The United Nations is to announce an independent review of errors made by its climate change advisory body in an attempt to restore its credibility.
A team of the world’s leading scientists will investigate the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and ask why its supposedly rigorous procedures failed to detect at least three serious overstatements of the risk from global warming.
The review will be overseen by the InterAcademy Council, whose members are drawn from the world’s leading national science academies, including Britain’s Royal Society, the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The review will be led by Robbert Dijkgraaf, co-chairman of the Interacademy Council and president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has been asked to investigate the internal processes of the IPCC and will not consider the overarching question of whether it was right to claim that human activities were very likely to be causing global warming.
The review, which will be announced in New York by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, and Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, is expected to recommend stricter checking of sources and much more careful wording to reflect the uncertainties in many areas of climate science.
The IPCC’s most glaring error was a claim that all Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. Most glaciologists believe it would take another 300 years for the glaciers to melt at the present rate.
It also claimed that global warming could cut rain-fed North African crop production by up to 50 per cent by 2020. A senior IPCC contributor has since admitted that there is no evidence to support this claim.
The Dutch Government has asked the IPCC to correct its claim that more than half the Netherlands is below sea level. The environment ministry said that only 26 per cent of the country was below sea level.
The allegations about climate scientists are believed to have contributed to a sharp rise in public scepticism about climate change. Last month an opinion poll found that the proportion of the population that believes climate change is an established fact and largely man-made has fallen from 41 per cent in November to 26 per cent.
The Met Office, which produces the global temperature record used by the IPCC in its reports, has proposed a separate review of its data after admitting that public confidence in its findings had been undermined.
The Met Office relies on analysis by the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, which is under investigation over allegations that its director manipulated raw data and tried to hide it from critics.