Yesterday the Inter-Academy Council, a consortium of the world’s leading national academies of science, issued a report highly critical of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (Full report here.) The report does not challenge the IPCC’s central findings about the science of climate change, but strongly criticizes the IPCC’s procedures and management structure, and urges fundamental reform. Among other things, it urges the IPCC to acknowledge the degree of uncertainty and controversy surrounding certain aspects of climate science, to respond more fully to reviewer comments, and to make the entire IPCC process more transparent. It also suggests that current IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri should step aside lest a single individual oversee the IPCC process for too long. (More here.) Institutional reform, the Inter-Academy Council report concludes, is necessary to ensure the IPCC’s “credibility and independence.”
Over the past year the IPCC has been under siege. The release of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit and the discovery of several errors in the IPCC’s Working Group II report have reinforced the perception that the IPCC’s review of climate science is overly politicized. The resulting decline in the IPCC’s credibility has fed skepticism about the likelihood of anthropogenic climate change. Ironically, efforts intended to enhance the case for action have actually set climate policy back. Only if the IPCC reforms itself, and confronts the biases and errors that have plagued prior reports, will it be perceived as an honest broker in climate science debates.