The InterAcademy Council will select an expert panel to examine every aspect of how the IPCC's reports are prepared, including the use of non-peer reviewed literature and the reflection of diverse viewpoints.
The review will also examine institutional aspects, including management functions as well as the panel's procedures for communicating its findings with the public.
IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri, right, presents UN head Ban Ki-moon with the first copy of the 4th Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers. November 2007. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
The study comes at the invitation of the United Nations Secretary-General and the Chairman of the IPCC after factual errors were recently discovered in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007.
The IPCC report at issue concluded that changes in the atmosphere, the oceans, glaciers and ice caps show "unequivocally" that the Earth is warming.
Approved after a line by line review by representatives of 113 governments, the IPCC report on climate change science by 600 authors from 40 countries, states that the observed increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide since 1750 is the result of human activities.
Speaking today at UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is convinced that climate change as a result of human activities is occurring and that the IPCC report in question is basically accurate.
"There were a very small number of errors in the Fourth Assessment Report. I have seen no credible evidence that challenges the conclusions of that report, which remain as strong as ever," said Ban. "Newer research indicates climate change is accelerating. The need for action is all the more urgent."
"Let me be clear: the threat posed by climate change is real," he said. "Nothing that has been alleged or revealed in the media recently alters the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change. Nor does it diminish the unique importance of the IPCC's work."
"The IPCC's mandate is to provide objective scientific assessments for decision makers," said IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, PhD. "The IPCC stands firmly behind the rigor and reliability of its Fourth Assessment Report from 2007, but we recognize that we can improve."
"We believe the major conclusions of that report are beyond any reasonable doubt, and that all that we have come up with in that report is solid and credible," said Pachauri. "The IAC is going to look into our processes and procedures. We are assisting so that the Fifth Assessment report will be stronger and better than anything we have produced before."
Neither Ban nor Pachauri took questions from the media.
Founded in 2000, the IAC was created to mobilize top scientists and engineers around the world to provide evidence-based advice to international bodies such as the United Nations and World Bank, including preparing expert, peer-reviewed studies upon request.
The InterAcademy Council Board is composed of the presidents of 15 academies of science and equivalent organizations representing: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus the African Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World.
InterAcademy Council Co-chair Robbert Dijkgraaf (Photo courtesy U. Amsterdam)
Representatives of the InterAcademy Panel of scientific academies, the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, and the InterAcademy Medical Panel of medical academies are also on the IAC Board, which has final approval authority over conducting and publishing IAC studies.
The IAC Secretariat is hosted by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam.
The review will be led by the IAC co-chairs Robbert Dijkgraaf, PhD, president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, and Professor Lu Yongxiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Speaking at UN headquarters today, Dijkgraaf said he was pleased to be representing the world's scientists and science academies. "Our goal will be to assure nations around the world that they will receive sound, definitive scientific advice on which governments and citizens alike can make informed decisions."
The international experts who serve on IAC studies are not paid for their participation. They are pro bono volunteers who are not under obligation to any government, the IPCC, or the United Nations. The travel and meeting expenses for panel members will be funded by the United Nations.
Because work on the Fifth Assessment of IPCC has already begun, the expert panel has been asked to deliver its findings by August 31, 2010.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has three working groups each of which issues a separate report once every seven years.
A professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, Dr. Field is founding director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology.
"Meanwhile," said Field, "the conclusions from the IPCC's 2007 report remain entirely valid: The climate is changing due to human activity, and the effects are already being felt around the globe. If anything, more recent data indicate that the IPCC's 2007 assessment underestimated the degree to which human activity is changing our climate."
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