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UN Calls For IPCC To Reform Its Structure

August 30, 2010

A new review released Monday says that the U.N.’s climate panel needs to “fundamentally reform” its structure in order to try and prevent the embarrassing errors found in a 2007 study on global warming.

A U.N.-requested investigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) discovered that the Nobel Prize-winning body was successful, despite the “Climategate” scandal that took place before the Copenhagen meeting last fall.

The five-month review plans to replace the IPCC’s largely part-time structure and stricter guidelines on acceptable source material.

It also checked on conflicts of interest by board members and stricter limits on the terms of the chairman.

The IPCC released a 938-page study that found evidence that helped build momentum for global action to limit carbon emissions that mostly come from burning coal, gas and oil.

However, the IPCC was rocked by a scandal involving leaked emails in 2009, which critics say showed they had skewed data.

Part of the study said that Himalayan glaciers, which provide water to a billion people in Asia, could be completely melted by 2035. 

The IPCC later said that the Himalayan glacier reference was inaccurate, but its core conclusions about climate change are sound.

The U.N. review primarily focused on the structure of the IPCC.  The U.N. said that IPCC’s work has “been successful overall.”

It said that guidelines on source material for the IPCC were “too vague.”

It recommended, “that these guidelines be made more specific — including adding guidelines on what types of literature are unacceptable — and strictly enforced to ensure that unpublished and non-peer-reviewed literature is appropriately flagged.”

IPCC’s chairman Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian scientist primarily employed by the TERI think-tank, has critics saying he had vested interest in proving climate change by business dealings with carbon trading companies.

The U.N. said that it recommended IPCC having a more permanent and professional position of the chairman.

“Formal qualifications for the chair and all other bureau members need to be developed, as should a rigorous conflict-of-interest policy to be applied to senior IPCC leadership” and authors, it said.

“Review editors should also ensure that genuine controversies are reflected in the report and be satisfied that due consideration was given to properly documented alternative views,” it said.

The IPCC’s study helped earn it a Nobel Peace Prize, which is shared with former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

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