Research highlight

Conflict of interest in IPCC assessment reports

Nature Climate Change

July 18, 2011

The publication in June of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) was greeted by claims that it was biased because of a conflict of interest in the panel assessing the data. Two opinion articles published online this week in Nature Climate Change argue the case, and look ahead at the implementation of a new policy regulating assessment transparency and fairness in the IPCC.

UK-based climate change commentator and author Mark Lynas asserts that the involvement of Sven Teske, a Greenpeace campaigner, in the panel that assessed data — including Greenpeace reports — for inclusion in the SRREN report "gave the appearance that he might have had an unfair influence over the content of the report." The bias issue chips away at the credibility of the SRREN report, Lynas argues.

In response, Ottmar Edenhofer — who is Co-Chair of Working Group III, which produced the SRREN report — says that including Teske helps reflect the wide range of scientifically credible views on the topics it assesses. Edenhofer says that IPCC's experts consider large bodies of literature that "will often include some of their own work as leading experts in an area will have contributed to the relevant literature." This does not represent a conflict of interest, he says.

doi: 10.1038/nclimate1177

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