effort to include climate change skeptics in the internal debates over which data are used, Dijkgraaf declined to answer.
"All scientists are skeptics," he said.