On February 18-20, 2015, twenty-four experts gathered in Berlin to explore approaches to improving the process by which research on climate change is assessed -- with a focus on the social-sciences (economics, political science, policy studies). The workshop was sponsored by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, and the Stanford Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis Center. Leaders of three of the sponsoring organizations, Carlo Carraro (FEEM), Charles Kolstad (Stanford University), and Robert Stavins (Harvard Kennedy School), have prepared a memorandum drawing from the workshop. The memo describes the specific challenges and opportunities facing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and provides recommendations for improving the IPCC's process of assessing scientific research on climate change.
The IPCC is at a crossroads. It has successfully completed its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and continues to perform important functions in helping countries address, in a scientifically-informed manner, the problem of global climate change. However, it has grown in size and become cumbersome, it does not always address the most critical issues, and it is at risk of losing the participation of the world’s best scientists due to the burdens that participation involves. The IPCC can carry out its mandate to provide policy-relevant assessments of research only if the scientific excellence of its products is sustained. This is a moment of great opportunity for addressing these challenges, with AR5 complete and the direction of future assessments open for discussion and debate.
Given this setting, twenty-four participants with experience with the IPCC convened in Berlin for a three-day workshop on the climate-assessment process (18-20 February 2015). Participants included social scientists who contributed in various capacities to AR5 and earlier IPCC assessments, users of IPCC reports (from national governments and intergovernmental organizations), and representatives of other stakeholder groups. Participants came from both developed and developing countries. Discussions were held under Chatham House rules, with no public attribution of any comments to individuals.
This memorandum represents the views of the authors on key challenges facing the IPCC, based on their reflections on the discussions that took place at the workshop. Workshop participants were not given an opportunity to review this document, and it may not represent the views of all of them. A comprehensive report from the workshop will be forthcoming later this year. Following are five areas in which the IPCC might be improved. In each case, the authors offer a set of potential actions to realize those improvements.
1. The IPCC could better integrate and coordinate across IPCC Working Groups, as well as enhance interaction between scientists and governments.
2. The IPCC could enhance its interface with various social scientific disciplines and communities
3. The IPCC could increase its efforts to facilitate the contributions of expertise from developing countries
Selecting CLAs and LAs on the basis of scientific skills, capability, and international reputation is paramount for the IPCC. But it is also important to reflect the perspectives of both developed and developing countries among authors. Today, excellent scholars are available from all regions of the world. The challenge for the IPCC is to identify and attract them to contribute to the process.
4. The IPCC could increase the efficiency of its operations and ensure scientific integrity through a number of targeted organizational improvements
Preparing IPCC Reports is a complex management operation. Operational aspects of the Assessment-Report process could be improved significantly in a number of ways:
Inefficient organization and high workload significantly reduce the incentives for researchers to contribute to the IPCC process, putting at risk the future participation of the best scientists in the process. In particular: (i) Frequent LA meetings are putting a high travel burden on authors, and the IPCC could reduce the number and length of LA Meetings (LAMs) and use means of remote collaboration, communication, and organization (including videoconferencing and digital platforms for collaborative writing). While some developing country LAs may not have access to high-speed internet, there may be national or regional venues from which they could participate (for example, regional UN facilities) (ii) Chapter teams often have limited staff support. Chapter Science Assistants (CSAs) provide critical support for chapter teams, facilitating the functioning and organization of work between and during LAMs. The IPCC could allow them to participate in all meetings and provide dedicated funding streams for CSAs for all chapters. The money saved by holding fewer and briefer LAMs could partly be dedicated to this purpose.
5. Outreach and communications could be strengthened
The workshop was hosted by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Berlin and was sponsored by four academic and research organizations based in Europe and the United States: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (Italy), the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements (USA), MCC, and the Stanford Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis Center (USA). The authors are grateful to Christian Flachsland (MCC) and Robert Stowe (Harvard) for their contributions to the organization and execution of the workshop and to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, and MCC for their generous financial support.
The authors are solely responsible for the content of this memorandum. Affiliations of the authors—including IPCC affiliations—are included for identification purposes only. There is no implication that any of the affiliated institutions endorse the views offered in this memorandum. Likewise, Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of MCC and Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at Technische Universität Berlin, acted as a co-organizer of the workshop, and welcomes—without endorsing—the views expressed in this memorandum as a contribution to discussions on the future of the IPCC