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White paper aims to raise standards and accountability of climate services

A Loughborough University professor and community of practitioners have published a draft white paper calling for an ethical framework for the climate services.

As awareness grows of the potential threats and opportunities posed by climate change, nations and agencies worldwide are increasingly looking to invest in preventative measures. But with increased demand and new commercial opportunities comes greater scope for malpractice and maladaptation.

Misuse and misrepresentation of climate services, such as failure to disclose research limitations and putting commercial interests ahead of human security can result in costly and potentially life-threatening consequences.

In the white paper Toward an ethical framework for climate services Professor Rob Wilby and colleagues Peter Adams (Acclimatise), Erika Eitland (Harvard University), Bruce Hewitson (University of Cape Town), Catherine Vaughan and Stephen Zebiak (both Columbia University) outline four cornerstones of the ethical framework: integrity, transparency, humility and collaboration.

Rob Wilby, Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling in Loughborough University’s Department of Geography said:

“The World Bank estimates that $75-100 billion per year over the next 40 years is needed to protect us from the worldwide negative effects of dangerous climate change[1]. But if these projects are based on inaccurate data or unreliable products, there is significant potential to cause harm or waste money.

“As climate scientists, we have a responsibility to ensure the information we provide is as accurate as possible; we must ensure our methods and data are transparent and fit for purpose.

“The white paper is intended to start a conversation on ethics in the climate services community. Our hope is that it will one day become the hallmark of quality and integrity for products and practise in the sector.”

The white paper has already been endorsed by organisations including the Red Cross, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and the Global Framework for Climate Services. It has been reported in the latest WMO bulletin which coincides with this month's 2015 United Nations conference on climate change in Paris.

Members of the climate services community are being invited to feed back on the paper at www.climate-services.org/ethics