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The IPCC has served its purpose. Do we still need it to serve our purposes?
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The IPCC has served its purpose. Do we still need it to serve our purposes?

the IPCC has served its purpose, so do we still need it?


In 1990, there were Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeThe IPCC issued its first assessment report about the state of climate science. The sixth assessment report’s summary will be available later in the year. We can see the messages: climate change is having adverse consequences. We must reduce emissions immediately. Is the IPCC still valid after all this time?

I recently organized a meeting to address this issue. WebinarTwo IPCC authors who have been around for a long time are featured in this article Lisa Schipper Mark PellingThey were joined by Silke Beckwho has been researching the IPCC from 1994 to date without ever contributing directly to it, just like me. My UCL colleague, a prominent climate change researcher Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson chaired.

What is the IPCC?

The United Nations created and operates the IPCC. It synthesizes and evaluates the science of climate change, both natural and man-caused, as well as the risks and impacts, and the options and consequences of taking action. All reports must be approved by the governments and scientists of the IPCC. They are not afraid to express their opinions Trying to remove material.

The IPCC publishes many reports. The most prominent of these are the full assessment reports published every five to seven year. The latest one is available here. The sixthFollowing a COVID-19-related delays,, has been published. The entire technical report covering three working groups is over 2,000 pages. It is intended to be policy-relevant and policy neutral, but not prescriptive.

A headline-grabbing “Summary for Policy Makers” from each working group usually spans dozens of pages. It must be politically acceptable, and it tends to diverge slightly from the carefully nuanced science. One analysis called it “the potentially least robust aspect of the Assessment Report process”.

The story is the exact same

Over the years, the baseline message hasn’t really altered, especially in terms of public perception that, in summary; humans are changing the climate rapidly and substantively. Consider the BBC’s online news reporting, for instance. The first sentence of its Coverage of the fourth IPCC assessment 2007. termed human causation of climate change “very likely”.

How the BBC covered the IPCC’s 2007 report.
BBC News

Its report The fifth assessment of the 2013 IPCC began “scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s”. Last year’s story about the IPCC sixth assessment, written by the same reporter, started “Human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways”. In 14 years, we went from being extremely confident to being completely confident.

Is the IPCC necessary?

While we are confident about the basics, many aspects of climate science remain unknown or unsolved. There are many challenges. The role of cloudsTo The application of economic models. These gaps should not prevent us from taking action based upon what we know about science.

Today, the IPCC is not much of a contributor to climate change science. All three webinar speakers agreed that IPCC had fulfilled its original purpose. But they raised fundamental concerns regarding who is involved, whose voices are heard, and the effort required to attempt to fulfil the IPCC’s mandate (and not quite get there). Although the IPCC has made important progress towards a wider representation, it still has a long way to go before it can include all of its members, indigenous peoples.

Speakers also suggested the IPCC’s reports are too technocratic and placed too much Faith in technology. A conflict of interests can sometimes arise when IPCC authors synthesize or assess their own published science.

Limitations in the IPCC’s process were flagged too. It is difficult within the mandate to reach real consensus and consistency. The IPCC aims for balanced, diverse and representative authorship but it doesn’t always succeed. Even in regional representation. The work is not paid, which favors authors who are willing and able to give their time.

People in press conference facing cameras

It’s a big deal: The IPCC scientists launch the 2022 climate mitigation report.
Mark Speight/ IPCC/ flickr, CC BY – SA

Authors build relationships and are perceived as having a lot of prestige. However, the impact on careers can not always be good. Schipper lamented: “It has taken a huge amount of our time. And, for instance, my contract is expiring in Oxford because I haven’t had time to find research funding because I’ve been so engaged with the IPCC process.” It can be even worse for authors based in unsupportive countries or where the IPCC’s messages do not sit well with their governments.

People who don’t have a solid grasp of climate change science tend to be less knowledgeable. Honor the IPCCas a beacon for truth and authenticity. The process is not complete without knowing the mandate. Relations of power, Knowledge biasesMany people see the IPCC and its inconsistencies as an untouchable icon. They don’t see the Bureaucracy Strong personalitiesAs much as the science, the reports can be shaped.

Can the IPCC move ahead?

The speakers did not want to abandon the IPCC on this stage. Instead, they wanted to see constructive change. They were especially eager to Enhance science-policy interaction. This means policy makers must be open to science, which everyone agreed is not always the case.

While countries may edit out mentions, Negative portrayals of themselves are not encouragedIt could be beneficial to have more specific and targeted reports, even at country level. The most useful reports were those that were shorter and more focused.

These would not just reduce the time gap between reports but would also help to avoid the impossibility for reviewing the mass of science being published. Searching One academic publisherThere are 33 papers published each day that have been peer-reviewed and relate to climate change.

Rather than adopting their advice, the webinar’s speakers noted how the IPCC continues to move toward longer reports, more complicated rules, and increasingly futile attempts to embrace all the published science. Together, substantive action must be taken to address human-caused global warming. You must succeedThe seventh IPCC assessment report will not be complete until then.

The IPCC may not have galvanized the required responses. It might instead confirm that we could have acted but it is too late.


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