, Volume 45, Issue 3-4, pp 471-488

Gearing up for IPCC-2001

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Abstract

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, is charged withproviding scientific reviews of the current status of the climate sciences.Previous reviews were made in 1990 and 1995 (Houghton et al., 1990, 1995). Thenext review is due out in 2001. One of the important missions of the IPCCis to provide to the scientific community ‘the standard scientific reference’ for the science of climate change (cf. the Back Cover of the IPCC-95Assessment (Houghton et al., 1995)). This paper discusses flaws in the IPCC-90and the IPCC-95 scientific assessments that seriously compromised thisobjective. The previous reports contained numerous such flaws andrepresentative examples are discussed in detail where the quality of thepresentation was degraded, or even in some instances rendered meaningless byfailures to provide accurate or full error assignments, the sources forresults, the units or quantities being displayed in graphs, the methods usedto calculate results, and access to back-up materials required to understandthe materials being presented. Taken on their own, such errors might, perhaps, be regarded as minor blemishes, but taken in sum and coupled with problems ofpresentation they combine to confuse and to render unconvincing the argumentsbeing presented. In every case the problems described could have been avoided by following the italicized recommendations made throughout the text. It isconcluded that the quality and credibility of future IPCC assessments wouldbe substantially enhanced by adherence to these recommendations.