Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
An independent investigation into the UN’s climate change body has warned it to stop lobbying and to restrict its role to explaining the science behind any changes in global temperature. Senior officials at the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have also been ordered to disclose their outside financial interests to avert any allegations that they may have profited from policies to tackle global warming.
New controls should also be introduced to ensure that the scientific claims made in influential international reports are robust in future.
The independent inquiry which delivered the rebuke was ordered after the IPCC admitted it had exaggerated the pace at which Himalayan glaciers were melting. Several other errors in its recent report were also uncovered.
The admission threatened to undermine the scientific basis used by Governments around the world to justify spending billions of pounds tackling climate change.
The report published yesterday found that although the IPCC’s findings were generally sound, parts of its conduct had “dented the credibility of the process”.
It warned that “straying into advocacy can only hurt IPCC’s credibility”.
However, it did not call into question the main findings behind the 2007 report, and said that overall its assessment process of the rate of, and risks from, climate chance had “been a success and served society well”.
The review, by a prestigious group of international scientific academies, will put pressure on Rajenda Pachauri, the Indian head of the IPCC.
He said last night that he would step down if the Governments in the IPCC backed calls for him to be replaced.
Harold Shapiro, a Princeton University professor and chair of the committee that conducted the review, said that a report by an IPCC working group “contains many statements that were assigned high confidence but for which there is little evidence.”
Professor Shapiro said the IPCC’s response to errors when they were subsequently revealed was “slow and inadequate.”
Asked about the Himalayan glaciers error, Professor Shapiro said, “At least in our judgment, it came from just not paying close enough attention to what [peer] reviewers said about that example.”
He added that there was concern about the U.N. climate panel’s lack of a conflict of interest policy, as is standard in most Government departments and international bodies.
The report called for development of a “rigorous conflict of interest policy” and made detailed suggestions on what should be disclosed. Mr Pachauri has previously acted as an adviser to green energy companies.
“It’s hard to see how the United Nations can both follow the advice of this committee and keep Rajendra Pachauri on board as head,” said Roger Pielke Jr., a professor at the University of Colorado.
In future, the IPCC should be overseen by a new executive committee which will include people from outside the organisation, the report recommended. The organisation’s head should also be limited to serving one six-year term.
Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N. Environmental Program, said that the review of the IPCC “re-affirms the integrity, the importance and validity of the IPCC’s work while recognising areas for improvement in a rapidly evolving field.”