COMMONS

IPCC processes and conclusions robust - MPs report

29 July 2014

MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee have found the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) processes to be robust after scrutinising its latest report assessing the science of climate change following criticism by some commentators of the IPCC review process and its conclusions.

Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo MP, said:

"The importance of the conclusions of IPCC reports in terms of their policy implications understandably places the IPCC under a lot of scrutiny. Some of the criticism directed toward the IPCC has been from people who for various political or economic reasons do not like its conclusions, but we decided to take a closer look at whether the scientists involved in the IPCC could be doing more to address genuine concerns."

The cross-party inquiry found that the IPCC has responded extremely well to constructive criticism in the last few years and has tightened its review processes to make its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised Assessment Report to-date. The MPs call on the IPCC to continue to improve its transparency, however. The IPCC would benefit, they say, from recruiting a small team of non-climate scientists to observe the review process and the plenary meetings where the Summary for Policymakers is agreed.

Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Tim Yeo MP, commented:

"We were impressed with the integrity of the IPCC and the way it had responded to criticisms by strengthening its peer review procedures since its last Assessment Review, but believe it could improve its transparency still further by allowing non-scientists to observe the review process from start to finish and attend its plenary sessions.

What is starkly clear from the evidence we heard however is that there is no reason to doubt the credibility of the science or the integrity of the scientists involved. Policymakers in the UK and around the world must now act on the IPCC’s warning and work to agree a binding global climate deal in 2015 to ensure temperature rises do not exceed a point that could dangerously destabilise the climate.

The scientific evidence we have heard during this inquiry shows that the Coalition is absolutely right to maintain the UK’s Carbon Budgets at their current level. There is no scientific basis for reducing the UK’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Downgrading our targets now would have destabilized efforts to forge a global deal in 2015 on limiting emissions, just when the US and China appear to be taking positive steps towards such an agreement."

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) strengthens the scientific case for rapid action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid a 2° Celsius rise in global mean surface temperature. This could best be implemented within the framework of a unified global agreement. Attempts to reach an agreement in the past have lacked early high level leadership, however, and the MPs say a public commitment from the UK Government is required early in the preparations of COP 2015 in order to guarantee the highest chance of success.

AR5 provides the best available summary of the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change currently available to policy makers. Its conclusions have been reached with high statistical confidence by a working group made up of many of the world’s leading climate scientists drawing on areas of well-understood science. As in all areas of science that involve highly complex dynamic systems, there are uncertainties. But these uncertainties do not blur the overwhelmingly clear picture of a climate system changing as a result of human influence.

Background

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up by the United Nations in 1988 to provide assessments of the latest peer-reviewed climate science for policy-makers. Its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), published last year, concluded that we can now be more confident than ever that the release of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from deforestation and the use of fossil fuels has caused much of the global warming witnessed in the latter half of the 20th Century.

Further information

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