In this collection, UEA researchers past and present explore challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and how the institution might evolve in response to these.
"UEA is among the universities that have made the most substantial and sustained contribution to the IPCC across disciplines. We are in a unique position to make recommendations that we hope will help strengthen the IPCC process"
Prof Rachel Warren, UEA
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses the state of global knowledge and science related to climate change. Through its Assessment Reports (ARs), the IPCC provides information which governments and international organisations use to develop climate policies. Each report takes several years to complete and involves hundreds of scientists from all over the world, who review and report on tens of thousands of research papers. The last report (AR6) was published in between 2021 and 2023.
Now in its 35th year, the IPCC is about to begin work on AR7. The IPCC writing process faces enormous challenges: assessing the huge amount of information; ensuring that processes and procedures underpinning the assessments are transparent and robust; and managing the workload of the authors, who are all volunteers. Should the IPCC continue to update its assessments, or should it adopt a different model to serve the science-policy interface of climate change, where the need for evidence in policymaking is more important and complex than ever?
In July 2023, climate experts from UEA and beyond met on campus in Norwich to discuss the future of the IPCC, its challenges and opportunities. The discussions, coordinated by Prof Rachel Warren, Professor of Global Change and Environmental Biology, and Dr Mark Tebboth, Associate Professor in the Environment and Global Development, were stimulating, covering a range of issues from the difficulties of measuring adaptation to different ways in which scientists can better support the dissemination and use of IPCC reports in the future.
Six of the participating climate change experts met in pairs to delve deeper into some of the discussions that took place at the UEA Workshop on the IPCC.
Loss, Damage and Cultural Heritage in a Changing Climate
Prof Joanne Clarke (Honorary Professor of Archaeology and Heritage, School of Arts, Media and American Studies, UEA) and Dr Mark Tebboth (Associate Professor in Environment and Global Development, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of International Development, UEA) explore the significant gaps between knowledge and governmental action, and adaptation pathways and policy; and discuss crucial priorities for the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report cycle.
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Dr Nem Vaughan (Associate Professor in Climate Change, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, UEA) and Dr Nick Brooks (Director, Garama 3C, Climate Change and Development Consultant, UEA Alumni) unpack a range of overlapping and interacting mismatches influencing global action on climate change adaptation and mitigation – what can the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change do to speak to these issues?
IPCC Communication Product Design
Prof Irene Lorenzoni (Professor of Society and Environmental Change, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, UEA) and Dr Jordan Harold (Lecturer in Psychology, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Psychology, UEA) reflect on their work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, discussing challenges and implications for IPCC communication product design and how the institution might evolve for Assessment Report 7 (AR7).
Findings from the workshop are being shared with stakeholders, including the UK government, and a number of written outputs are planned to disseminate the insights that were generated. Key recommendations of how the IPCC might evolve in response to some of the challenges and opportunities the institution faces are outlined below.
For the AR7 cycle:
- Low frequency – high impact risks
- Enhance engagement with plural forms of knowledge
- Greater focus on emerging knowledge gaps
Expert meetings and or special reports:
- Adaptation methodologies
- Manage the exponential increase in literature
- Opportunities offered by AI and machine learning
Practice outside the remit of the IPCC:
- Meta data/standardisation within modelling community so assumptions/limitations, etc, are more visible (support integration)
- Encourage ‘review calls’ to direct academics to where efforts are needed to support synthesis
Knowledge contributions for the AR7 cycle:
- Review methods to assess adaptation efficacy and success
- Scaling of adaptation inventory to track progress and effort
Accelerating the translation of IPCC findings into action and use:
- Enhance use of graphics and figures to support dissemination
- Curated papers extracting IPCC synthesis for specific topics (already catalysed)
- Greater visibility of the interactive atlas
- Enhance and make better use of FAQs