Energy and climate change committee says UN climate science panel processes have improved since last major report
By Fiona Harvey, the Guardian
The world’s most comprehensive report yet on the science of climate change has been strongly endorsed by an influential group of MPs.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee found that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s processes were “robust” and their conclusions should be accepted by policymakers.
The IPCC, a grouping of hundreds of scientists convened by the UN, published its mammoth report in three parts from last September to this spring, its first such update in seven years.
It concluded that climate change is almost certainly manmade, that a large proportion of fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground to avoid dangerous warming of 5C or more, and that global warming is being felt “on all continents and across the oceans”. It also concluded that the transition to clean energy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change was eminently affordable.
But climate sceptics including Lord Lawson of the Global Warming Policy Foundation have said the IPCC’s processes and the conclusions were flawed, and sceptics have seized on mistakes in the organisation’s 2007 report.
Tim Yeo, the former Conservative minister who chairs the committee, 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 committee’s MPs examined the IPCC processes and gave them a clean bill of health. This will reinforce the argument that the IPCC’s findings must play a major role in the future of the UK’s and Europe’s climate and energy policies.
That could prove crucial in the coming years, as there is a growing movement – particularly among sections of the Tory party and UKIP – to turn climate change and environmental issues into a politically divisive issue. Owen Paterson, the sacked environment secretary, was reported by the Daily Mail to have boasted to David Cameron that he had “reversed a 25-year consensus” on the environment among the UK’s three main parties.
There are fears that this tendency could grow in the run-up to the election or after it, depending on the outcome. The next year is a crucial one in climate change negotiations, because governments around the world have committed to forging a global agreement in Paris late next year that would commit countries to steep cuts in emissions. In previous rounds of the UN talks, the UK has played a key role in paving the way for such a historic agreement.
An early commitment by the government to abide by the IPCC’s advice, and to set out strong targets, will be essential, according to Yeo, one of the few remaining longstanding “green Tories”, who was de-selected by his constituency party early this year.
He said: “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 committee decided that the IPCC had addressed key criticisms and tightened its review processes for the fifth assessment report, known as AR5. But they also suggested the panel recruit a small team of non-climate scientsts to observe the review processes and the meeting at which the summary of the report for policymakers is agreed.
Yeo said: “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 committee includes his fellow former Tory minister Peter Lilley, a climate sceptic who voted against the UK’s Climate Change Act.
In a nod to the Climate Change Act, Yeo said there was no scientific basis for reducing the UK’s carbon budgets, which some in industry have urged the government to do.
The article first appeared on the Guardian
RTCC is part of the Guardian Environment Network