Can Climate Forecasts Still Be Trusted?

"We see, in our databases, significant evidence for a correlation between climate change and the increase in natural disasters," says Ernst Rauch, director of German insurer Munich Re's "Corporate Climate Centre." Unlike scientists, he adds, the insurance industry cannot wait until all doubts have been set aside. "We are a business operation that has to act today," says Rauch. He also points out that his company is "extremely satisfied" with the conclusions of the IPCC report. This is hardly surprising: A 2005 publication by Munich Re served as one of the sources for the IPCC's cautionary predictions.

Climatologists are now calling for reforms. Pielke, for example, is concerned about the way authors and peer reviewers work, how they are appointed by the IPCC and how literature is used that, as in the case of the Himalayan glacier, does not come from peer-reviewed professional journals.

One of the problems is that working for the IPCC is a time-consuming honorary appointment for scientists. "This means that it is not always the best people in their field who are willing to contribute their time and effort," says epidemiologist Reiter.

On the other hand, the community is sometimes reluctant to include troublesome critics in its efforts. For instance, when the IPCC recently set up a special working group to address natural disasters, the US government nominated ecologist Pielke. The IPCC declined to appoint him.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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