Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Which way forward for the IPCC?

Over at Roger Pielke Jr.'s blog Richard Tol has a pretty damning assessment of the last IPCC report. He focuses on WG 3 and the failure of peer review. He says:
In sum, the review process of the IPCC failed miserably. AR4 of WG3 substantially and knowingly misrepresents the state of the art in our understanding of the costs of emission reduction. It leads the reader to the conclusion that emission reduction is much cheaper and easier than it will be in real life.

On several occasions here on Klimazwiebel we have briefly discussed how a reform of the IPCC could look like. It appears this was too brief. I therefore start a new thread on this very topic. Let us begin with the claim raised by Richard Tol, that the peer review process in WG 3 has failed and address the question how it could be improved in the future.

In a comment to Nature (Vol 463, 11 February 2010) John Christy suggested a Wiki style peer review (for all of the IPCC WGs) which could serve as starting point for our discussion here. He says:
... voluminous printed reports, issued every six years by government-nominated authors, cannot accommodate the rapid and chaotic development of scientific information today. An idea we pitched a few years ago that is now worth reviving was to establish a living, ‘Wikipedia-IPCC’. Groups of four to eight lead authors, chosen by learned societies, would serve in rotating, overlapping three-year terms to manage sections organized by science and policy questions (similar to the Fourth Assessment Report). The authors would strike a balance between the free-for-all of true science and the need for summary statements. Controversies would be refereed by the lead authors, but with input from all sides in the text, with links to original documents and data. The result would be more useful than occasional big books and would be a more honest representation of what our fledgling science can offer. Defining and following rules for this idea would be agonizing, but would provide greater openness.

I think this suggestion would provide a mechanism to overcome the present practice of brushing 'inconvenient' views under the carpet.

 Other comments in the same Nature issue contained views from Muke Hulme, Thomas Stocker, Jeff Price and 'our own' Eduardo Zorita (these are less concerned with peer review as such but take it for granted). In case people want to refer to these contributions, they should copy and paste the relevant passages into their comments as the PDF from Nature is not freely available.


P Gosselin said...

I'm currently involved in an endeavour concerning the examination of the IPCC working groups,
Richard Tol is correct w.r.t. WG3. I'm astounded by the number of references to what appears to be advocacy groups. Anyway, there will be more about this soon enough.

Richard Tol said...

There reforms are key to the future success of the IPCC.

First, the IPCC should be run by the departments of research or the national academies, rather than by the departments of environment. Nominations to IPCC positions should be based on academic quality only.

Second, the IPCC should enforce its procedures.

Third, the IPCC chairs should leave the bureau, which should become an independent board.

ghost said...

hm, I have a question, you say: Nominations to IPCC positions should be based on academic quality only.

Well, but Prof von Storch is saying: authors "dominating" a field should not be lead authors. Of course, quality and domination do not always correspond, but sometimes they do. How to solve? Let little post docs do the work?

"run by the departments of environment."

that is not really true. For the US the Department of Energy takes part and in the UK it is the Department of Energy and Climate Change. (the creation of the DECC would be a nice article, IMHO), I think. The mixture of political views, the DoE of the Bush administration was not alarmist at all, in contrary, can be a strong point of a report IMHO, but it can also watering everything.

P Gosselin said...

The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed on the IPCC. It's posted here at Ice Cap.

Richard Tol said...

Appointments to the IPCC should be non-political.

On Storch's idea: IPCC chapters are teamwork. People who can't work in a team should not be part of the IPCC. IPCC chapters should reflect on the literature. People who see their own brilliance in every reflection should not be part of the IPCC.

P Gosselin said...

Are Prof, Latif's views reflected in the IPCC report?
Is he retired or something? He's got a lot of nerve saying dissident stuff like that. I wonder what PIK thinks about that?

Marco said...

@P Gosselin:
Great, the Latif-lie again. Or rather, the Jonathan Leake-lie of Mojib Latif's predictions:

Note that Leake also misrepresented the article of Keenlyside et al (with Talif one of the co-authors), of which the prediction shows this:

30 years of cooling? Where?

_Flin_ said...

This is getting off topic pretty fast.

I really like the Wiki idea (Although I imagine it more like a vast content management system, more modern than a classic Wiki and less anarchic). Rotating lead authors and teams. Pretty interesting to think about how the updating, commenting and change of this continuous work in progress would look like.