Select Committee on Economic Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 151-159)

Dr Rajendra Pachauri


  Q151Chairman: Good afternoon, Dr Pachauri. I am most grateful to you for coming along to help us with our inquiry. You know what our inquiry is about. Unless you particularly want to say something to start off, I was going to go straight into the questioning. Do you want to say something at the beginning?

  Dr Pachauri: Thank you for affording me this privilege. I am ready to answer your questions.

  Q152Chairman: We are absolutely delighted you are able to come. Some of our witnesses have questioned the extent to which the IPCC is representative of scientific and economic opinion. Can you tell us about the procedure for appointing those who prepare the IPCC assessment reports and, once appointed, what are the arrangements for ensuring that they work together? To what extent are non-believers in global warming involved?

  Dr Pachauri: The manner in which we choose the authors of the IPCC chapter teams is essentially based on our writing to governments, other international organisations and a few other select organisations. We receive nominations from each one of them. We have three working group in the IPCC, the first one dealing essentially with the science of the climate system, the second dealing with impacts and adaptation and the third dealing with mitigation options. Each of these working groups has a small bureau which is elected by the plenary of the IPCC every five to six years. To give you an example of the scale of this response, for the fourth assessment report we had close to 2,000 nominations. The bureaux scrutinise these, try to see how each individual fits into the task that has been outlined for preparing the assessment report, and they make a selection. Then there is an IPCC bureau which consists of several government representatives as well as those who are the elected members of the bureau. They approve of this selection. I would like to highlight that we have followed certain criteria, particularly this time around. This has happened progressively with each of the successive assessment reports. We try to create a geographical balance. This time, I am happy to say that about 40 per cent of the authors that have been selected come from developing countries or economies in transition. Given that the initial nominations come essentially from governments and that we do try to ensure a geographical balance so that no part of the world is left out, we believe that it is a very objective exercise which ensures that we have a proper balance of different points of view. The question was asked about whether we have non-believers in global warming involved. Yes, provided they have the research record, publications to their credit and have done scientific work on the subjects for which they are being considered; they are included. We certainly do not include armchair critics who may be critics just for the sake of criticising the science that is produced. That is the manner in which we select the authors of the report as well as the reviewers.

  Q153Lord Lamont of Lerwick: We understand that once the main report has been done there is then a review process, once the chapters have been drafted. I wonder if you could tell us about that and how the reviewers are selected. Are they and the lead authors paid? Do you believe that the review process really does achieve its objectives?

  Dr Pachauri: The good thing about the IPCC is that nobody is paid for his or her labour. It is essentially a labour of love. The only payments that the IPCC makes are in respect of travel expenses for people coming from developing countries and economies in transition. There is no compensation provided for all the labour that the authors provide. The reviewers are also selected on the basis of nominations that are received. There is a two stage review process that is followed. In the first stage, there are expert reviewers, again drawn from the nominations that are received. They carry out a detailed review of each of the chapters which have been drafted. Their comments are incorporated in the next draft and the next draft is sent to governments. Governments can either review it themselves or they will seek experts in their own countries to carry out the review. They send back a set of comments which are now considered all over again and brought to the attention of the authors. Then each one of these is dealt with specifically and in a very transparent manner. I would like to believe that this is a very fair, very objective and transparent process.

  Q154Lord Sheldon: You mentioned that there are non-believers in IPCC. Could you give us some sort of estimate as to how the numbers compare with the others? What are the numbers of non-believers and believers, so that we can see how representative each of these groups is?

  Dr Pachauri: It is very difficult to draw a distinction. Basically, you have all shades of opinion that are brought together, let us say, to work on a particular chapter. It is very seldom that everyone agrees on a particular point of view. If we talk about the impacts of climate change on agriculture, there is a whole range of agricultural experts that are drawn into this business and each one of them has a substantial amount of research to his or her credit. They do not necessarily agree with each other but the strength of the IPCC lies in arriving at a consensus. They spend substantial time together; they exchange a draft; they exchange views. The IPCC—I should have clarified this right at the beginning—does not carry out any research of its own. It relies entirely on peer reviewed, published literature. Of course, we do refer to something that you might call "grey" literature which would be proceedings of workshops, including those that are carried out by business and industry. Given that we access literature in different languages and different parts of the world and that we have authors with very diverse experience, you seldom have an identity of views when you bring them together but, at the end of the process, they do arrive at a consensus.

  Q155Lord Sheldon: Can you give us an indication of the number of such people altogether who have given information to you?

  Dr Pachauri: I am sorry; I would not be able to classify believers versus non-believers.

  Q156Lord Sheldon: No; in total.

  Dr Pachauri: For the fourth assessment report we have a total of about 500 authors who are going to be working on this project.

  Q157Chairman: Does this not then put an enormous premium on the people who summarise the chapters at the end of the day? How is that monitored and how do you get that right? The bits that the politicians read are the summaries of these things, as I understand it.

  Dr Pachauri: That is a different product altogether. What we have is something called a synthesis report. The manner in which these reports are produced is, first, you have these three working group reports. Each one of them has a very clearly accepted outline and this outline is presented to the plenary which is essentially a grouping of 192 countries, theoretically. Based on those outlines, we have chapter teams that have been allocated specific tasks. They function together and they are serviced by what is known as the technical support unit of each working group. It is essentially a team effort and it goes through these various stages. At the end of the day, the reviewer also looks at what the original outline was that gets accepted by the plenary and the panel as a whole. If there is something that is missing by way of coverage, that is also brought to the attention of the writing teams. The synthesis report is written only after the working group reports have been completed and accepted. Based on that, we draw up a synthesis report which is essentially a summary of the key findings of each of the working group reports. There are two parts of the synthesis report. There is a Policy Makers' Summary where every single word is approved by the plenary, the 192 countries that are members of the IPCC. As far as the report itself is concerned, which incidentally this time around will be about 30 pages, it is accepted paragraph by paragraph by the plenary, so there is hardly any likelihood of something that is indefensible going into the reports.

  Q158Lord Lawson of Blaby: This Committee is very anxious, because this is such a difficult and important issue and so much of it is in dispute, to maximise the area of agreement. With that in view, may I read to you something that Professor Lindzen of MIT, who was one of our witnesses last week, said: "The disagreement is not over whether temperature has been changing. Almost everyone agrees somewhere around the order of a half degree change over the last century." That is agreed, is it?

  Dr Pachauri: 0.6 degrees is what we estimate.

  Q159Lord Lawson of Blaby: Is there an agreement over how much of that 0.6 degrees was in the first half of the century and how much in the second and, if so, can you tell us?

  Dr Pachauri: The bulk of it took place in the second half of the century. The third assessment clearly brought out the finding that the bulk of the increase took place in the last 50 years.

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