Dutch Review Backs U.N. Climate Panel Report

By Catherine Hornby | July 6, 2010

The overall findings of a U.N. panel report were sound, despite concerns that errors had corrupted the credibility of its conclusions, said a Dutch agency charged with conducting a review.

The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency launched its review at the request of the Dutch Environment Ministry, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admitted two errors in its report including one overstating how much of the Netherlands is below sea level.

The 2007 IPCC report is the main global guide for fighting climate change, and won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

“The IPCC report conclusively shows that these effects already are visible in many places around the world, and that these will become more serious under further temperature increases,” PBL said in a statement on Monday.

“However, the foundation for some of these conclusions could have been made more transparent,” it said in its review, the first independent assessment of the report to be published.

The agency also found the report had emphasized the negative impacts of climate change, and PBL suggested a broader approach should be taken in future to reflect the full spectrum of effects and analyze worst-case scenarios.

The IPCC admitted earlier this year they it had exaggerated the pace of melt of Himalayan glaciers by saying they might all disappear by 2035, in addition to the Netherlands sea level error.

Skeptics said the errors had exposed sloppiness and over-reliance on “grey literature” outside leading scientific journals.

The mistakes raised concerns within the Dutch parliament over the reliability of the information, and PBL was asked to investigate if there were any other inaccuracies in the report.

PBL said it had found one other minor error in the report, related to the number of people in Africa who are at risk of experiencing water stress due to climate change by 2020. However, it added the inaccuracy did not undermine the main conclusions drawn in the report.

It also found that sometimes the report did not sufficiently explain how experts had arrived at certain judgments and urged the IPCC to provide more clarity in arguments.

Although noting that errors “seem in actual practice unavoidable”, the PBL suggested increasing investments in quality control of reports and getting more people involved in their production to prevent errors occurring in future.

The U.N. has also appointed an independent board of scientists to review the work of the IPCC, which is due to report its findings by Aug. 30.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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