The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has revised its guidelines for dealing with scientific uncertainty in its climate assessment reports. In the future, authors and reviewers of international climate reports will assess the quality of scientific information available to them, as well as the degree of uncertainty in the findings. According to Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC working group on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability: “What I expect us to do is to use the uncertainty guidance very carefully so we can avoid problems where we seem to be asserting more confidence than the data will allow; but also provide value to a discussion where the confidence isn’t necessarily very high.”

The panel also approved procedures for correcting errors in its reports. New guidance on the use of so-called “grey literature,” which is not peer-reviewed, is also expected in the coming months. Other recommendations, including term limits for senior officials and the appointment of an executive director, have been directed to a review committee for consideration.

These changes come in light of a recent independent review of the IPCC. The review panel found fault with the organization’s governance and management, review process, characterization and communication of uncertainty, and transparency.

One recommendation that does not appear likely to be implemented by the IPCC is a limitation to a single term for senior officials. Instead, Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, who is in his second term, has stated his intention to stay until the next climate assessment is completed in 2014.


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