U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern says ‘fundamental science’ supports Copenhagen Accord despite IPCC mistakes

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern on Tuesday said that “overwhelming” evidence supports the science of climate change, despite the controversy over flawed data in reports by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“We consider the fundamental science on this issue to be quite clear,” Stern said.

“The mounting evidence on the ground of what’s actually happening, and the growing sophistication of the modeling goes way beyond any particular set of data or any particular set of problems that occurred with regard to East Anglia or some mistakes in the IPCC.”

Stern spoke at the Center for American Progress, where he reiterated his support for December’s Copenhagen Accord and a further legally binding international agreement. Ninety-two of the 194 nations at COP-15 have submitted materials to the accord, which is not binding.

“The accord certainly doesn’t do everything,” Stern said. “It is, I would say, more sketch than painting, but it shows the way forward in a number of important ways.”

The IPCC has come under fire since it was revealed that data suggesting that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 was false. The IPCC used the data in its Copenhagen report despite the fact that chairman Rajendra Pachauri was aware of its falsity.

In a blow to international IPCC influence, India recently organized its own panel to investigate climate change, and on Feb. 9, the U.S. announced its intentions to create a new government entity to monitor the climate.

“It’s obviously not useful when mistakes are made, but the overwhelming body of evidence is not disturbed by those events,” said Stern.

Robert Watson, a former chairman of the IPCC, told the Times that the panel could lose its credibility if it does not work to correct its mistakes.

International climate negotiations are set to restart next December in Cancun, Mexico, but Stern was reluctant to guarantee that an agreement would be reached.

“I hope that we can get to a full legal treaty in December, but I’m not going to make any predictions one way or the other,” he said. “I’m also not going to fall into the trap of saying if it’s not that, we’ve got a failure.”

Stern acknowledged the difficulty in asking global nations to pass climate change when the U.S. has not passed its own legislation.

“Congress needs to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year,” Stern said. “This is something we must do for our own good. It would be hugely important if there was no international negotiation.”

Stern acknowledged high expectations leading into the December summit that fell short of the U.S. goal of drafting a legally binding agreement among the 194 countries present.

“Expectations were beyond what was actually happening on the ground,” he said.

Watch a segment of Stern’s talk below: