Climate Changing Too Fast for Leisurely IPCC Assessment Reports
The existing international process for tracking climate developments is too slow, according to a group of climate researchers that include B.C. Green Party leader and ocean scientist Andrew Weaver and Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian-born atmospheric scientist and prominent evangelical Christian based in Texas.
That process, with more precise information always pending over the seven years between scheduled IPCC reports, “gives politicians a way out” to avoid taking action, said Weaver, who shared a Nobel prize for his contribution to the fourth assessment report produced by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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Hayhoe, who has led the way in trying to convince her resistant faith community of the reality of climate change, called the IPCC’s process “obsolete, outdated, and a waste of experts’ valuable time,” InsideClimate News reports.
Both scientists instead favour “continuous updating of climate science, rather than issuing the occasional ‘blockbuster’ assessment,” ICN notes.
The criticisms came as scientists met last week in Montreal to develop a work plan for the 6th IPCC assessment report—a process that won’t produce a final consensus document until 2022.
“The assessments are written to serve as definitive declarations on climate science, adaptation, and mitigation,” InsideClimate notes. The last one, released in 2014, reduced 9,200 individual papers, as well as synopses and comments from more 830 editorial contributors, to a document of 5,000-plus pages. Its conclusions required sign-off from every sponsoring government.
That process is too slow for a report “relied on by countless-decision makers around the world every day,” said Hayhoe, co-director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech.
Another close IPCC science collaborator, Jim Skea of Imperial College, London, acknowledged that some of his colleagues feel “frustration,” the outlet says. The “IPCC can be quite conservative,” Skea told ICN from Montreal. “It can take a lot of time to change practices and products.”
Skea points out that the IPCC’s 195 member governments decided in 2015 that in addition to a sixth AR, the organization will also produce three special reports before 2022, one of them examining pathways to keep global warming below 1.5ºC, an aspirational target under the Paris climate agreement.
That target may be jeopardized by political developments in the United States, however. Thomas Stocker, a Swiss climate scientist who chairs one of the working groups for the next assessment report, worries that while the U.S. Senate recently voted to maintain some funding to support international efforts to contain climate instability, the Trump administration “has proposed zeroing out the roughly $2 million per year the U.S. contributes to the IPCC.”
In partial response, Canada announced this week it would double its contribution to the IPCC’s work to C$3 million.