10 February 2010

IPCC: Cherish, Tweak or Scrap?

Nature solicits the opinions of 5 past IPCC contributors about the best way forward for the institution. Here are a few short excerpts from the diverse range of views.
Mike Hulme

The IPCC is no longer fit for purpose. . .

My suggestion for radical reform is to dissolve the IPCC after the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in 2014. The work would be split into three types of assessment and evaluation, each rather different to the three existing IPCC working groups.

Eduardo Zorita

An [International Climate Agency] could be built, for instance, on the IAEA template, encompassing many more countries than the IAEA but with a smaller staff. . .

As with finance, climate assessment is too important to be left in the hands of advocates.

Thomas Stocker

The IPCC has served as an honest broker in the past and will do so, hopefully, in the future.

Only with strict adherence to procedures and to scientific rigour at all stages will the IPCC continue to provide the best and most robust information that is needed so much.

Jeff Price

Increasing the number of lead authors would provide better balance and give more scientists the ability to participate in the process. . . The IPCC should also expand the number of specialist task forces, task groups and hold more expert meetings to provide additional scientific review and oversight . . . the current period between assessments is too long.

John Christy

The IPCC selects lead authors from the pool of those nominated by individual governments. Over time, many governments nominated only authors who were aligned with stated policy.

I recommended last year that the next IPCC report invites published authors to write about the evidence for low climate sensitivity and other issues. The IPCC then would be a true reflection of the heterogeneity of scientific views, an ‘honest broker’, rather than an echo chamber.


  1. The models have no predictive power. It is unlikely to get better. The AGW signal is weak and the data is subject to interpretation. What's the point of the IPCC going on? We know CO2 warms so policy makers can proceed on that assumption.

  2. Roger: I note that two of those quoted, used the term "Honest Broker".

  3. It doesn't matter. The IPCC is dead as far as influence is concerned. I doubt anyone will want to spend much time working for an entity which lacks credibility.

    I suppose that something will be tried with a new name in its place, but it will also be a waste of effort. An honest documentation of all the problems underlying climate science will not inspire citizens to push for new policies. And anything less than an honest, evenhanded approach will only damage science further.

  4. If decadal views only begin to reveal climatic trends, if each peer reviewed paper contributes only a micro thin slice to the database of climate knowledge, why on earth would increasing the frequency of IPCC assessments be beneficial? And what purpose would creating a Wikipedia like dynamic climate change forum serve?

    Are there aspects of the debate that require immediate and constant attention? Perhaps.

    But for the most part, discussions of climate change following every change in wind direction have proven counterproductive and have polarized the debate. Contributing to the frenzy of alarmism vs. scepticism by more frequently assessing the science of our global climate and its painfully slow evolution would only make matters worse.

  5. JAE

    The IPPC should be abolished, along with the whole ineffectual, communistic, corruption-ridden, money-sucking, hypocritical United Nations. There is just no way to save the garbage!

  6. Like the Nature front cover. The article poses a question, "Was Greenland much warmer 4000 years ago?"

    See BBC story below;


    "The researchers say an analysis of the genome shows that Inuk was from the Saqqaq culture. The team now has genetic evidence that Inuk's metabolism and body mass meant he was adapted to living in a cold climate. The Saqqaq hunted seals and seabirds and relied on the sea for most of their food. Archaeological remains show they lived in 'tiny tents' in winter. "It's a very hostile environment and I was really surprised that people could live up there," explained Professor Willerslev."

    I wonder if this example of 'unprecedented warming' from 4000 years ago might make it into future IPCC reports.

  7. You wouldn't expect the IAEA to take a position on the Higg's Boson, or the IAU to take a position on dark matter. They leave these types of questions to be sorted out by the normal scientific processes of research, debate, publishing papers, etc.

    The IPCC on the other hand uses a fundamentally non-scientific process - one based on building an international consensus - one taken from the political world - to try to answer scientific questions such as How is Climate Changing? How much is the earth warming by? What are the likely effects of future climate change?

    You can't reform it, when the foundations are fundamentally flawed.

    Instead abolish the IPCC.

    Replace with an organization that encourages climate research generally, sets standards for nomenclature and data collection methods, and acts as a central clearing house for as much **raw** **unadjusted** climate data (both current and historic) as possible - such data being audited, fully open in terms of who/when/where/how it was collected, and freely usable by anybody for any purpose, since the data is the common property of all of mankind.

  8. The history of 'action on climate change' shows that it has only been used as a secondary argument in policy.

    Energy Independence being the primary argument.

    The EU and China have some pretty compelling long term energy security issues.

    So I'm not sure what purpose the IPCC serves.

    The US has never taken it's marching orders from the UN and never will.

  9. Christy's suggestion makes the most sense, but even with it, who selects the gatekeepers?

    Does anyone think that a political organization like the UN would create or even allow the existence under its auspices a committee that didn't totally control the output of its working groups?

  10. @Harrywr2: "Energy Independence being the primary argument."

    I think "energy independence" is itself secondary to the transfer of funds from more favored to less favored industries. Which are which depends on lobbying, constituencies, etc., i.e. politics as usual.

  11. The IPCC should take a close look at Toyota: Apologize, recall, make sure it never happens again.

  12. I'm not sure Toyota is the example to be replicated:


  13. From the same edition of Nature - a book review on the difficulty of predicting earthquakes:

    "After being made aware of a flaw in their promising method for predicting earthquakes, for example, the proponents of the 'accelerating moment release' theory were enthusiastic in refuting their own idea."

    How science should work?