At the moment, as you read this article, about two hundred scientists scattered around the world are working day and night to complete a report that will change the direction in which the planet is moving. Or at least they hope so.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been preparing the most comprehensive assessment of the state of global warming since 2013.
Over the next two weeks, during a series of virtual meetings, they will go through their findings word for word, defending every climate scientific data in front of fellow scientists and politicians.
The forty-page summary for policymakers will then play an important role in guiding global leaders in the fight against critical climate issues, thus changing the direction of human history – hopefully for the better.
Experts say the report will be a “wake-up call” for governments – 195 countries are represented in IPCC discussions.
The BBC’s environmental correspondent, Matt McGrath, analyzed this extremely important document in the making – why it is the most critical of its kind in almost the last ten years and why it should be important to us.
What will be new in the Sixth Assessment Report?
The last time the IPCC issued such a report, the weather forecast was still somewhat reliable, and the melting of permafrost in Siberia was not so serious.
This year, however, the panel met as extreme weather conditions shook the United States and Canada, Europe and Asia.
The question of the role played by human-induced climate change is being raised louder than ever.
As in previous estimates, the sixth report is likely to focus on the role of humanity in creating the climate crisis.
In the last report, published in 2013, the authors said that warming since the 1950s was “extremely likely” related to human activity.
This time, they could use a sharper wording, despite the opposition of some countries.
However, the emphasis is likely to be on the present and the future, rather than on past responsibilities.
A new chapter on extreme events affected by climate change will be included.
It will cover storms of “low probability but high impact”, floods and droughts that we have seen in recent months around the world.
“So we can expect a lot more information. Moreover, almost for the first time in the IPCC, we will get much more explicit information on the risks of extreme weather events, “said Professor Corina Le Querre, of the University of East Anglia, who participated in two previous assessments for the IPCC.
In addition to new information on sea level growth and the state of the Arctic and Antarctic, the report will bring us the latest estimates of the real chances of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century.
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But what is the IPCC and why is it important to me?
Founded in 1988, the IPCC was supposed to provide politicians with assessments every six or seven years about scientific facts and potential options for combating climate change.
As the world has warmed over the past 30 years, the IPCC has become the most important platform for three things: summarizing the state of scientific understanding of a problem, assessing its impact, and proposing solutions that will impact everyone’s lives.
Many people think that the IPCC platform is just for science, but that is not the complete picture.
“The IPCC itself consists of representatives from a total of 195 governments. And for me, that’s the key thing about the IPCC. It’s not just a bunch of scientists throwing out a report; they were hired by the government… And that makes them absolutely unique, ”says Richard Black, an honorary research associate at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.
“That’s the key,” agrees climate scientist Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading.
“Word-for-word approval means that all governments have committed to conclusions,” the expert wrote on his Twitter account.
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Over the years, IPCC reports have become sharper as the evidence piles up.
In an assessment from 2013, they said that people are the “dominant cause” of global warming, and that document helped create the conditions for signing the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.
In 2018, the IPCC issued a special report that dealt with one aspect of the problem: keeping the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This document is considered to be responsible for activating a new generation of young people, ready to take to the streets demanding a political response.
The next edition of the IPCC – due on August 9 – is also likely to have a major impact ahead of COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November.
“I think it will be an awakening for everyone, there is no doubt about that,” says Professor Black.
Can science be trusted?
When published, the Assessment Report will be the result of the work of 200 researchers, organized in groups to analyze the existing validated literature from the last four years.
The original drafts had already been discussed and attracted about 75,000 comments from fellow researchers.
“Scientists come up with a proposal for a document which is then challenged sentence by sentence by a representative from the United Nations, and the scientists defend them,” says Professor Le Querre.
“In the end, nothing is written that is not scientifically correct.
So, scientists have the right to say that something is wrong, and then the document eventually becomes really strong because of that process. “
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One of the things that gives additional strength to the report is the fact that it is not just one specific research paper on a topic – evaluators take into account all research work conducted in each relevant area.
“Sometimes the IPCC is criticized for being so focused on consensus,” said Dr. Emily Schackburg, of the University of Cambridge.
“But the fact that this is a summary based on all the evidence gathered is incredibly powerful and useful.”
This is the first time that the IPCC has attempted to hold a remote approval session.
These gatherings usually last a week and often involve quite lively discussions between government representatives and scientists.
With only a few months left until the COPP26 climate conference, the stakes for participants may be higher than at any time in recent history.
Given the scale of the weather-induced disasters we are currently witnessing around the world, the public and politicians are now more aware of the issue of climate change than ever before.
All this will put additional pressure on the IPCC.
It is very likely that many more sleepless nights await the participants.
Source: Dnevni list Danas by www.danas.rs.
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