Senior Chinese climatologist calls for reform of IPCC

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Lü Xuedu, the deputy director general of the National Climate Centre and a Chinese delegate to the Copenhagen conference, said the use of flawed projections about the speed of melting of Himalayan glaciers and recent allegations that scientists blocked criticism proved there are problems with the way some IPCC documents are assessed and checked.

Although he stressed support for the IPCC, of which China is an active participant, Lü said the young institution needed to strengthen its credibility.

“The IPCC is still in a developing stage. It cannot be perfect or complete. It needs reform, especially after problems were exposed,” he said. “Some scientists take a political stance and wear coloured glasses, which means they do not look at issues in a comprehensive and objective way. The managing institute, authors and contributors of the assessment reports should be more objective in order to be more convincing.”

However, he rejected calls for the resignation of the IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri, who has admitted it was wrong to include a prediction that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

“I have full confidence that he can lead the IPCC,” said Lü. “The assessment reports involved so many materials and people that it is impossible for them to be perfect. As long as the IPCC officially admits problems, it is positive.”

Chinese scientists have long been critical of the now-rejected claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035, though there is wide acceptance that the glaciers in Urumqi in north-east China and elsewhere are shrinking, albeit at a slower pace.

The National Climate Centre is a state body that has a strong influence on China’s position on the science of climate change.

The government accepts that global warming is taking place, that China is affected and that, despite uncertainties about the degree of human responsibility, the country should take action to mitigate the impact as a responsible member of the international community.

Lü suggested confidence in the IPCC could be improved if the organisation drew on a wider range of sources, invested in research institutions in developing nations and more-carefully cross-checked “grey literature” that is not peer-reviewed.

“The majority of the IPCC’s references came from Europe and North America. Developing countries also want their voices to be heard in the drafting stage,” he said.

Many Chinese scientists, all funded by the government, remain wary of global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and question whether even a 2C rise in the world’s temperature will be as calamitous as the IPCC has predicted.

“The equivalent of climate sceptics in the west are the climate conspiracy theorists in China, who believe this is all part of a western plot against China,” said Yang Ailun of Greenpeace.