IPCC 6th Assessment Report: Working Group III selects its authors

The countdown begins for the IPCC 6th Assessment Report! Renée van Diemen, scientist in the Working Group III Technical Support Unit, talks about the scientists who will draft the Working Group III contribution, how they were selected and how else to get involved with the IPCC during this cycle.

Last month, the IPCC published the list of authors who will be writing its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), the next comprehensive assessment of the science related to climate change. 721 experts from 90 countries will soon get started on this work. Out of these, 228 will focus on the contribution of Working Group III. These experts from around the world will be volunteering their time and expertise to assess the knowledge relevant to the mitigation of climate change.

For each of the 17 chapters of the Working Group III contribution to AR6 the carefully selected author teams will work together to assess the state of knowledge relevant to topics such as transport, cities, industry or social aspects of mitigation. Here at the Working Group III Technical Support Unit, we are really excited at the prospect of working with such an incredible range of experts during the production of the AR6.

How were authors selected?

The author teams of the Working Group III contribution to the AR6 were selected by the IPCC Working Group III Bureau, with support from the Technical Support Unit. The Bureau is the scientific leadership of each Working Group and of the IPCC as a whole, elected by governments at the start of each new IPCC cycle. Over the course of three months, the Working Group III Bureau carefully considered 873 AR6 author nominations from Governments, Observer Organisations and IPCC Bureau Members.

P.R. Shukla and Jim Skea, Co-Chairs of Working Group III. Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera

One of the most important underlying principles of the IPCC is that its assessments are comprehensive and objective.  All IPCC reports seek to reflect internationally agreed scientific consensus and be free from bias. Therefore, when author teams are selected, care and attention is given to ensuring that the author teams are composed of a diverse range of experts representing different geographical regions, a variety of relevant specialist disciplines as well as ensuring that author teams are balanced in terms of gender and ensuring that the teams are adequately inclusive of experts who do not have previous IPCC experience.

To select authors, the Bureau developed an iterative process to ensure that the author teams were composed of a range of scientific, technical and socio-economic views and expertise, taking into account all the IPCC balance considerations. Each individual author nomination was carefully considered in a series of international web conferences between the Bureau members. To make the final selection, the Bureau met in Geneva, Switzerland, from 29-30 January 2018.

The Working Group III Bureau finalises the selection of authors in Geneva (January 2018).

What are the different author roles?

In total, 228 authors from 63 countries will contribute to the WG III AR6 report, but they will not all play the same role.

Each of the 17 chapters is composed of Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs) and 7 to 15 Lead Authors (LAs). As a collective, authors are responsible for the contents of the chapter. They will be in charge of drafting specific sections of each chapter based on their area of expertise. The CLAs oversee this process and are responsible for the coordination of the chapters, so the Bureau paid attention not only to scientific excellence, but also to the qualities of leadership required to lead multidisciplinary and international chapter teams.

Together, these authors will produce two drafts of the report that will go out for an external review, the first one by experts and the second by both experts and governments. All the comments made during the review period are collected and must be addressed by the author teams when they produce their next draft. To support this process, each chapter also has at least two Review Editors. The role of Review Editors is to ensure that comments from the review process are taken into consideration by the team.

Watch AR5 experts talk about what it means to be an IPCC author.

What’s next for the authors?

Authors are from all around the world, so their work involves a mixture of online and physical meetings. The latter, called Lead Author Meetings, or LAMs, happen four times in the production of an IPCC report. Working Group III authors will meet at the first Lead Author Meeting in April 2019 and will be working together until the approval of the report in 2021.

I’m not an author… are there other ways to get involved in AR6?

Yes! Although the author teams for the Working Group III contribution to the AR6 have been selected, there are a number of other ways to get involved with AR6 and the IPCC more broadly.

As author teams develop the content of their chapter, they may also draw on other experts. Each cycle, hundreds of Contributing Authors provide specific knowledge or expertise in a given area. This could be in the form of a short section of text, figures or graphs, or data. Contributing Authors are important for ensuring that the full range of views in the scientific community is reflected in the report. Contributing Authors do not attend author meetings, but they fill gaps in expertise and are acknowledged in the final publication. Contributions may be enlisted by the CLAs and LAs of the author teams, although the IPCC also encourages unsolicited contributions. As the writing process is naturally dynamic, this can occur at different stages of the report drafting.

IPCC Coordinating Lead Author Myles Allen, Working Group I Vice-Chair Jan Fuglestvedt and Chapter Scientist Richard Millar working on an IPCC Special Report

Chapters are also often supported by a Chapter Scientist, who provides technical and logistical support to author teams. They can be recruited directly by the CLAs of a specific chapter, or through a call issued by the Technical Support Unit. This is a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers to be at the heart of the IPCC process. Keep an eye out on this blog and the IPCC social media channels for future opportunities.

Are you and early career researcher interested in getting involved with the IPCC? Read more about the different opportunities here.

Finally, anyone with relevant expertise can register to review the first or second draft of an IPCC report. Expert reviewers are crucial to the IPCC process, so look out for announcements and make sure to contribute to the review process. The Expert Reviews of the Working Group III contribution to the AR6 will be in 2019 and 2020.

Interested in the IPCC expert review process? Find out which sections or chapters might be relevant to your area of expertise by looking at the outline of the report.

Click here for more information on the IPCC 6th assessment cycle. The full list of Working Group III AR6 authors and review editors is available on the IPCC website.

If you are interested in regular updates about our activities, subscribe to the IPCC WGIII Newsletter here.

Meet the IPCC: Interview with Youba Sokona, Vice-Chair of the IPCC

Youba Sokona has over 35 years of experience addressing energy, environment and sustainable development issues in Africa. He is currently Special Advisor on Sustainable Development at the South Centre, an Intergovernmental Organization of Developing Countries intended to meet the need for analysis of development problems and experience. Until May 2012, he was Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He was the Executive Secretary of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) in Tunis, Tunisia from 2004 to 2010. He has been involved with the IPCC since 1990, first serving as a Lead Author, then as Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III for the Fifth Assessment Report. He was elected Vice-Chair of the IPCC in October 2015.

What is your research focus and how does that feed into your work at the IPCC?

My research vision focuses on energy and development issues in Africa. Access to modern energy services is the fundamental prerequisite for development. Africa has urgent needs to address “modern energy access” through a rapid and wide scale expansion of both electricity generation capacity – on-grid and off-grid – and the supply of other forms of energy.

However, jumpstarting and operationalizing a meaningful energy transition that addresses the development needs of African countries while responding to the challenge of climate change is a major challenge. Many Developing Countries are struggling to address a wide range of pressing needs such as nutrition, food, water, education, health, and reducing poverty. They are trying to tackle these issues while adequately combating climate change with limited capacity, resources, and finance.

The challenge is especially daunting for rural areas in Africa given the isolated nature of rural settlements. This requires serious assessments of technology needs, innovations in finance and institutional development, and the design of appropriate policy instruments.

Making development more sustainable requires relying on sustainable energy systems. One issue that features increasingly in this objective is the need to grow in a carbon-constrained world. In this context, a number of African countries have shown ambition and creativity over the past few years in the way they intend to meet this objective.

Pursuing a low carbon development strategy is therefore central to development plans, and this will continue to be the case in the future.

What do you think is the greatest challenge in meeting the long-term aim of the Paris Agreement?

Meeting the long-term aim of the Paris Agreement requires deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions without further delay. This, as already documented in previous IPCC assessment reports, will entail challenging technological, economic, institutional, cooperation, and behavior change. The longer we wait to take action, the greater the challenge will be, and the more it could risk compromising prospects for adaptation.

Achieving this requires a concerted, worldwide and ambitious set of actions, as well as a high degree of coherence among the fragmented policy areas, instruments, and tools within which different countries operate.

Workers in Yunnan Province, China.

It also implies finding solutions to address the aim of the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the national priorities of individual countries. Indeed, climate policies can be more effective when consistently embedded within broader strategies designed to make national and regional development paths more sustainable.

Ensuring that we meet nations’ short-term needs at national, regional and local levels, as well as the long-term aim of the Paris Agreement, is highly complex but absolutely necessary.

Dr Sokona talks about themes of sustainable development and equity in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (April 2014).

The IPCC is working on a Special Report on climate change and land. How are climate change and land linked, and why is it important to look at these relations?

Land represents both an important source of greenhouse gas emissions and a great potential carbon sink.

Climate change and land degradation are closely intertwined, as intensive land use increases greenhouse gas emissions and loss of soil and vegetation reduces carbon sequestration. Managing land and land use sustainably provides multiple benefits not just for tackling climate change, but also for nutrition, food and energy security, livelihoods and poverty reduction.

In previous IPCC reports, land-related issues were assessed independently within the individual contexts of each working group. This Special Report will provide a comprehensive and integrated assessment going beyond the specific boundaries of individual Working Groups and disciplines.

What is your favorite thing about being part of the IPCC, and what is most challenging?

Immersing yourself in a multicultural and multidisciplinary scientific environment for the 6 to 7 years of an IPCC cycle is an exceptional and invaluable experience, and something that cannot be taught by any university. But it also requires a huge time commitment, which can make it challenging to secure a fully participatory process. For many developing country authors, time is a critical issue.

Youba Sokona and Working Group I Vice-Chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte chair a session at the First Lead Author Meeting of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

How can the IPCC increase the policy relevance of its reports?

The IPCC should significantly increase and widen the review of the draft report by policymakers. It must also work to improve the readability of its report.

What would you tell researchers who are thinking of getting involved in the IPCC?

To be ready for intense workload and not be intimidated by some colleagues.

What is your favourite hobby?

My favorite hobby is a “Sahel Tea Ceremony” with friends listening to James Brown’ “it’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”.

 

Subscribe to the IPCC WGIII Newsletter here.