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IPCC Errors Prompt Review by International Science Academies

Is there a better way to compile and review climate science?
himalayan-glaciers



NASA

African crop yields wither, along with the Amazon rainforest; Himalayan glaciers disappear by 2035. These are the erroneous predictions ascribed to the most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a document reviewed by some 2,500 scientists and other experts as well as vetted by more than 190 countries. So does the fact that a few errors crept into a more than 3,000 page report merit a revision of IPCC processes?

That is the question facing a new panel to be assembled by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) in Amsterdam, a composite board of many of the world's national scientific bodies, such as the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. "This will be an independent review," says physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf, president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the IAC co-chairs, about the evaluation requested by the U.N. and the IPCC. "We are ready to take on the important task of assuring nations around the world that they will receive sound climate advice."

The IAC hopes to form the panel, whose number has yet to be determined, in the next few weeks and will be required to deliver its report on if and how to reform the IPCC by August. The U.N. will provide financial support for travel and meeting expenses but the work of the review will be done for free. "It will definitely not go through all the data, the vast amount of data in climate science," explains Dijkgraaf. "What it will do is see what are the procedures and how can they be improved. How can we avoid perhaps that certain types of errors are not made?"

Dijkgraaf should know. After all, one of the errors made by the IPCC came as a result of information provided directly by the Dutch government about the percentage of the Netherlands that would be vulnerable to flooding as a result of rising sea levels. The government corrected that percentage in a subsequent statement.

The panel will also determine how the IPCC treats the multiplicity of opinions within various domains of climate science, such as oceanographers who disagree on the rate of sea-level rise. "We were specifically asked in our review to analyze how the IPCC deals with diverse scientific perspectives," Dijkgraaf says. "Any science goes through periodic outside review. It only strengthens the science."

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