IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs, P.R. Shukla and Jim Skea, discuss some of the big achievements of 2017, and what to expect from Working Group III in the year to come.
2017 was a year of firsts for the IPCC: The first Lead Author Meetings of this cycle’s Special Reports took place in March (Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C) and October (Special Reports on Climate Change and Land and on Oceans and the Cryosphere). The First Order Draft of the 1.5°C report went out for expert review over the summer. It generated nearly 13,000 comments by hundreds of experts from around the world. These fed directly into the Second Order Draft that is currently under review.
These are no small feats and are the product of months and years of planning and preparation.
In 2018, we will pick up the pace: the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the first IPCC report of this cycle, is due for approval in October 2018 and there is a range of meetings and conferences in the pipeline. Here are just a few of the Working Group III activities that will be coming up this year:
The author teams that will draft the Working Group III contribution to AR6 will be announced soon, following their selection at the IPCC Working Group III Bureau meeting at the end of January. This will be the start of the next big assessment of the science related to the mitigation of climate change.
In March, scientists, practitioners and policymakers will come together for
the CitiesIPCC conference in Edmonton, Canada to inspire the next frontier of research focused on the science of cities and climate change. The conference aims to assess the state of academic and practice-based knowledge related to cities and climate change, and to establish a global research agenda to help fill knowledge key gaps across the academic, practitioner and urban policy-making communities.
The following week, we will attend, along with other IPCC Bureau members, the 47th plenary session of the IPCC in Paris, France. This session is expected to consider the participation of developing countries in IPCC, the alignment of the cycles of the IPCC and the Paris Agreement global stocktake, and author selection for the 6th assessment cycle.
Later that month, the authors of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land will meet in Christchurch, New Zealand, for their second Lead Author Meeting. Gaining a better understanding of the feedbacks between climate change and land was seen as a priority for governments at the start of this cycle and this meeting will be the opportunity for these authors to plan the First Order Draft of the Special Report. This will then be available for expert review in the summer.
In April, the fourth and final Lead Author Meeting of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C will take place in Gaborone, Botswana. At this meeting, the authors will discuss experts’ and governments’ comments on the Second Order Draft of the report and the first draft of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM), currently out for review. Following this meeting, the authors will produce a final version of the report, as well as an updated draft of the SPM that will be reviewed once more by Governments.
October will then see the approval session of the 1.5°C report, the first IPCC report of the cycle. The approval session will take place in time to inform
discussions and negotiations at the Talanoa Dialogue of the 24th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). At this critical meeting, Parties to the UNFCCC will participate in a facilitative dialogue on the collective efforts in relation to progress towards the goal of the Paris Agreement. IPCC has an important role to play in that dialogue.
These are but a few of the big milestones of the year, so we have a lot of work to do.
But 2018 is also a year of celebration as the IPCC turns 30. In 1988, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation established the IPCC.
For 30 years, it has provided policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
We hope that this year, and this cycle, will continue to do so and be more relevant than ever.
Jim Skea and P.R. Shukla, Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group III
Carlo Carraro is President Emeritus and Professor of Environmental Economics at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and President of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) for the biennium 2018-2019. He has worked as an IPCC Lead Author since 1995 and has been a Vice-Chair of Working Group III since 2008. In this post, he speaks about his research, the role of economics in the IPCC, and the challenges of meeting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement.
What is your research focus and how does that feed into your work at the IPCC?
My research focuses on modeling the interactions between climate and economic variables. Economic, social, technological and demographic dynamics determine climate change, whereas climate change has relevant impacts on economic and social systems. Understanding and modeling these interactions is crucial to design cost effective policies to control climate change and minimize its impacts.
What policy-relevant questions do economics models help us answer?
Economics models help prioritizing choices and identifying the crucial elements that can make climate change control possible and affordable. Economic models tell us how many resources should be invested in technological innovation, and/or in mitigation, and/or in adaptation. They tell us how to allocate these financial resources over time, across economics sectors, and in different world regions.
What is the distinctive contribution that economics can make to IPCC assessments?
Economics is the main pillar of IPCC assessments. Without an economic assessment, climate change would be considered as irrelevant by business leaders, policymakers and most citizens. Without an economic assessment, it would be difficult to identify the policies to be implemented to control climate change and its impacts. Without economic, technological and demographic scenarios, it would be impossible to predict future climate change.
What do you think is the greatest challenge in meeting the long-term aim of the Paris Agreement?
The greatest challenge is the development of technological innovation at a pace faster than climate change. We need a quick development and diffusion of energy efficient solutions in most sectors and all countries. We need affordable and large-scale solutions for energy storage and above all for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Climate is changing rapidly, more rapidly than expected by science in the past years. We need an even more rapid technological development, otherwise the Paris Agreement, and its subsequent revisions, will not be sufficient to limit temperature increase below 2°C.
How can the IPCC increase the policy relevance of its reports?
By using a different language and different communication tools. IPCC reports are largely incomprehensible to policymakers and to the large public that shape, through elections, policy decisions.
What is your favorite thing about being part of the IPCC, and what is most challenging?
My favorite thing is working in a very interdisciplinary, international, and diverse environment. There is always something new to learn. The most challenging one is to make IPCC work policy relevant and policy effective, where the word “policy” also refers to business strategies and decisions at all levels: cities, regions, sectors….
What is your best memory of your work with IPCC?
The scoping meeting of the Fifth Assessment Report that took place in Venice in 2009. Five days of good work and fun with outstanding colleagues.
What would you tell researchers who are thinking of getting involved in the IPCC?
To fight against IPCC rules and traditions. IPCC is a very conservative organization.
What is your favorite book?
One hundred years of solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez.
IPCC Working Group I Vice-Chair Jan Fuglestvedt writes about the importance of cross-disciplinary and cross-Working Group collaboration in the IPCC 6th assessment cycle.
After a long history of emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we are now in a situation where we observe deep and broad changes in the climate system. Consequently, we are facing a complex set of challenges: how to reduce the warming, how to adapt to the broad range of changes – and how this can be done within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
These challenges are huge, and knowledge is needed on a scale beyond what one single scientific discipline can provide alone. We need a solid and deep understanding of the climate and human systems and the interlinkages and couplings between them. This means that science – and the IPCC – cannot work in siloes.
Early in the sixth cycle, the IPCC took important steps towards a new way of working. It is now developing a more integrated approach to assessing the science related to climate change, one that can support these multi-perspective challenges.
How to enhance collaboration and integration
These new ambitions will require new modes of writing and new mechanisms to remove obstacles and to enhance contact across scientific borders – both within working groups and across working groups.
But we are not starting from scratch. In the Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), authors from three working groups and with a range of expertise worked together in new constellations. They produced an integrated report that was structured more by issue rather than by discipline.
In this cycle, the IPCC has many activities and several reports to prepare. Before the main reports come out, we will publish three special reports. These three special reports have already implemented a cross-Working Group mode of working – they are all cross-Working Group projects.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) is the first example of deep cross-Working Group collaboration in this cycle.
The IPCC’s report on Global Warming of 1.5°C
In Paris in December 2015, the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties, also known as COP21, invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of 1.5°C global warming above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. More knowledge about low-level temperature change scenarios was needed and it was a direct result of an increased ambition that emerged during the Paris negotiations. The IPCC accepted this invitation in April 2016.
This Special Report represents something entirely new – it involves the three IPCC Working Groups and the Co-Chairs of all three groups have joint scientific leadership.
The first main step in the production of this report was the scoping meeting in August 2016. The purpose of a scoping meeting is to develop a report’s overall structure, with chapters, topics and themes. A range of experts with a broad set of backgrounds were present at this meeting and the report was scoped in a way that will require input from several disciplines, and all Working Groups, within each chapter.
Having multi-disciplinary chapter author teams represents opportunities to develop new interfaces and ways of working across borders. This had previously been harder to achieve from an early stage in the assessment process.
At the first Lead author meeting for SR15 in early 2017, we immediately felt that this was a new way of working. Authors told us they felt inspired by having colleagues with different backgrounds within each chapter.
The first draft of the special report was reviewed by experts over the summer. We received 12,895 comments, by 489 experts from 61 countries, spanning a broad set of expertise. The Authors are now revising the chapters and producing a second order draft, which will be sent out for Government and Expert review in January. The authors will then produce a final draft and a Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that will be presented at the report’s approval session in October 2018. This will be in time to provide input to the Talanoa dialogue, the COP24 meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change next year, where countries will take stock of efforts since the Paris Agreement.
The cross-Working Group experience from SR15 gives a useful experience for the other two special reports, on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and on Climate Change and Land, both due to be approved in fall 2019. The author teams for these are established and are now working towards their first order drafts.
The collaborative experience of SR15 will also be useful for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), particularly the Synthesis Report.
Working across working groups for the main Assessment Report
In Montreal, Canada, in September 2017, the governments approved the outlines of the 6th Assessment Report for each Working Group. These outlines were developed at a scoping meeting in Addis Ababa in May 2017. 170 experts participated at that meeting. They came mainly from academia, but also from governments, NGOs and business.
It was an intense and packed week where participants operated together in full meetings, in Working Group meetings, in breakout groups and cross-Working Group meetings, all to achieve outlines that reflected new science, in an integrated way, across borders between disciplines and scientific communities.
The result of this process was a set of outlines that reflect the multiple dimensions of climate science and the stronger integration across disciplines and working groups. Some topics were highlighted as strongly based on integration across all three Working Groups (for example scenarios and mitigation pathways, Short-lived Climate Forcers (SLCF) and air quality). In addition, many topics will need collaboration between two Working Groups, for example remaining carbon budgets and regional projections and impacts.
Nearly 3000 experts were nominated as authors for the three Working Group reports of AR6. The IPCC Bureau is currently working on the selection, which will be finalized in early February. The real work will start when the first Lead Author Meeting for the Working Group I report takes place in late June 2018.
Clearly, IPCC is in a very busy cycle now. In addition to the three Special Reports, three AR6 Working Group reports and the Synthesis report, the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI) is writing a methodology report for calculations of emissions. Furthermore, the Working Groups and TFI are also in collaboration organizing experts meetings to support the coming reports. In May 2017 we organized an expert meeting on Mitigation, Sustainability and Climate Stabilization Scenarios, and two more expert meetings will take place in 2018: one on regional climate change and one on short-lived climate forcers (SLCF). In addition, there will be a conference on cities and climate change in March 2018.
Coordination within a working group
The challenges are not only related to working across Working Groups but also within one working Group. That has of course always been emphasized in previous assessment reports, but is becoming even more important with the new outlines and structures. It requires authors to work closer with their colleagues from other chapters.
This is particularly relevant for Working Group I, where there has been a significant change in structure compared to earlier reports. Some topics that have traditionally had separate chapters (e.g. aerosols and clouds, radiative forcing, model evaluation) will instead be discussed in the context where they are needed. For example, model evaluation will be an integrated part of the scenario chapter and radiative forcing will be used in several chapters for understanding past, present and future changes.
Several chapters have – as Working Group I Co-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte described it – an “end-to-end” approach. They will combine observations, paleoclimate, process studies, theory and modelling into a complete picture. They will essentially be a “one-stop-shop” for each topic and will require much more cross-chapter interaction. New perspectives and angles may be developed from this new approach but more efforts will also be needed to ensure that the reports are cohesive.
Supporting and paving the way to the Synthesis Report
At the scoping meeting in Addis Ababa, the IPCC bureau also started the preparations for the final and integrative report of the sixth assessment cycle: the IPCC Synthesis Report. This report will provide policymakers with the integrated high levels conclusions of the entire cycle. It will build on all the assessment reports coming out this cycle and will be published in time for the global stock take, the first of the five-yearly meetings of the Parties to the Paris Agreement to assess the collective progress towards achieving the long-term goals of the agreement.
Discussions at the AR6 scoping meeting took a holistic and policy perspective and led us to lay down some broad elements that could be included in the report. Five main topics were identified:
Interactions among emissions, climate, risks and development pathways
Economic and social costs and benefits of mitigation and adaptation in the context of development pathways
Adaptation and mitigation actions in the context of sustainable development
Finance and means of support
This set of topics will be further developed 2019, when a complete draft outline will be produced.
Inspiring engagement across and within communities
There have in the past been many fruitful interactions between IPCC and science communities, and this could be enhanced through more multi-disciplinary collaboration within the scientific community. The IPCC assesses the science related to climate change based on the scientific literature. For topics that lend themselves to a multi-disciplinary discussion, the more integrated the papers in the underlying peer-reviewed literature, the less additional integration needs to be done by the IPCC authors.
More integrated assessment work will also strengthen the communication of the IPCC findings, and there is also a drive to place a greater emphasis on effective communications within the IPCC. All three Working Groups’ Technical Support Units have hired communications experts responsible for communication strategies of the working groups and for improving the way IPCC communicates its findings. They will work closely across the Working Groups and with the communication staff in the Secretariat in Geneva.
Overall, 2017 was a very busy year for IPCC with the beginning stages of three special reports and scoping of the main AR6 report. The schedule for 2018 is already packed with important activities, with the finalization of SR15 and input to the Talanoa dialogue as important milestones. If you are interested in the science of climate change and the scientific input to the Paris process: Keep in touch – sign up for the Newsletters, follow us on twitter, visit our webpages, and read and review our reports.
Jan Fuglestvedt is Vice-Chair of IPCC Working Group I and Research Director at CICERO Center for International Climate Research. His research focuses on atmospheric chemistry and climate interactions, atmospheric modelling and climatic impacts of different human activities.
IPCC Working Group III recently launched a call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists to support the authors responsible for producing one of the three Special Reports coming out this cycle. The Working Group III Technical Support Unit talks about the role of Chapter Scientists in the IPCC process and how to get involved.
We are really excited about the launch of the call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists for a number of reasons. Not only is this an amazing opportunity to provide the critical support that SRCCL chapter teams need to manage a demanding workload in the production of this report, it is also a fantastic way of increasing Early Career Researcher involvement with the IPCC.
What is a Chapter Scientist?
A Chapter Scientist’s role is to provide technical support to a team of authors as they go through the intensive process of developing chapter content for an IPCC report. Day to day responsibilities can include anything from fact checking, to assisting with the development of figures and tables, and reference management.
Taking on the role of Volunteer Chapter Scientist is a great way for Early Career Researchers to gain important insights into what it means to work at the science-policy interface, to work first-hand with leading international experts, to build a global network of research contacts, and to learn about how the IPCC really works from an insider’s perspective.
Chapter Scientists have access to the cutting-edge literature that forms the underpinning of all IPCC reports. They are also invited to attend three Lead Author Meetings in different locations across the globe with the report authors. These meetings provide the chance for Chapter Scientists to participate in high-level chapter discussions of innovative concepts, to work alongside leading experts in their field and, to not only experience first-hand, but also develop the professionalism and leadership skills required to succeed within a global, multi-cultural research environment.
Chapter Scientists in previous IPCC cycles
In previous IPCC assessment cycles, Chapter Scientists have played an invaluable role in supporting author teams to develop and deliver high-quality IPCC products. Along with the author teams, Chapter Scientists dedicated their time to producing internationally renowned reports, which were ultimately used by governments all around the world as critical evidence to support the development of policies for the mitigation of climate change.
However, the IPCC has also heard that it needed to do better at improving regional representation within its process. Participation in the IPCC in general, and report authorship in particular, has not always been as diverse as possible, with developed countries being somewhat overrepresented in IPCC processes and products.
To be selected for this report, applicants must be citizens of and resident in a developing country (countries not included in Annex I of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). We are hopeful that by proactively engaging more Early Career Researchers from developing countries in the development of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land we can make a positive contribution to expanding the participation of developing countries in the IPCC, and incorporate some new voices into the report development process.
This is also a chance to build upon the groundwork laid in previous IPCC assessment cycles and provide a platform to proactively support the career progression of Early Career Scientists in developing countries.
Chapter Scientists and the Special Report on Climate Change and Land
For the Special Report on Climate Change and Land in particular, we are seeking to recruit Volunteer Chapter Scientists who have recently obtained, or are currently studying towards, a Masters degree or PhD in a subject related to the interface between climate change and land. To support the training of the next generation of assessment scientists, preference will be given to graduate students and recent graduates.
October 2017 was a busy month for the IPCC. With three Lead Author Meetings and the nomination of authors for the next big Assessment Report, the 6th assessment cycle is well and truly underway. Professor Jim Skea Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, talks about what’s in store for Working Group III this cycle.
What’s in store for the 6th assessment cycle
From the Kyoto protocol to the Paris Agreement, each IPCC cycle has fed directly into international decision-making. We expect that this cycle will be no different. More than ever, science and scientific evidence is playing a central role in policymaking at all levels.
Countries gave IPCC scientists a demanding workload this cycle. On top of the three Working Group Assessment Reports, governments have requested three Special Reports and an update on the methodology for calculating greenhouse gas inventories.
The first special report, on global warming of 1.5°C, is high profile and challenging. It will look at the impacts of a 1.5°C warmer world, and the pathways available to countries to stay below this temperature increase. The report will be agreed in time for the facilitative dialogue at COP24 in 2018, where the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take stock of the collective efforts in relation to progress towards the goal of the Paris Agreement.
Work on the other two Special Reports has also begun. One will focus on climate change and land, and the other on oceans and the cryosphere. These two reports will be agreed in 2019.
As in previous cycles, each Working Group will also publish its contribution to the overall Assessment Report. These will then be brought together in the Synthesis Report, which will be agreed in 2022. These reports will be published in time for the global stocktake on collective progress towards the Paris Agreement that will take place in 2023.
So there is plenty to keep us busy, and expectations are high. But we aren’t just doing more this cycle, we are also looking at how we can do things differently.
What’s new for the IPCC?
As the elected leadership of the IPCC, my fellow Co-Chairs and I set the strategic direction of the IPCC’s work.
At the start of this cycle, we set a number of aspirations for our work. We are placing a strong emphasis on making sure our reports are actionable.
We want to link climate change to the Sustainable Development Goals, enhance the participation of developing country experts, deepen engagement between Working Groups, link top-down and bottom-up scientific approaches and, crucially, enhance the relevance for policymakers charged with following through decisions made under the UN Framework. In this way, we hope that long-term, strategic thinking can be better aligned with shorter, policy-relevant timescales.
What’s in store for climate change mitigation in AR6?
In previous assessment cycles, Working Group III reports (those that assess options for reducing the rate at which climate change is happening, or climate change mitigation) were criticised for being too abstract. We heard that our reports focussed too much on the long-term, with no clear guidance on what immediate steps might be needed.
As the Co-Chairs of Working Group III, Professor Shukla and I have some specific objectives for this cycle. We are making efforts to:
Strengthen the links between the insights obtained from high level integrated assessment modelling and the concrete steps required to mitigate climate change
Increase policy relevance and neutrality by incorporating inputs from business, industry and finance
Connect to domestic challenges such as job creation, economic diversification, health, innovation and technology development, energy access and poverty alleviation
Include more insights from the social sciences
Embed communications from the start of the cycle.
There is a fantastic range of expertise on the Working Group III Bureau. We are supported by seven Vice-Chairs and a Technical Support Unit spread across two countries. We are all working hard to achieve these objectives.
Towards the 6th Assessment Report
In September 2017, the 195 government that make up the IPCC agreed the outline of the 6th Assessment Report. The report will be made of 17 chapters and will be anchored firmly in a narrative of sustainable development.
A series of sectoral chapters, including energy systems, buildings, transport and agriculture, will look at different aspects of climate change mitigation. A chapter on social aspects of mitigation will bridge the gap between the services that people need, and how different sectors can meet these needs.
We will look at institutional aspects, including national and international perspectives and finance. For the first time, the report will also look at the role of technology and innovation.
To further embed this report in “the real world”, we want to include case studies to demonstrate success stories across these different sectors.
Some challenges for Working Group III
Carbon dioxide is a long-lived gas, and temperature increases are roughly linearly correlated to the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This means that the longer we wait, the harder and the more expensive it will be to tackle climate change.
AR5 had a database of 1200 scenarios from integrated assessment models. These large models look at how socio-economic developments affect sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. Combined with climate models, these IAMs provide a range of possible scenarios for the future.
These models show the scale of the challenge ahead of us.
The 5th Assessment Report concluded that mitigating against climate change would require:
A more efficient use of our energy
Greater use of low or no carbon
Increasing sinks of greenhouse gases (for example reducing deforestation, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage, or BECCS)
To stay below 2°C, emissions need to fall below zero by the end of the century. By mid-century, emissions in final demand sectors like transport and buildings will need to be no higher than they are today. Keeping to this while ensuring that all people can access the energy they need means that a lot of mitigation efforts will be needed to get these final demand sectors down.
The next five years will be busy ones, but Working Group III is looking forward to bringing together scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders to make the 6th assessment cycle a success.
We have many challenges ahead of us, but also incredible opportunities to tackle climate change while promoting a sustainable and equitable future.
So let’s get to work!
Professor Jim Skea is Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. He is also Research Councils UK Energy Strategy Fellow at Imperial College London, supporting the UK Research Councils in deciding where and how to invest their energy research resources.