by Judith Curry
Nic Lewis sent me the following message in an email:
I have some news to report on a response to the letter forming this post from the IPCC authors. Gabi Hegerl, joint coordinating lead author of Chapter 9, emailed me late yesterday afternoon to say that she had brought my letter to the attention of the WG1 AR5 Co-Chairs to initiate the appropriate handling of the alleged error, and that it will be dealt with in accordance with the recently approved “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports.
With regards to handling errors in IPCC reports, the InterAcademy Council Review (IAC) of the IPCC made the following recommendation:
The IPCC should establish an Executive Committee to act on its behalf between Plenary sessions. The membership of the Committee should include the IPCC Chair, the Working Group Co-chairs, the senior member of the Secretariat, and three independent members who include individuals from outside of the climate community. Members would be elected by the Plenary and serve until their successors are in place.
The Executive Committee would have the authority to act on the following issues:
- Approving modest alterations to the scope of an ongoing assessment in response to new scientific developments
- Approving minor corrections to published reports
- Ensuring effective, ongoing communication withstakeholders, especially the media, including responding to errors
- Addressing cross-cutting issues, such as ensuring, where appropriate, communication and cooperation among Working Groups
- Other tasks as specifically delegated by the Panel
At the May meeting in Abu Dhabi, the IPCC has a new policy of governance that includes an Executive Committee. However the IPCC did NOT implement the IAC’s recommendation to include three independent members from outside the climate community (h/t Steve McIntyre).
The IPCC response to the issue of allegations of errors in the IPCC report is addressed in the communications report from the May meeting in Abu Dhabi:
The IPCC is in the process of developing a formal procedure for acknowledging potential errors of fact that might change the scientific content of assessments. In the case of addressing such a potential error of fact, the Executive Committee, which has the responsibility of overseeing the process of handling errors, as identified by the IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports, should work closely with the Senior Communications Manager on a timely and cogent response. If an error is identified, it should be addressed in a forthright manner, corrected, and formally acknowledged.
Though a full response is likely to take more time than allowed by the media cycle, it is however important to quickly communicate to the Media, as well as government Focal Points, that the issue is being examined according to the forthcoming IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Synthesis Reports, Special Reports or Methodology Reports.
At the Abu Dhabi meeting, an additional report was written entitled “ IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Special Reports or Inventory Guidelines.”
This protocol is intended to be used only to correct errors that could have been avoided in the context of the information available at the time the report was written. Its use should be reserved for errors of fact or accuracy. The protocol cannot be used to make changes that reflect new knowledge or scientific information that became available only after the literature cut-off date for the report in question. It cannot be used to propose the consideration of additional sources not cited in the existing assessment, unless directly relevant to an error of fact or accuracy. It must also not be invoked to reflect a difference in opinion compared with an author team or a new interpretation of knowledge or scientific information.
This protocol is intended to address the full range of possible errors from typographical errors through complicated issues of sourcing, interpretation, analysis, or assessment, arising from the previously mentioned errors of fact or accuracy.
Responsibility for implementing the error correction protocol rests with the current Co-Chairs of the relevant Working Group or Task Force product containing the putative error. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Chairman. In all cases, the relevant Coordinating Lead Authors and Co-Chairs of the report containing the putative error or, in the case of the Synthesis Report, the IPCC Chairman and relevant Working Group Co-Chairs at the time of that assessment, will be kept informed of the evaluation and participate as appropriate.
The protocol is presented as a decision tree, which is based on a set of underlying principles. The procedure to be followed for investigating the claimed error and, if appropriate, implementing its correction depends on the location of the claimed error, i.e., whether it resides in a Chapter or the Technical Summary of a Working Group Contribution to an Assessment Report or of a Special Report, or in the Inventory Guidelines, in the Summary for Policymakers of a Working Group Contribution or of a Special Report, or in the Overview Chapter of the Inventory Guidelines, or in a Synthesis Report.
Principles underlying this protocol for handling errors:
1. The IPCC Secretariat is the entry point for all error reporting.
2. The IPCC Secretariat maintains an internal error tracking system. Entries are made in consultation with the current Co-Chairs of the relevant Working Group (WG) or Task Force (TF) or in case of an error in a Synthesis Report in consultation with the current IPCC Chairman. This system informs the leadership of IPCC and the Technical Support Units (TSUs), via a protected website, about the current status of all active error handling processes.
3. To the extent possible, corrections should be based on consensus, consistent with the IPCC principles that form the foundation for the underlying reports.
4. Responsibility for decisions at steps during the process is with the current WG or TF Bureau of the WG or TF product in which the putative error resides. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Bureau.
5. Responsibility for implementation is with the current Co-Chairs of the WG or TF product in which the putative error resides. If the error is in a Synthesis Report, responsibility rests with the current IPCC Chairman.
6. Original authors (Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs), and Lead Authors (LAs) if necessary) must be involved as appropriate. Communication with them is via the current Co-Chairs of the relevant WG or TF (the IPCC Chairman in the case of the Synthesis Report). If any of the individuals identified as playing leading roles on behalf of author teams of previous reports are not available, then the current Co-Chairs of the WG or TF (the IPCC Chairman in the case of the Synthesis Report) will identify an individual or individuals best qualified to take over those roles.
7. For putative errors regarding the previous assessment cycles, the previous Co-Chairs of the relevant WG or TF and the previous IPCC Chairman need to be kept informed and may be consulted as appropriate.
8. Handling of putative errors must be coordinated across Chapters, Executive Summaries of Chapters, Technical Summaries of WG Contributions, Summaries for Policymakers for Working Groups, Synthesis Reports, Summaries for Policymakers for Synthesis Reports, and Overview Chapters of Inventory Guidelines.
9. At the start of the process, the claimant is informed by the IPCC Secretariat about the next steps in a general way, and referred to this “IPCC Protocol for Addressing Possible Errors in IPCC Assessment Reports, Special Reports or Inventory Guidelines”. The claimant will again be informed at the conclusion of the process.
10. Errata are posted on the IPCC and WG or TF websites after the conclusion of the process. A short explanatory statement about the error may also be posted.
JC comments: Nic Lewis’ allegation of an error surrounding Figure 9.20 of the AR4 appears to be the first test of the IPCC’s new policy on Addressing Possible Errors. The IPCC process seems thorough, although not apparently designed to produce a quick response. Lets see how it plays out. Thoughts and comments on the IPCC’s new policies?