234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report

A row of male and female speakers at microphones

This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global climate. It’s a big deal. The report is used by governments and industries everywhere to understand the threats ahead.

So who are these scientists, and what goes into this important assessment?

Get ready for some acronyms. We’re going to explore the upcoming IPCC report and some of the terms you’ll be hearing when it’s released on Aug. 9, 2021.

What is the IPCC?

IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s the United Nations’ climate-science-focused organization. It’s been around since 1988, and it has 195 member countries.

Every seven years or so, the IPCC releases a report – essentially a “state of the climate” – summarizing the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed research on the science of climate change, its effects and ways to adapt to and mitigate it.

The purpose of these reports is to provide everyone, particularly governing bodies, with the information they need to make important decisions regarding climate change. The IPCC essentially provides governments with a CliffsNotes version of thousands of papers published regarding the science, risks, and social and economic components of climate change.

There are two important things to understand:

  1. The IPCC reports are nonpartisan. Every IPCC country can nominate scientists to participate in the report-writing process, and there is an intense and transparent review process.

  2. The IPCC doesn’t tell governments what to do. Its goal is to provide the latest knowledge on climate change, its future risks and options for reducing the rate of warming.

Why is this report such a big deal?

The last big IPCC assessment was released in 2013. A lot can change in eight years.

Not only has computer speed and climate modeling greatly improved, but each year scientists understand more and more about Earth’s climate system and the ways specific regions and people around the globe are changing and vulnerable to climate change.

Where does the research come from?

The IPCC doesn’t conduct its own climate-science research. Instead, it summarizes everyone else’s. Think: ridiculously impressive research paper.

The upcoming report was authored by 234 scientists nominated by IPCC member governments around the world. These scientists are leading Earth and climate science experts.

This report – the first of four that make up the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report – looks at the physical science behind climate change and its impacts. It alone will contain over 14,000 citations to existing research. The scientists looked at all of the climate-science-related research published through Jan. 31, 2021.

These scientists, who are not compensated for their time and effort, volunteered to read those 14,000-plus papers so you don’t have to. Instead, you can read their shorter chapters on the scientific consensus on topics like extreme weather or regional changes in sea-level rise.

The IPCC is also transparent about its review process, and that process is extensive. Drafts of the report are shared with other scientists, as well as with governments, for comments. Before publication, the 234 authors will have had to address over 75,000 comments on their work.

Government input to these bigger reports, like the one being released on Aug. 9, 2021, is solely limited to commenting on report drafts. However, governments do have a much stronger say in the shorter summary for policymakers that accompanies these reports, as they have to agree by consensus and typically get into detailed negotiations on the wording.

RCPs, SSPs – what does it all mean?

One thing just about everyone wants to understand is what the future might look like as the climate changes.

To get a glimpse of that future, scientists run experiments using computer models that simulate Earth’s climate. With these models, scientists can ask: If the globe heats up by a specific amount, what might happen in terms of sea-level rise, droughts and the ice sheets? What if the globe heats up by less than that – or more? What are the outcomes then?

The IPCC uses a set of scenarios to try to understand what the future might look like. This is where some of those acronyms come in.

All climate models work a little differently and create different results. But if 20 different climate models are run using the same assumptions about the amount of warming and produce similar results, people can be fairly confident in the results.

RCPs, or representative concentration pathways, and SSPs, or shared socioeconomic pathways, are the standardized scenarios that climate modelers use.

Four RCPs were the focus of the future-looking climate modeling studies incorporated into the 2013 report. They ranged from RCP 2.6, where there is a drastic reduction in global fossil fuel emissions and the world only heats up a little, to RCP 8.5, a world in which fossil fuel emissions are unfettered and the world heats up a lot.

Lines showing RCPs on two ends of the range
The IPCC’s Fifth Climate Assessment, in 2013, focused on representative concentration pathways, or RCPs. IPCC

This time around, climate modelers are using SSPs. Unlike the RCPs, which focus solely on greenhouse gas emissions trajectories, the SSPs consider socioeconomic factors and are concerned with how difficult it will be to adapt to or mitigate climate change, which in turn affects greenhouse gas emissions. The five SSPs differ in what the world might look like in terms of global demographics, equity, education, access to health, consumption, diet, fossil fuel use and geopolitics.

Why should you care?

Look around. Thus far, 2021 has brought deadly extreme weather events around the globe, from extensive wildfires to extreme heat, excessive rainfall and flash flooding. Events like these become more common in a warming world.

“It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. But we can fix it.” That’s how sustainability scientist and Lund University Professor Kimberly Nicholas puts it.

Don’t expect an optimistic picture to emerge from the upcoming report. Climate change is a threat-multiplier that compounds other global, national and regional environmental and social issues.

Muddy water water pours past a home where the side has been ripped open revealing the interior of rooms up to the second floor
More than 200 people died as towns flooded and homes that had stood for centuries washed away in Germany and Belgium in July 2021. Olivier Matthys/Getty Images

So, read the report and recognize the major sources of greenhouse gases that are driving climate change. Individuals can take steps to reduce their emissions, including driving less, using energy-efficient lightbulbs and rethinking their food choices. But also understand that 20 fossil fuel companies are responsible for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. That requires governments taking action now.

About The Author

Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond

This Article Originally Appeared On The Conversation

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

POLITICS

A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
image
Climate explained: how the IPCC reaches scientific consensus on climate change
by Rebecca Harris, Senior Lecturer in Climatology, Director, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania
When we say there’s a scientific consensus that human-produced greenhouse gases are causing climate change, what does…
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
Court Takes Industry Bait, Caves to Fossil Fuels
by Joshua Axelrod
In a disappointing decision, Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled…
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
G7 Embraces Climate Action to Drive Equitable Recovery
by Mitchell Bernard
At Biden’s urging, his G7 counterparts raised the bar on collective climate action, pledging to cut their carbon…
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
Climate change: what G7 leaders could have said – but didn't
by Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Director of Oxford Net Zero, University of Oxford
The four-day G7 summit in Cornwall ended with little cause for celebration from anyone worried about climate change.…
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
How world leaders' high-carbon travel choices could delay climate action
by Steve Westlake, PhD Candidate, Environmental Leadership, Cardiff University
When UK prime minister Boris Johnson took a one-hour flight to Cornwall for the G7 summit, he was criticised for being…
Nuclear industry’s propaganda war rages on
by Paul Brown
With renewable energy expanding fast, the nuclear industry’s propaganda war still claims it helps to combat climate…
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
Shell ordered to cut its emissions – why this ruling could affect almost any major company in the world
by Arthur Petersen, Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy, UCL
The Hague is the seat of government of the Netherlands and also hosts the International Criminal Court. NAPA /…

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
White sea ice in blue water with the sun setting reflected in the water
Earth’s frozen areas are shrinking 33K square miles a year
by Texas A&M University
The Earth’s cryosphere is shrinking by 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) per year.
A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…
A brown weasel with a white belly leans on a rock and looks over its shoulder
Once common weasels are doing a vanishing act
by Laura Oleniacz - NC State
Three species of weasels, once common in North America, are likely in decline, including a species that’s considered…
Flood risk will rise as climate heat intensifies
by Tim Radford
A warmer world will be a wetter one. Ever more people will face a higher flood risk as rivers rise and city streets…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.