Greenpeace welcomes report on UN climate change body

Review recommends changes to the way the IPCC is run

Feature story - 30 August, 2010
An independent report on the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended changes to the way the UN climate change panel is run and presents its science. We welcome the review and are convinced that the proposed changes will help strengthen the IPPC in its crucial work on the most serious threat our planet faces. What remains completely unchanged, incidentally, is the science itself.

Arctic sea ice

Still melting...

The review, which was conducted by the international science umbrella body Inter-Academy Council (IAC), recommends that the IPCC appoints an executive director to handle day-to-day operations and speak on behalf of the body. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned the IAC to carry out the review following a growing feeling that the IPPC’s 20-year old rules and working practices might need an overhaul.

We are convinced that these recommendations will help to increase public confidence in the body as an expert panel. Everything that makes the science of climate change and the implications of continued fossil fuel use and deforestation more understandable to the general public is a step forward.

Climate science is complicated – and so is the process of researching and producing reports on it. The IPCC secretariat is a very small body, grouped around a core of around 10 full-time staff, but it has to coordinate research from around the world, and input from more than thousand scientists – not an easy task. Anything that will strengthen and streamline this complicated process is welcome news.

The review’s recommendations on this come with a clear vote of confidence in the IPPC and its work in the past: "Overall, in our judgment, the IPCC's assessment process has been a success and has served society well," Harold Shapiro, who chaired the review, said as he presented the findings.

Such confidence should help to further calm the largely unfounded hostility towards the IPCC in the wake of “Climategate” – a number of so-called “scandals” that are increasingly turning out to be no scandals at all. The “errors” in an IPCC report that formed part of the basis for the controversy have been found to be genuine oversights, or were fabricated.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Sunday Times was forced to apologise over its allegations that the IPCC had exaggerated the effects of climate change on the Amazon. The story was picked up by media world-wide. It turned out that a reference in question was indeed missing from a report, but that the science was correct.

Meanwhile, facts remain facts. Despite the muckraking and crude attempts to undermine the findings of the IPCC, the scientific consensus is clear, climate change represents a serious threat to the future of the environment and humanity. Unchecked it will cause untold misery and suffering, unleashing mass migration, mass starvation and mass extinction.

We believe that the body’s work should continue to form the basis for national and international policies on climate action. Now is the time for world leaders to recognise this climate science and take urgent action to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.