Review of the IPCC Assessment Procedure

InterAcademy Council Report Recommends Fundamental Reform of IPCC Management Structure

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) of the world's science academies today presented its review of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It concludes that the IPCC assessment reports have been successful over all, but IPCC needs a fundamental reform of its management structure to handle the increasingly complex task.

Teaser: Review of the IPCC Assessment Procedure

The (IAC) report makes several recommendations to fortify IPCC's management structure, including establishing an executive committee to act on the Panel's behalf and ensure that an ongoing decision-making capability is maintained.
Independence: To enhance its credibility and independence, the executive committee should include individuals from outside the IPCC or even outside the climate science community.
Selection criteria and terms: The IPCC chair and the proposed executive director, as well as the Working Group co-chairs, should be limited to the term of one assessment in order to maintain a variety of perspectives and fresh approach to each assessment. Formal qualifications for the chair and all other Bureau members need to be developed, as should a rigorous conflict-of-interest policy to be applied to senior IPCC leadership and all authors, review editors, and staff responsible for report content, the committee added.
Review procedures: The report concluded that the IPCC review process is thorough, but stronger enforcement of existing IPCC review procedures could minimize the number of errors.
Gray literature: The use of so-called gray literature from unpublished or non-peer-reviewed sources has been controversial, although often such sources of information and data are relevant and appropriate for inclusion in the assessment reports. It recommended that IPCC's guidelines for evaluating such sources be made more specific.
Dealing with uncertainties: The committee also called for more consistency in how the Working Groups characterize uncertainty. In the last assessment, each Working Group used a different variation of IPCC's uncertainty guidelines, and the committee found that the guidance is not always followed. All Working Groups should use a probability scale to quantify the likelihood of a particular event occurring, but only when there is sufficient evidence to do so.
Communication policies: IPCC's slow and inadequate response to revelations of errors in the last assessment, as well as complaints that its leaders have gone beyond IPCC's mandate to be "policy relevant, not policy prescriptive" in their public comments, have made communications a critical issue. The IAC report recommends that IPCC implements a communications strategy that emphasizes transparency and includes a plan for rapid but thoughtful response to crises.

Source: UN Press release slightly shortened