11/02/10

Where next for the IPCC?

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Writing in Nature, five climatologists make recommendations for the future of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Thomas F. Stocker, from the University of Bern, Switzerland, argues that the IPCC has served as an honest broker of climate change science for 21 years and can continue to do so providing it ensures strict enforcement of its procedures and scientific rigour.

Others are not so optimistic. Eduardo Zorita, from the GKSS Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany, says the IPCC must be made stronger and more independent. He calls for it to become an international climate agency modelled on the International Atomic Energy Agency, staffed by 200 full-time scientists who produce biennial ‘state-of-the-climate’ reports and advise governments on regional issues.

But Mike Hulme, from the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, suggests it is not feasible for one panel under sole ownership to deliver exhaustive assessments. He suggests the IPCC be split in three, with a ‘Global Science Panel’ that continues IPCC-like assessments, a group of ‘Regional Evaluation Panels’ that conduct evaluations using region-specific knowledge, and a ‘Policy Analysis Panel’ to produce rapid analyses of specific proposed policies with global significance.

Jeff Price, from the World Wildlife Fund, similarly calls for more rapid analyses. He argues that the IPCC should publish annual reviews and synthesis reports for policymakers, prepared by experts in the field. He says the annual reviews should operate as journals and include peer-reviewed articles submitted by any author.

John R. Christy, from the University of Alabama, United States, similarly supports allowing any author to contribute to IPCC publications, although he proposes more radical reform. He calls for a Wikipedia-style IPCC, with small groups of lead authors managing separate sections of the website. Authors would referee controversies but allow input from all sides in the text to more honestly reflect current thinking on climate change science.

Link to full article in Nature