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by Eli Kintisch

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has always had a highly polished reputation, but it’s facing an unprecedented amount of criticism now. Here’s a roundup of recent criticism and commentary on Climategate and the IPCC, organized by five issues: 1) "glaciergate," 2) African crops, 3) disaster losses, 4) whether panel head Rajendra Pachauri has too many conflicts of interest to run the IPCC, and 5) the future of the panel.

Glaciergate"

The section of the 2007 IPCC report that deals with climate impacts, called Working Group II, included a statement in its chapter on Asia (see p. 493) that Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than any other glaciers on Earth and “the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.” That statement was challenged by an Indian government report released late last year that suggested, qualitatively, that “many” Himalayan glaciers were instead growing in size and that others were stable. (The report’s conclusions were first widely publicized in a November story in Science, and the flimsy basis for the “very high” statement in the 2007 report is detailed here, in a letter to Science by a Canadian expert on glaciers.

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri at first defended IPCC, calling the Indian government report “voodoo science,” opening up a row with scientists in his country’s government.

by Pallava Bagla and Eli Kintisch

As outsiders continue to heap criticism on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, China has to introduce new doubt on the scientific consensus regarding the cause of global warming. From the Guardian yesterday:

China's most senior negotiator on climate change said today he was keeping an open mind on whether global warming was man-made or the result of natural cycles.

Xie Zhenhua said there was no doubt that warming was taking place, but more and better scientific research was needed to establish the causes.

Xie, Premier Wen Jiabao's special representative on climate change, was speaking in Delhi at the end of a two-day meeting of ministers from four of the most powerful emerging economies – China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Those four key developing nations—dubbed the BASIC countries—met here in a bid to firm up plans to carry out the non-binding Copenhagen Accord and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The group said they will "communicate information on their voluntary mitigation actions to the United Nations, Framework Convention on Climate Change by January 31, 2010," sticking to the deadline agreed to in Copenhagen.

But according to the Indian press agency, Press Trust of India, even as IPCC has been criticized over its forecast on the melting of Himalayan glaciers, the BASIC environment ministers issued a supportive statement saying that "one mistake does not make the science less important."

by Eli Kintisch

Scientists at the helm of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have spent weeks on the defensive after e-mails uncovered by hackers revealed private messages in which they criticized papers relevant to their 2007 report. That behavior has led to accusations of bias, or worse, and undermined the credibility of the climate research community. Now the IPCC leadership is preparing its response, with steps that may include additional training for the authors of the next report, due out in 2013, and a review of the incident by an outside organization. At least one key scientist is unhappy with those options.

In December, the head of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri, said that the discussions in the e-mails raised "a serious issue and we will look into it in detail." Atmospheric chemist Pauline Midgley, a support scientist on staff for the 2013 IPCC report, says that officials asked themselves three questions: Were there problems with the IPCC's procedures for 2007? Were those procedures sufficient? Are changes needed in preparing the 2013 version?

IPCC never conducted a formal investigation of the issue, but the scientists who run the organization and their support staff members have looked over the messages, and found no evidence that the authors were lax in their review of the papers. Still, says Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science, a co-chair of one of the 2013 IPCC reports’ three working groups, it hasn't been "a particularly good period."

by Pallava Bagla

NEW DELHI—In a news report on 20 December, The Telegraph levels some serious accusations against Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The British daily claims, for instance, that Pachauri has made "a fortune from his links with 'carbon trading' companies."

Pachauri dismisses the accusations as groundless. ''These are a pack of lies from people who are getting desperate. They want to go after the guy whose voice is being heard," he told The Times of India. "I haven't pocketed a single penny from my association with companies and institutes. All honoraria that I get goes to [The Energy and Resources Institute, based in New Delhi, of which Pachauri is Director-General] and to its Light a Billion Lives campaign for reaching solar power to people without electricity. All my dealings are totally above board.''

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