This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) made some interesting
decisions about how to make its reports more useful,
communicate them more effectively, and involve more scientists from
It's worth noting, this week's meeting in Nairobi was
not in response to Dr Pachauri stepping down as chairman after
nearly 13 years.
As is customary for the IPCC after the release of one
of its major assessment reports, this week has been about
reflecting on lessons learnt and how to move forward.
So what's been decided?
Will we see shorter, more focused IPCC reports
from now on?
The short answer is no. At least, not as a general rule.
Every 5 to 7 years, the IPCC publishes an enormous
review of scientific literature on all aspects of climate change.
These are known as Assessment Reports.
Some scientists and governments have
suggested this timeline isn't very effective since it
doesn't capture topics in which the science evolves rapidly. The
sheer size of the reports is also very demanding on the scientists
who volunteer to write them, without payment.
In response, the IPCC has been
considering producing "rapid updates". These are short,
targeted reports published in between the major ones, looking at
specific topics or regions.
Dr. Renate Christ told a press conference this morning
that while more frequent reports "might sound like a good idea,
there are practical limitations to doing so".
Each report has to go through a rigorous triple-review
process by governments and experts. It's this process that sets the
IPCC apart from other organisations, Prof Tom Stocker, co-chair
of Working Group
1 and nominee for role of IPCC chair, told Carbon Brief at
a press conference last year:
"It's this very lengthy, but
carefully designed process of the IPCC carrying out this assessment
that makes it distinct from all other sources of information.
That's a point we would like to preserve."
Producing more reports would mean adding to the already large
workloads of the scientists and reviewers involved, Christ
explained. So the IPCC has come to a compromise.
The IPCC will continue to produce assessment reports
every five to seven years, but it will make better use of 'Special
Reports' to provide slimmer, more focused assessments, too.
There have been a couple of special reports in the
last few years, on renewable
energy and extreme weather, for
example. It sounds like the IPCC plans to produce more of them.
The government of Monaco requested a special report on the
oceans, for example. It
"It would seem extremely
useful and relevant if [the] IPCC could produce a special report
dedicated to the ocean … As a continuation of the AR5 chapters
dedicated to the ocean, the report would gather in a sole document
all the scientific knowledge related to the
role of the ocean in the climate system and climate change