It am all de rage, as they say. But is it any good? And who are the IAC anyway? Go on, hands up, before they were asked to do this: had anyone heard of them? Thought not: I certainly hadn’t. This is an organisation so well-known that the wikipedia article on [[IAC]] (note: that is today’s version; I assume that someone will add it, eventually) doesn’t even include them, although it has space for 15 or so other IAC’s. Although Gavin seems to quite like the report, I’m less sure. So before getting down to reading the report, here is another piece of meta-analysis: if you read the exec summary it notes that the first IAC report was Inventing a Better Future – A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and Technology. You’ve heard of it? Unlikely – google news shows no hits and all the google hits seem to be to the usual people you’d expect to note it and ignore it. I note that All IAC draft reports undergo an intensive process of peer-review by other international experts though unlike the IPCC it isn’t an open review process – we can’t see the reviewers comments, let alone see the various drafts (and it does need review: there is an error on p iii of the exec summary, where they fail to capitalise Winnacker’s surname. Trivial, obviously).
A bit more preamble, in the spirit of declaring COI: when I was in science, I was very peripherally involved in the IPCC, as was everyone; but I never rose to the dizzy ranks of contributing author or even close; I just talked to a few people who were writing stuff.
Anyway, I can no longer put off actually reading the thing… but then I realised I couldn’t be bothered. So I just read the exec summary. This means you should discount what I say by some appropriate amount.
But before I go on, I should quote the preamble, which is there to be ignored (most of the news reports on the IAC report did, of course):
Since its founding more than 20 years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) can claim many important accomplishments to its credit. First among these are the periodic assessments of our understanding of the nature, origin, and impact of observed changes in the world’s climate. Also among its significant contributions has been the sustaining of a global focus on climate change. Indeed IPCC has provided the framework for a continued and rather remarkable international conversation on climate research both among scientists and policymakers. In many ways IPCC, with its massive, far-flung, and decentralized network of scientists along with the governments represented on the Panel, represents a significant social innovation. For these and other contributions the IPCC was one of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Or, put another way: “the IPCC has been a great success. But faced with some worthless criticism we’ll ignore all that and produce some headless-chicken recommendations.”
First reaction is per Dean‘s comment at RC: overall the recommendations strike me as professionalizing and institutionalizing the IPCC in the sense that there will be much more paid staff and a much larger budget and more hierarchy. Presumably some scientists would be employed by the IPCC and get to focus more closely – exclusively? – on the various processes that now they do in addition to the other things on their plate. Would this be a good thing? Probably not.
In the Governance and Management section we find:
The complexity and scale of climate change research and the associated assessment task have grown significantly over the last two decades, as have public expectations regarding the assessments. Yet the fundamental management structure of the IPCC has remained largely unchanged… The Panel makes all of its major decisions at annual Plenary sessions. However, important decisions need to be made more often, and the Bureau has too limited a set of responsibilities and meets too rarely to meet this need.
Is this true? What are these important decisions? Presumably, applying corrections for minor matters like the 2350 / 2035 glacier melt stuff wouldn’t need an executive.
Anyway, after this I read the rest of the exec summary but got bored. I think they have the wrong answers, and are answering the wrong questions, too panicked by the recent kerfuffle to see clearly. The problem with the IPCC is largely that the whole process has become too unwieldy; grafting on yet more bureacracy isn’t the answer. The answer is lightening the process, and trying to make it more sane. As I said back in February. But no-one will listen. Committees like the IAC have an inevitable trajectory.
Oh, and before I go: the final proof of the IAC’s timidity: the IPCC co-chair structure (helpfully available in the “governance chapter” from IAC. The way this works is that WGI, II and III have competent chairs from real countries… and then the third-world countries are thrown a bone by being given vice / co-chairships. But the IAC doesn’t dare criticise this tokenism.