Thoughts about the IPCC

In last week's Nature, the editors asked five climate scientists for their suggestions on how and whether the IPCC needed to be reformed. "Their suggestions range from reaffirming the panel's governing principles to increasing the number and speed of its publications to replacing the volunteer organization with a permanently staffed structure."

On Sunday, the folks at RealClimate offer their own assessment of recent events:

Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various "gates" - Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess - it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors. (emphasis added)
I'm afraid I have to disagree with the folks at RealClimate on that highlighted point. Granted, they have a lot more experience in dealing with the media than I, but it seems to me that if the media makes errors in reporting science, it is our responsibility as scientists to hold them accountable. We can't get the stories out without the journalist's help.3 We can't write and publish the stories, but we can and should contact journalists who get stories wrong (and their editors). What right have we to complain about errors in news coverage if we do nothing to correct them?
On a related note, ScienceInsider has an excellent analysis of recent controversies swirling around the IPCC.
3Well, we can on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, but to get the corrections into traditional media, we'll have to depend on professional journalists.