A review of the practices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been conducted in response to intense criticism of the body, whose reports are used by governments to inform policy decisions on global warming.
The findings of the review are due to be handed to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tomorrow.
So far so good. Tell me more.
The IPCC has been under scrutiny after it admitted making an error in its 2007 report, that stated Himalayan glaciers could melt to a fifth of current levels by 2035 – a statement that was wrong by over 300 years.
Ok...I can see a three hundred year error once in a while, everything else was good right?
The panel has also been criticised over the sources of information it used to compile the report after a number of statements were found to be based on information taken from reports by environmental lobby groups, magazine articles and student dissertations.
Really? But the science was settled. Surely the peer review process weeded out suspect sources?
Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and a former chair of the UN's IPCC, told the InterAcademy Council's review committee that more needed to be done to prevent errors appearing in the panel's reports.
He described the way the IPCC handled the mistakes as "totally and utterly atrocious" and suggested that the panel should consider hiring additional staff to check through the sources of information, or references, to ensure the accuracy of statements made in future reports.
In the evidence he gave to the committee, Professor Watson said: "No error is acceptable, but there is such a thing as human error.
"Is there a better way of checking all the references before they go out? Maybe there is a role for the secretariat, that effectively, by hiring additional staff – maybe even graduate students and post docs (doctoral) – they can follow through the whole reference chain.
"A normal peer review will not have time to do this, so how can we double and triple check the reference chain of any particular statement."So we need an extra-normal peer review process? By more of the same institutionalized and vested gang? I wonder where one could find some good environmentally oriented post docs...
Professor Mike Hulme, a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, is due to deliver a keynote lecture to the Royal Geographical Society Annual conference this week in which he will call for a dramatic changes to the way the IPCC operates.
Speaking ahead of his lecture, he said: "The IPCC has not sufficiently adapted to the changing science and politics of climate change, nor to the changing expected and demanded role of science and expertise in society.
"The IPCC's approach of seeking consensus obscures and constricts both scientific and wider social debates about both knowledge-driven and value-driven uncertainties that surround climate change politics."
University of East Anglia eh? And what exactly does that last paragraph mean?