An independent panel has called for changes in the way the United Nations handles its assessments of climate change. Although the panel found that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been “successful overall,” it needs to improve its governance and management, review process, characterization and communication of uncertainty, and transparency.
The panel made several recommendations, including the formation of an Executive Council to make ongoing decisions and the selection of an executive director to handle day-to-day operations. The panel also suggested changes to the review process for climate assessments, such as adopting “a more targeted and effective process for responding to reviewer comments,” and indicting controversies within a report. To deal with the issue of scientific uncertainty, the review panel recommended the implementation of a “qualitative level-of-understanding scale” in the Summary for Policymakers.
The review was conducted by the InterAcademy Council, a consortium of science academies from around the world, at the request of the IPCC and the United Nations. The review was prompted by recent allegations of mistakes in the 2007 IPCC report and of exclusion of climate science from the assessment process. Harold Shapiro of Princeton University, who chaired the independent review panel, wrote in his introduction to the review that these controversies, both real and perceived, have detracted from an otherwise successful program. “I think the errors made did dent the credibility of the process,” Shaprio told reporters.
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