Lawrence Solomon
Financial Post

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The past chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has joined the growing list of IPCC critics. According to the Sunday Telegraph, Rajendra Pachauri, the disgraced current IPCC chair, now faces criticism from his immediate predecessor, Robert Watson. The Telegraph reports that Watson “stressed that the chairman must take responsibility for correcting errors.” In another indication that Watson is taking pains to distance himself from the organization he once headed, the Sunday Times, in a story entitled Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility, reports that Watson warned the IPCC that it must tackle its blunders.

Watson’s comments come on the heels of another glaring embarrassment to come out of the IPCC, this time a claim that global warming could cut crop production in north Africa by up to 50% by 2020. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change,” Watson stated. “I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report.”
In this latest high-profile IPCC gaffe, which has been repeated around the world, including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the IPCC seems to have relied on a 2003 report from a Winnipeg-based think tank called the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The report, which was not peer-reviewed, in turn seems to have relied on submissions to the UN by civil servants from Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which also appear not to have been peer-reviewed.

Apart from his post as past IPCC chair, Watson is also the UK’s highest level environmental scientist, as Chief Scientist at the UK’s environment ministry. Prior to his current position, which he assumed in 2007, Watson was Chair of Environmental Science and Science Director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia, the same university caught up in the Climategate scandal.

Watson’s new-found scepticism of the science being produced by the IPCC represents an ironic reversal. In 2002, he remarked that “The only person who doesn’t believe the science is President Bush.”