Kate Mackenzie Review of IPCC panel might be too late for some

The UN has appointed a third party, the InterAcademy Council, to review the IPCC’s procedures after the error over Himalayan glaciers was published.

The Washington Post leads with the angle that the review will not look at the report itself:

U.N. officials defended their decision, saying that there is still no reason to doubt the most important conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In a landmark report in 2007, the panel found “unequivocal” evidence that the climate was warming.

Ban Ki-Moon also asserted at Wednesday’s press conference that the errors identified did not disprove the overall findings of the report. The IAC, which describes how it will carry out the review here, may not have to look too hard to find procedural problems. After all, the IPCC barely has a secretariat; it is mostly a network of senior scientists who are not paid for their contributions to the report, but are only reimbursed for costs such as travel.

As Nature’s blog describes it:

At present, the IPCC is more like a corps of volunteer scientists spread far and wide across the planet. It has a main office in Geneva, but IPCC and United Nations officials say something on the order of 10 people work there, with additional staff supporting the working groups in other locations. The IPCC doesn’t have a communications staff, nor even formal internal mechanisms to respond to a barrage criticism or media queries.

The review is due to be completed in August and the IPCC and the UN have little time to lose re-establishing the credibility of climate science. If man-made GHG emissions are a threat, and the overwhelming majority of scientific work suggests they probably are, some very big strides need be made in reducing emissions and switching to new energy sources, which is a far from simple task.

Yet there are plenty of signs the hacked-email scandal might already be setting back efforts to mitigate climate change – as many, including the FT, have warned. A report on Monday by the Chicago Tribune chronicles the shift in views of some up-and-coming Republicans, including presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, from supporting climate change measures to opposing it:

Senate hopeful Marco Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, has expressed doubts about climate science in recent weeks, as has Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is considering running for president in 2012. Both of the Republicans had previously supported limits on greenhouse gas emissions, as had Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has backed away from the issue while facing challengers in the party primary.

USA Today gives another example:

Citing doubts raised by the “climategate” e-mails, state governments in Texas, Virginia and Alabama filed legal challenges last month to stop the federal government from regulating carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The challenges could force the Obama administration to modify or abandon its plans to regulate carbon emissions from factories and vehicles.

And in Australia, the leader of the opposition conservative party, Malcolm Turnbull, was replaced by Tony Abbott last December. Where Turnball had supported the government’s efforts to introduce a cap-and-trade scheme, Abbott is known for expressing sceptical climate change views. Abbott subsequently gave an audience to Lord Monckton, a well-known sceptic who claimed Copenhagen was going to introduce “a communist world government“.

This was despite most surveys last year showing that most Australians supported the emissions scheme.

Related links:

A Himalayan gaffe (FT)
IPCC seeks guidance from international science academics (Nature.com)
Email leaks that clouded scientific issue (FT)