Committee backs findings of IPCC climate change report

29 July 2014
By Edd Gent
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The Energy and Climate Change Committee has backed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report

The Energy and Climate Change Committee has backed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's fifth assessment report

There is no reason to doubt the credibility of the latest international assessment of the science of climate change, MPs have concluded.

The parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) said the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) drew on thousands of scientific papers which formed a "clear and unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised".

Two climate sceptic members of the committee have gone on record as disagreeing with the conclusions of the report, but committee chairman Tim Yeo said there was no reason to doubt the credibility of the science or the integrity of the scientists involved in the latest assessment from the IPCC.

Criticism was levelled at the IPCC after the discovery of an error about melting Himalayan glaciers in the previous international assessment published in 2007, but the conclusion of the report said there was no scientific basis to weaken the UK's emissions targets and backed the Government's decision last week to maintain the ‘fourth carbon budget’ governing carbon emissions cuts in the 2020s.

Yeo said: "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.

"We were impressed with the integrity of the IPCC and the way it had responded to criticisms by strengthening its peer review procedures since its last Assessment Review, but believe it could improve its transparency still further by allowing non-scientists to observe the review process from start to finish and attend its plenary sessions.

"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."

Despite the findings of the report, two members of the committee known for their climate sceptic views – Conservative Peter Lilley and Labour’s Graham Stringer – disagreed with the other nine MPs.

"As scientists by training, we do not dispute the science of the greenhouse effect - nor did any of our witnesses," they said in a statement. "However, there remain great uncertainties about how much warming a given increase in greenhouse gases will cause, how much damage any temperature increase will cause and the best balance between adaptation to versus prevention of global warming."

But leading scientists welcomed the committee’s findings, with Prof Joanna Haigh, President of the Royal Meteorological Society, expressing her hope that the focus could now be switched to understanding the science behind climate change rather than “dealing with the constituencies working to discredit the IPCC”.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, also welcomed the consensus reached by the committee.

“This report will make heart-breaking reading for climate change ‘sceptics’ who had hoped that their two cheerleaders on the committee would be able to deliver a report that attacked the IPCC,” he said.

“Some of the hearings during this inquiry would not have been out of place in the US Congress, where Republicans regularly invite climate change ‘sceptics’ to promote conspiracy theories about the IPCC.

“But fortunately, in the end, the two ‘sceptic’ MPs were unable to persuade the other committee members to join them in condemning the IPCC reports. The evidence from the research community was simply too overwhelming to deny, and the committee had no choice than to wholeheartedly endorse the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

“However, the behaviour of the ‘sceptics’ on this committee provides yet more proof that there is a handful of MPs who try to use Parliament to promote unscientific ideas, such as astrology, homeopathy and climate change denial.”

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