U.N. to create science panel to review IPCC

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - An independent board of scientists is to review the work of a U.N. climate panel, whose credibility came under attack after it published errors, a U.N. environment spokesman said on Friday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accepted last month that its 2007 report had exaggerated the pace of melt of Himalayan glaciers, and this month admitted the report had also overstated how much of the Netherlands is below sea level.

The report shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and has driven political momentum to agree a new, more ambitious climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The remit and process of the review panel would be disclosed next week, said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the U.N. Environment Programme, on the sidelines of a UNEP conference of environment ministers and officials from more than 135 countries in the Indonesian island of Bali.

“It will be a credible, sensible review of how the IPCC operates, to strengthen its fifth report,” he said.

“It should do a review of the IPCC, produce a report by, say, August. There is a plenary of the IPCC in South Korea in October. The review will go there for adoption. I think we are bringing some level of closure to this issue.”

The latest, fourth IPCC report was published in 2007 and the next is due in 2014.


All options are on the table for the review, Nuttall said, including, how to treat “grey literature” -- a term for academic papers which are not published in peer-reviewed journals.

The IPCC had said that the Himalayas could melt by 2035, but an original source spoke of the world’s glaciers melting by 2350, not 2035. The IPCC report had cited the 2035 year from a non-peer reviewed WWF paper, which in turn had referred to a Scientific American article.

Public conviction of global warming’s risks may have been undermined by the panel’s errors and by the disclosure of hacked emails revealing scientists sniping at skeptics, who leapt on these as evidence of data fixing.

Pachauri told Reuters on Wednesday that the IPCC stood by its main 2007 finding -- that it was more than 90 percent certain that human activities were the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years.

Governments and ministers attending the conference this week in Bali reaffirmed their confidence that manmade greenhouse gas emissions were stoking climate change, said Nuttall.

“There was absolutely no government, no minister of environment who attended that meeting who said that the IPCC was the wrong vehicle for understanding the science of climate change,” Nuttall added.

The IPCC’s 2007 assessment report on the causes and impacts of climate change was over 3,000 pages long, cited more than 10,000 scientific papers and is policymakers’ main data source.

Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn in London; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton