10 March 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Review of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


The aim of an independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was to ensure the quality of its future reports, the co-chair of the scientific institute charged with that task said today.

“Our goal will be to assure nations around the world that they will receive sound scientific advice on which Governments and citizens alike can make informed decisions,” Robbert H. Dijkgraaf of the InterAcademy Council said at a Headquarters press conference.

Created by the world’s science academies in 2000, the Council aims to mobilize top scientists and engineers to provide evidence-based advice to international bodies.  IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri announced the review’s establishment amid growing attacks by sceptics following the disclosure that the Panel’s fourth assessment report, which confirmed human responsibility for global warming, contained errors in respect of the pace of the phenomenon.  Mr. Pachauri and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had then asked the InterAcademy Council to lead the independent review.

“Our task is forward-looking,” Mr. Dijkgraaf stressed, explaining that the Council had been asked to form a group that could recommend improved practices and procedures so as to ensure the quality of reports in time to impact the Panel’s fifth assessment, already under way.  That meant that the review and recommendations were required by the end of August 2010, “a very tight schedule”, he said.  Specifically, the review would examine quality control and guidelines for the types of literature appropriate for use in assessments, with special attention to non-peer review literature.  It would also look at the Panel’s procedures for Government review of IPCC materials, its handling of the full range of scientific views and its procedures for correcting errors.

Reviewers had been asked to analyse the entire IPCC process, including management, administration, transparency and the way in which the Panel handled possible errors and communicated them to policymakers and the public, he said.  They would also look at how the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Meteorological Association (WMA), the overall United Nations system and other stakeholders related to the Panel, with a view to strengthening assessments and ensuring consistent application of IPCC procedures.  Finally, they would analyse the Panel’s communication strategies to ensure that the public was kept informed of its activities.

Emphasizing the independence of the review, which would be conducted in accordance with the InterAcademy Council’s own procedures, he said neither the IPCC, UNEP, WMA, nor any related bodies, would exercise control over or oversee the review process or the final report.  The international group of experts to be assembled by the Council would serve on an unpaid, voluntary basis in all cases where the group was asked to provide advice on a particular issue, he said, adding that the United Nations would provide funds for travel and other expenses.

All draft reports of the InterAcademy Council underwent an intensive peer-review process by international experts, he said, stressing that a final report was only released to the public when the Council’s Board was satisfied that the subsequent feedback had been thoughtfully considered and incorporated.  In addition, all efforts were made to ensure that reports were free of national or regional biases.

Responding to questions, Mr. Dijkgraaf declined to comment on Mr. Pachauri’s chairmanship of the IPCC or give his own views on climate change and the Panel’s current structure, only reiterating the forward-looking nature of the review to be conducted, and pointing out that continual review was part of all scientific procedures.

Asked how he hoped to find enough scientists for an independent review when the IPCC counted thousands of the world’s top climate scientists in its ranks, he said it would be a delicate task to find the necessary diversity of scientific disciplines and people with experience of large-scale organizations.  It was also important that all involved maintain objective distance from the Panel’s work.

In response to a question as to whether the opinions of climate change sceptics would be included, he said:  “By nature every scientist is a sceptic.”  As for alleged manipulation of data at East Anglia University and various consultancy agreements that had been the subject of controversy, he said certain case studies might be part of the investigations, but the reviewers would certainly look at management and organizational issues.

Questioned further, Mr. Dijkgraaf said the number of experts to be appointed had not yet been determined, though a substantial number was needed to provide diverse expertise.  Hopefully, there would have been progress in determining the Board’s composition by a 22 March meeting.

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For information media • not an official record