Scientist admits climate errors were 'embarrassing'

One of President Barack Obama's leading scientific advisers has criticised the UN body overseeing the science of climate change, describing the errors and sloppy mistakes which have affected public confidence in climate science as "an embarrassment".

Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that the fundamental science of climate change had not been affected by the errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and the "totality" of the scientific assessments was still sound.

"[The IPCC] has had a wake-up call and it is taking steps to address the mistakes that were made and to ensure that they don't happen again," Dr Lubchenco said. "I think it is important to recognise there were errors ... but that those errors are very few relative to the thousands of conclusions that are in the report."

The 2007 report of the IPCC working group 2 said the Himalayan glaciers were likely to have melted by 2035, a statement based on speculation. Other parts of the report were based on non-peer reviewed literature.

"I think the existence of any errors at all is an embarrassment, and the leaders of the IPCC are absolutely committed to examining the processes and checks and balances that are in place to make it as error-free as is humanly possible. Scientists working on the next IPCC have had very intense serious discussions about how to improve the process, how to make it even better," Dr Lubchenco said.

"It's also important to note that despite those errors, the totality of the IPCC is robust and that the conclusions that the Earth is warming and that humans are largely responsible for most of the warming in the last few decades, those conclusions do not rest on any single analysis or any single dataset or any single of the thousands of conclusions," she said. "The fundamental conclusions of the IPCC remain robust."