The U.N. panel of climate scientists came under the microscope on Friday by experts named by the United Nations to figure out how to restore faith in its work after errors including an exaggeration of the thaw of the Himalayas.
They’ll have to write clearly, check their findings and avoid overstating their case (sounds like a journalism manual). But how? And are there only isolated slips, or a wider problem? Also, why hasn’t the panel learn more from past controversies?
Rajendra Pachauri (below right), chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged at the start of the session in Amsterdam there had been errors in the last major report in 2007 — but said the did not detract from the overall conclusions that warming is under way and that people are very likely to be the cause by burning fossil fuels.
The panel has drawn most criticism for wrongly projecting that glaciers in the Himalayas might all melt by 2035 (that was part of a 3,000 page text but did not make it to a summary for government policy makers). Pachauri said people had got the message from the media that projections of glacier melt were wrong, for instance, but the panel had not managed to restate its overall message that the ice is in retreat around the world. To show that point, he gave the graph (above left).
A repeated theme was that the Geneva-based Secretariat was “lean” with a budget of just $5-7 million a year and would need to be bolstered to face future challenges to its work, including better communications.