The U.N.'s embattled climate change panel must make "fundamental changes" to avoid future errors and charges of bias, according to a comprehensive independent review released Monday.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has taken the lead in investigating the role of humans in climate change, has been under fire since admitting in January that its 2007 report on global warming exaggerated the scope of melting Himalayan glaciers.
The panel has done a good job overall, but "new demands are being made for increased transparency and accountability," according to a review released Monday by the InterAcademy Council, a Amsterdam-based organization of the world's science academies.
In the wake of the controversy and continued criticism from skeptics of manmade climate change, U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon asked the InterAcademy Council to assess the quality and legitimacy of the IPCC's work in March.
Among other changes, the review calls for shorter terms for IPCC leaders, more outside oversight and stronger enforcement of the IPCC's own research standards.
"Operating under the public microscope the way the IPCC does requires strong leadership ... and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained," said Harold T. Shapiro, president emeritus at Princeton University and chairman of the committee that wrote the report.
The Himalayan glacier gaffe was indicative of a larger problem at the panel, according to Mr. Shapiro. IPCC reports often went far beyond what the underlying evidence could support, especially in the overview summaries prepared for policymakers and top officials.
Said Mr. Shapiro: "We found in the summary for policymakers that there were two kinds of errors that came up - one is the kind where they place high confidence in something where there is very little evidence. The other is the kind where you make a statement ... with no substantive value, in our judgment."
U.N. officials have acknowledged errors in the 2007 document, called the Fourth Assessment Report, but insist the overall conclusions of the study are still valid.
The IPCC's next major climate change study is expected in 2013.
Established by the U.N. in 1988 to track climate change, the IPCC won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, but the research errors and concerns about bias and conflicts of interest among its members have made the panel a target for global-warming skeptics.
Still, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri of India said Monday that the review did not contradict his organization's conclusions.
"The scientific community agrees that climate change is real," he said.
Some critics of Mr. Pachauri's long tenure at the IPCC called for the chairman to resign in the wake of the report. He has chaired the IPCC since 2002. Mr. Pachauri told the London Telegraph he had no plans to quit, but would step down if the governments sponsoring the IPCC requested it.
Governments worldwide have cited IPCC research as justification for an array of restrictions, taxes and new industrial requirements designed to reduce emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.
Mr. Shapiro and his committee recommended the IPCC shorten the terms of IPCC executives, seek oversight and advice from outside experts and appoint an executive director to handle day-to-day operations.
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