The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just concluded its 41st session in Nairobi – continuing the tradition of rigorous international scientific collaboration to better understand climate change, its impacts, and society’s options to address this global challenge. The IPCC is a unique partnership between nearly 200 governments and the scientific community, bringing together many of the world’s top scientists and experts to produce comprehensive assessments of the state of knowledge on climate change.
The fifth and most recent IPCC assessment report was completed this past October, including three volumes of findings drawn from the vast amount of research that has been done over the last seven years on climate science, impacts, and responses. Among its key conclusions: “human influence on the climate system is clear,” and human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases are the “highest in history.” The Assessment also reported “it is very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions. The oceans will continue to warm and acidify, and global mean sea level will continue to rise.”
These sobering conclusions, resulting from the collaborative work of hundreds of climate specialists from around the world, including dozens from the United States, reinforce those of the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment and underscore the need to fully implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
This week’s convening of IPCC representatives in Nairobi was a transitional meeting for the IPCC, with discussions focusing on ways to organize the next cycle of assessment to ensure that our knowledge base about climate science continues to expand in ways that are informative for decision makers and citizens around the world.
Discussion outcomes included that the IPCC will retain continuity in its basic approach of producing assessment volumes addressing physical science; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and mitigation, and that a synthesis would be developed to integrate the findings of these three reports. Delegates decided that the next comprehensive assessment cycle will last between five and seven years, as has been the practice and that, as in the past, the IPCC is likely to produce one or more “special reports” to assess specific cross-cutting topics.
The IPCC’s next meeting in Dubrovnik in October will formalize the transition into the next cycle of assessment and elect new senior leadership, including a new Chair.
Several governments have indicated their intent to nominate individuals for IPCC chairmanship, including the United States, which will nominate Professor Christopher Field of Stanford University, who led the IPCC’s work on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability in its last assessment cycle.
We are very pleased that Professor Field is willing to be nominated to serve in this prestigious role and look forward to continued collaboration with partner Nations on the important task of building the scientific foundation for informed actions to combat climate change.
Kelly Sims Gallagher is a Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Trigg Talley is Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Department of State
David Reidmiller is Chief Climate Scientist at the Department of State