Report criticizes leaders of UN climate change panel

A long-awaited report into the Intergovernmetal Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the panel, which manages research into climate change, needs changes at the top.

The InterAcademy Council report, titled ‘Climate Change Assessments, Review of the Processes & Procedures of the IPCC’, criticizes the way the chairmanship of the panel is currently set at two six-year terms – this is too long, it says, and should be halved.

It also calls for an executive director to be appointed to lead the Secretariat, handle day-to-day operations, and speak on behalf of the organization.

An executive committee should be created to act on the panel’s behalf – and this, it says, should include people from outside the IPCC, and even people who don’t work in climate science.

“Operating under the public microscope the way IPCC does requires strong leadership, the continued and enthusiastic participation of distinguished scientists, an ability to adapt, and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained,” said Harold T Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and chair of the committee that wrote the report.

The review was commissioned in March. The decision followed heavy criticism over claims that Himalayan glaciers were set to disappear over the next 25 years – they’re not – and that it might have mis-handled the ‘climategate’ scandal generated by leaked emails from the University of East Anglia.

One issue on which the IPCC came under particular fire was the use of ‘gray literature’ – material which hasn’t been subject to the usual peer-review process. The report says that the guidelines on this need tightening up, and says that staff should be more careful about adhering to them.

It describes the IPCC’s response to the scandals as ‘slow and inadequate’, and calls for a more organized communications strategy.