Dutch agency affirms IPCC findings

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A Dutch inquiry into the  seminal 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found “no errors that would undermine the main conclusions” about predictions of the negative effects of climate change.

But the report by the  Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency added that the “foundation for some of these conclusions could have been made more transparent.”

The Dutch government agency’s report was commissioned by the Dutch parliament in the wake of  “climategate” scandals, in which the IPCC’s report was alleged to contain several errors, and climate scientists from the UK’s University of East Anglia were separately alleged to have exchanged emails in which they encouraged one another to distort climate science. A report into the East Anglia email scandal is due out tomorrow.

Investigating potential flaws in the IPCC report, the Dutch agency found 35 inaccuracies over the one-third of the 3,000-page excerpt that it studied. In the most relevant error to the agency, it accepted responsibility for the erroneous claim by the IPCC that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level; only 26 percent is below sea level. The report should have said 55 percent is prone to flooding, but the agency did not make this clear when it provided the data to the IPCC in 2005. Of the other mistakes, it found that several were either typos, citation errors, or minor problems in interpreting ranges of uncertainty.  The IPCC  accepted 12 of the mistakes, and marked them as incorrect on its website.

“The errors do not affect the whole construction,” Maarten Hajer, the Dutch agency’s director said at a news conference, according to the AP.

However, Hajer also said that the IPCC should in future reports ”be careful making generalizations” and said that the UN body’s summaries tended to emphasise “worst-case scenarios.”

The agency’s report makes a number of recommendations for the IPCC, including setting up a public website for the submission of information on possible errors, additional funding for staff to assist with quality control, and taking greater care with public statements, according to a BBC summary.

In a news release, the IPCC welcomed the Dutch report, saying it confirmed the centrality of the intergovernmental panel’s work in climate science, and vowed to “pay close attention to its recommendations.

Martin Parry, a leading IPCC author and professor at Imperial College London, told The Financial Times that the report had vindicated climate scientists: “There have been a very small number of near-trivial errors in an extremely dense report,” he said.

“We welcome the conclusions, which is essentially that our conclusions are safe, sound and reliable,” he later told the BBC.