26 February 2010

IPCC to be Independently Reviewed

Has the UN turned a corner on its oversight of the IPCC? An article in today's Telegraph suggests maybe so:

Environment and Climate ministers meeting in closed session in Bali last night insisted that an independent review should be carried out following the publicising of mistakes in its last report, and a row surrounding Dr Pachauri's robust response to his critics. If his management is found to be at fault his position could become untenable.

Participants in the unprecedented meeting – held at the annual assembly of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council in Bali – were sworn to secrecy over the decision and it is only expected to be announced after its detaled scope and composition have been worked out by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation, the two UN agencies that oversee the IPCC's work.

The ministers – led by Hillary Benn, the Environment Secretary,and his counterparts from Germany,. Norway, Algeria and Antigua and Barbuda – refused to allow Dr Pachauri to decide who would carry out the review, insisting it must be completely and demonstrably independent of the IPCC.
That last paragraph sure is interesting.


  1. That last paragraph sure is understated.

  2. I think such an independent review is a very good thing. It's interesting that the review has been requested by the Environment ministers, because of course they also represent the members of the IPCC (IPCC's members are the governments, not the authors; that's why the "I" in IPCC stands for intergovernmental).

    So my reading of this is that the Environment ministers are aware that collectively they have not done a particularly good job as members of the IPCC, for example in ensuring adherence to quality control and other procedures. For all the criticism of authors in the past few weeks, governments ducked low and avoided difficult questions. But in the end the governments can't deny their critical role in the IPCC and therefore their share of the responsibility for the current situation.

    For example, if the Dutch government had taken the government review process seriously, the error in the area of the Netherlands that is below sea level could have been spotted much earlier, before publication. The Dutch government's criticism of the IPCC authors ("the IPCC should do its homework better)" therefore sounded a bit hollow.

  3. It may be "independent" of the International Political Climate Cooperative, but will it be independent of the deeply ingrained political machinations?

  4. Why is that last paragraph interesting?

    PS: Nice authorized image!

  5. Independent review!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just like the other ongoing 'independent' inquiries?????????

    Seeing is believing.

    I expect a WHITEWASH.

  6. An "independent" review, how marvellous.
    Like the "independent" review into the University of East Anglia emails, featuring Geoffrey Boulton who spent at 18 years at UEA but forgot to mention this fact in his biography on the review's website.

  7. I wonder to what extent these reviews and investigations (think Penn State/UEA as well) have predetermined outcomes. I'm thinking about the case of Ward Churchill at CU. Because of his comments about 9/11, he became a political nonperson and lighting rod for the right-wing. They couldn't fire him for his comments directly (protected by free speech and tenure), but where able to "investigate" charges of academic irregularities, and some fraud (I'm grossly simplifying here). I don't think anyone was surprised when the school found "grounds" to dismiss him.

    The UN may see Pachauri as a political liability at this point, and just want some cover to get rid of him and take the public pressure off. I'm not sure that it means the UN will be interested in providing more oversight or making any substantive reforms at the IPCC. Though it might be that the UN wants more control over the public perception and political positioning of the IPCC.

    -4-willard "Why is that last paragraph interesting?"

    What I find interesting is that Dr. Pachauri wanted to conduct the review, effectively taking himself and his leadership off the table. By pushing for an outside/independent review, the UN has the option to remove Dr. Pachauri and it may actually signal that as a possible outcome.

  8. "refused to allow Dr Pachauri to decide who would carry out the review, insisting it must be completely and demonstrably independent of the IPCC."

    Simple English translation:

    We'll pick the type & color of bus.

  9. Roger--you cannot win. See, you view the UN review as a good thing, but many of your denialist readers just see it as more evidence of a conspiracy. I'm a scientist too and agree with you that we need to improve openness, accountability, peer review, etc. But unlike you, I operate under no delusion that this will satisfy denialists. They are NOT looking for an honest broker.

  10. Pachuari has got to be a political liability. I can't imagine any outcome where he survives.

  11. I doubt the IPCC will be put a Richard Feynman type of scientist in charge of the investigation.

    The investigation will implicate Pachuiri who is now a liability needing to be disposed. Without investigating any scientific issues only procedural issues they will proclaim that the science is sound.

  12. Surely Mike the scientist must understand that it's pretty difficult to trust anyone at this point, especially after the pathetically transparent whitewash of Mann. Clearly anyone who even uses the term "denialist" must be pretty biased too.

    The only people denying any facts here so far are those who defend the reprehensible antics of the IPCC, CRU and the "team" and it's quite disgusting to see just how many intellectuals defend this unethical behaviour and institutionalized duplicity. Quite depressing! After this farrago no scientist anywhere will ever be believed for a very long time.

    These are not even new issues: Roger and several other scientists have been pointing out these accountability, bias, and conflict of interest problems for years yet everyone turned a blind eye. The only wonder now is why even have a whitewash at all when they have brazened it out this far? Everyone has clearly made up their minds already. Skeptics only wonder how light the slap on the wrist will be.

  13. Here's a link to an article from 2001 on the topic of loss of credibility for advocates. There's even a description of what sounds very much like a stealth advocate: http://stream.fs.fed.us/news/streamnt/pdf/SN_1_01.pdf

  14. The broader science establishment is finally waking from its slumbers....

    Some very strongly worded opinions from the UK Institute of Physics.

  15. Roger, what do you think of the WSJ article on the IPCC?

    Michael Mann at Climate Progress says it contains huge errors.

    Such as:

    "The problem: Using Mr. Briffa’s tree-ring techniques, researchers in the ’90s built charts suggesting temperatures in the late 20th century were the highest in a millennium. The charts were dubbed “hockey sticks” because they showed temperatures relatively flat for centuries, then angling higher recently."

    Mann said:
    "There is not even a grain of truth to the statement. Neither the multiple proxy-based “Hockey Stick” reconstruction of Mann et al nor the multiple-proxy based Jones et al reconstruction used “Mr. Briffa’s tree-ring techniques” let alone their data."