IAC CO-CHAIRS' Statement on the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report

News Date: 27 September 2013

IAC CO-CHAIRS' Statement on the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report

By again bringing together so many experts from across the globe to synthesize current scientific understanding of climate change, the IPCC has demonstrated its on-going value to society. The InterAcademy Council (IAC) congratulates the IPCC on this accomplishment and expresses its gratitude to the hundreds of experts from developed and developing countries alike who volunteered their time and knowledge to this unique scientific endeavour. Their effort provides a scientific basis for decisions that policymakers around the world are making about how best to mitigate and adapt to climate change -- one of the most critical challenges facing humankind.

In 2010 the IAC was commissioned by the United Nations to review the processes and procedures of the IPCC after a small number of errors were discovered in its Fourth Assessment Report.  The IAC convened a committee of a dozen experts from around the world to conduct an independent review. The IAC committee’s report recognised that the IPCC has made a significant contribution to sustaining a global focus on climate change since it was founded in 1988, and that its periodic assessments have been successful overall.  However, the committee also said that given advances in climate change science, more intense public scrutiny, and an increased focus of governments on climate change impacts and potential responses, the IPCC needed to make some fundamental reforms to its processes and procedures.

The IAC committee made 22 recommendations for how the IPCC could reform its practices in order to enhance the authoritative nature of AR5 and future assessments. The recommendations focused on issues related to governance and management, the review process, characterizing and communicating uncertainty, communications, and transparency; the IAC did not review scientific conclusions. At its plenary session in South Korea in October 2010, the IPCC agreed to implement many of the IAC’s recommendations and to establish task groups to address other recommendations (since AR5 was already underway, some of the recommendations would need to be implemented at a later date). The proposed actions of these task groups were further discussed and acted upon in subsequent plenary sessions.

The release of the report of Working Group I that assesses the physical scientific aspects of climate change marks the beginning of the Fifth Assessment Report. We particularly look forward to the release of the remaining Working Group contributions to AR5 over the course of the next year and observing more fully and comprehensively how IAC’s recommendations have informed IPCC’s processes and procedures.  We look forward to all 22 IAC recommendations being taken into consideration as the IPCC continues to review its processes, procedures, and governance. By continuing to evolve and adapt to scientific advances and the needs of policymakers and the public, the IPCC can remain a valuable asset to a world coping with climate change.

Robbert Dijkgraaf
Co-chair, InterAcademy Council
Director and Leon Levy Professor
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, N.J., USA
(Past President, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Daya Reddy
Co-chair, InterAcademy Council
South African Research Chair in Computational Mechanics
University of Cape Town, South Africa
President, Academy of Science of South Africa

IAC media contacts

William Kearney or Lauren Rugani
U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
+1 202 334 2138
wkearney@nas.edu or lrugani@nas.edu

Chloe McIvor or Bill Hartnett
The Royal Society, London
+44 20 7451 2514
chloe.mcivor@royalsociety.org or bill.hartnett@royalsociety.org

Irene van Houten
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam
+31 20 551 0733