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Item #d96jul78

Formal publication of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on June 5 set off a new round of complaints over the IPCC process. (See publication announcement in Global Climate Change Digest, Books/General Interest and Policy, June 1996.) The controversy involves revisions to Chapter 8 of the science working group contribution, "Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes," that were made after its acceptance in draft form by the full IPCC in Rome last December. (See News, Global Climate Change Digest, Jan. 1996.)

The common theme of criticism is that the presentation of the scientific findings was deliberately slanted by political pressure to keep concern over global warming alive. Critics claim this was accomplished in violation of IPCC rules after the text had been accepted, and that the modifications downplay the uncertainty of evidence for a human influence on climate. The major accusers are the Global Climate Coalition, a U.S. business and industry group; British chemist John Emsley, a member of the European Science and Environment Forum (see Global Climate Change Digest, News, April 1996); and Frederick Seitz, chair of the George C. Marshall Institute of Washington, D.C. The Global Climate Coalition has been circulating a memo in Congress and elsewhere in Washington on what it calls "scientific cleansing" by the IPCC, and recently called for an independent review of the alterations made to the text.

In defense of the IPCC, Sir John Houghton, co-chair of the science working group that produced the disputed text, maintained that it represents solid science and that the charges being lobbed are "a mixture of confusion and misinformation." And lead author Ben Santer (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), accuses the critics of being politically motivated, rather than the IPCC. He explains that he properly made the changes in response to reviewers' comments.

The views of Frederick Seitz appeared in a Wall Street Journal editorial on June 1, 1996, entitled "A Major Deception on 'Global Warming.'" In response, over 40 authors and IPCC contributors have written to the paper defending the IPCC and lead author Ben Santer. Further comments by Seitz and two other critics were printed on July 11.

An editorial in Nature (p. 539, June 13, 1996), which in the past has criticized the IPCC, sees some room for improvement in the review and approval process, but backs the thrust of the IPCC document and the need for abatement strategies.

A nine-page, line-by-line analysis of the changes made to chapter eight is available from the Global Climate Coalition (1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1500 N. Tower, Washington DC 20004; 202 628 3622). Articles discussing the controversy have appeared in (all 1996): Nature (p. 455, June 6; p. 546, June 13; p. 639, June 20), Science (p. 1734, June 21), and in The New York Times (June 17).

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