A couple of people have asked me this – I think it came up in Ask Stoat (I haven’t forgotten, you know, just busy). Anyway, it seems like a great post – bound to be flamebait and get my comment count soaring!
You won’t be too shocked to learn that I think it should be reformed, not dissolved. But how?
[Update: some of this gets quoted in http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/10/ipcc-reform -W]
First of all, I think the WG I, II and II should be separated more. The WG I report should be done first. Then WG II and III should have their own timescales – perhaps running about a year or two behind WG I – and this makes sense because WG II and III need to use the output from WG I. It has been obvious to everyone for years that this would be sensible. WG II and III folk don’t like it because they wouldn’t get to ride on the WG I coattails the way they can now. Oh, and ditch the synthesis report, which is useless.
So why hasn’t this been done already? That brings in the second bit of reform: political considerations sometimes overriding the science. Having WG II come out at the same time as I is clear evidence that the Wrong People are in charge of the timetable: that should be fixed. To a lesser extent this problem exists with the WG I SPM, too. But I think it is inevitable that there will be enormous and pointless fighting over the exact wording. And to some extent, desireable. The science is done by the scientists. The SPM headlines, that the politicians are going to have to act on, will have some political spin (and before the septics run wild, let me add that the spin so far has been always in the toning-things-down direction). Better written just by scientists, but too hard to manage to be worth wasting much time arguing about.
Make the whole thing less heavyweight and more selective. At the moment, getting your model run into the IPCC report is a badge of having Made It, which is why something like a quarter of the models in the AR4 are a bit crap, and some are awful. Everyone knows which are the good ones, though :-). And if we’re being honest, we don’t need that many modelling centres either. Too many modelling schedules are then driven by getting into the next report. Too many peoples papers are aimed at being the right degree of sexiness to fit in. And just too much good scientist time goes into preparation of the report. Perhaps they should just say less, and leave more in the papers. Stop repeating yourself: stuff that was basically right in the AR4 doesn’t need to be said again in the AR5.
Stir up the WG II (and III?) people somewhat. While some of WG II is fine, it is clear that some sections have been edited by people who should not have been trusted by the job. It looks to me like some third world folk have been thrown their geographical section as a sop; it should be done more on merit. At the very least, get someone competent to review the edit comments for their sections.
[In support of the “some models are better than others” bit, I’ve found my connolley_bracegirdle_07_AR4_Ant_assess.pdf -W]