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Climate panel under more scrutiny -

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Climate panel under more scrutiny

Simon Lauder reported this story on Monday, February 1, 2010 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The credibility of the world's climate change authority has taken another hit today,
with accusations that it based a claim about disappearing forests on a report by environmental
activists.

The IPCC cited a report by the environment group WWF to back the claim that large tracts of
Amazonian forests will disappear because of diminishing rainfall. An expert on the topic says that
the UN body's conclusion is still sound, but a leading climate change sceptic says people now have
real reason to doubt climate change scientists. The WWF says its own report didn't make the claim
in question.

Simon Lauder has our report.

SIMON LAUDER: For many years scientists struggled to have their concerns about climate change taken
seriously. Now that they've been heard, every detail in their paperwork is being scrutinised. That
scrutiny recently uncovered what the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change admits was a
mistake - it's claim that Himalayan glaciers will be melted by the year 2035.

Now an article in London's Sunday Times says carries the headline "UN climate panel shamed by bogus
rainforest claim". The article questions the IPCC's decision to cite a WWF report to support its
claim that 40 per cent of Amazonian forests could disappear as a response to declining rainfall and
even be replaced by tropical savannah.

The chief executive of WWF Australia Greg Bourne says that's not what the WWF report said and he
wants to know where the IPCC conclusion came from.

GREG BOURNE: My understanding is that in the Fourth Assessment Report whilst they were looking at
all the detail, they then cited one of our reports. A report from yes, the year 2000 and yes, it
was about forest fires.

SIMON LAUDER: Did they misinterpret it?

GREG BOURNE: My guess, Simon, is that they have misinterpreted or grabbed a piece of data which
probably shouldn't have been quoted in that particular way but I guess the key thing to me is that
when you are compiling from thousands of pieces of information, a report as big as the Fourth
Assessment Report, they will occasionally make the small mistakes and this I think was a small
mistake and we'll look into where the quotation came from and I am sure IPCC will as well.

SIMON LAUDER: The revelation that the panel cited a paper from a campaign group plays into the
arguments of vocal climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton.

CHRISTOPHER MONCKTON: The game is up. The science is in. The truth is out. The scare is over.

SIMON LAUDER: Lord Monckton, who is in Australia for a speaking tour has questioned whether members
of the panel are profiting from climate change mitigation initiatives.

CHRISTOPHER MONCKTON: There is now growing doubt about whether one can trust the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor William Laurance from James Cook University has been studying Amazonian
forests for 14 years. He says the IPCC's conclusion is sound, but it's been undermined by sloppy
paperwork.

WILLIAM LAURANCE: I think that the IPCC's foundations here for saying that large expanses of the
Amazon are vulnerable you know, rest on a very strong footing and in fact I would say the figure 40
per cent is probably conservative.

SIMON LAUDER: And is that backed up peer-reviewed papers?

WILLIAM LAURANCE: Definitely. There is a whole array. Our own work published in major scientific
journals and these include some of the world leading journals like Nature, Science, Ecology,
Conservation Biology. I mean these are among the world's most eminent scientific journals. There is
many, many works that have been published providing the foundation for what I have just been
describing.

SIMON LAUDER: So what is the IPCC doing, do you think, citing references from non-peer-reviewed,
campaign-group-backed papers when it has got all this science for the same conclusions.

WILLIAM LAURANCE: Yeah, I honestly don't know about that. The IPCC has clearly made a mistake here.
They have cited something that is not a primary reference and obviously it has weakened the IPCC's
assertion.

People such as, sounds like certain journalists are picking on that and saying look, you are not
basing this on as strong a foundation as you could and that creates, obviously the potential for
doubting the IPCC's overall conclusions.

SIMON LAUDER: The chief executive of WWF Australia Greg Bourne agrees that the IPCC risks damaging
its own credibility.

GREG BOURNE: There is no doubt about it. It is embarrassing for the IPCC but the climate sceptics
are attacking the detail because the big picture in unequivocal and they cannot attack that.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the chief executive of WWF Australia Greg Bourne, speaking to Simon Lauder in
Melbourne.