Adaptation, IPCC Style

September 1, 2010

Nature has a nice piece on the recent report on the IPCC process:

Founded in 1988, the IPCC’s task of providing climate information to the UN has grown in complexity — along with the overall size of its annual budget, which is underwritten by member nations (see chart). The IPCC’s chairman,Rajendra Pachauri, says that the review bolsters the IPCC’s reputation and demonstrates that the science it provides is fundamentally sound. “My hope is that the accumulation of so many investigations into climate science in such a short period of time will strengthen public confidence so that we can move forward,” he says.

Harold Shapiro, a former president of Prince ton University, New Jersey, who chaired the review panel, credited the IPCC with enormous successes, both in terms of assessing the science of climate change and garnering support from governments around the world. “But fundamental changes are necessary to ensure its continued success,” Shapiro says.


The report recommended that the IPCC strengthen its science-review process by encouraging review editors to use their existing authority to ensure that comments from reviewers are “adequately considered” when drafting assessments. The panel suggested that editors and authors could work together to rank reviewer’s comments on the assessments to help manage the huge workload (drafts of the last assessment received 90,000 comments). Procedures must also be clarified for using and labelling ‘grey literature’ that has not been peer reviewed, such as reports by government agencies and advocacy groups.

It will be interesting to see how these standards of judgment–“adequately considered,” for instance–play out in the broader political scene. As an academic, I don’t have a huge problem with them. It is clear that we must all use our judgment, and where the line of adequate consideration falls seems to me both about the best one can ask for and also a standard that is ripe for spitting on.

In other news, watermelons have seeds?? Who knew?

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