Goverments around the world have been asked by IPCC to think about the future of the IPCC. The Netherlands now sent their submission to the IPCC and made it available on the website of KNMI.
I would say Holland is fairly critical about how IPCC is operating right now. This part struck me as most interesting:
The IPCC needs to adjust its principles. We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change. The Netherlands is also of the opinion that the word ‘comprehensive’ may have to be deleted, because producing comprehensive assessments becomes virtually impossible with the ever expanding body of knowledge and IPCC may be more relevant by producing more special reports on topics that are new and controversial.
I agree with both points. The (almost) obsession of IPCC with greenhouse forcing has greatly limited progress in climate science in my opinion, so I am glad my government now raises this point. And in my (Dutch) book De Staat van het Klimaat I concluded that IPCC in AR4 had not succeeded to come up with a “comprehensive” report. I also agree IPCC should pay much more attention to controversial topics. The treatment of controversial topics in AR4 and also AR5 was and is unsatisfactory for two reasons: there is not enough space reserved to go into the necessary details and the author teams are almost always biased in favor of the consensus view and therefore not giving enough credit to minority views.
The Netherlands also want to make an end to the huge volumes IPCC is producing and replace it by shorter web based (special) reports:
The IPCC needs more transparent, focused and up-to-date assessments. The use of the internet continues to expand. It would be easier to keep IPCC assessments up to date if they would be fully web-based. Digitalisation also increases the transparency of the reports. For example, in addition to internal links in the SPM to the underlying chapters (already done for AR4), links can be added in the chapters to the relevant parts of scientific publications to simplify the accessibility to the sources.
The assessment should be more dynamic by regular updates of the chapters, with only one round of expert review, and by shortening the assessment cycle. The reports are currently perceived to be quite dated already a few years after they have been published.
Again I agree with the new format. Also Holland wants to merge WGI and WGII into one working group:
two working groups instead of three. For example, it is possible to expand WGI to include WGII subjects that are closely connected to the information in WGI. An example is the SREX special report, where climate extremes and risk-based information are combined. WGIII would then include adaptation and mitigation measures and their environmental impacts. In this way there would be two working groups, which would shorten the cycle but will also to improve the consistency in the assessment cycle and facilitates the synthesis. A separate Synthesis Report would not be needed if the second WG would synthesize its information with the first WG, also in its summaries.
Without mentioning his name The Netherlands make clear that they would like to see Pachauri retire. They prefer “having an organization that is led by an Executive Director” instead of an elected chair. “An Executive Director could also more easily be a policy-neutral spokesperson than an elected Chair”, they write, thereby implicitly referring to Pachauri who is renowned for making policy statements.
So in general I am very happy with the advice and I am convinced that the IPCC would greatly improve if all these points will be brought into practice. The only thing I am really missing is the explicit advice to involve skeptics in the process. This was actually the main advice in my book: add two skeptics to each lead author team to keep the mainstream scientists honest. This simple advice is the only way IPCC can ever become more balanced and objective. However, congratulations to the Dutch government for taking this critical stance.