Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 30 August 2023

New IPCC assessment cycle begins

Source: By The Indian Express

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded its elections, marking the beginning of the seventh assessment cycle.

The elections commenced on 25 July, during the IPCC’S 59th session held in Nairobi, Kenya. In the process, the body elected James Skea, professor of sustainable energy at Imperial College, London, as the new IPCC Chair. Moreover, it elected three new Vice-Chairs, other new members of the IPCC Bureau and 12 new members of the Task Force Bureau on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (TFI).

Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the IPCC produces comprehensive assessment reports (ARs) that are considered the most authoritative source of scientific knowledge on climate change. So far, it has released six ARs — the final synthesis report of the sixth AR came out in March 2023 — and with the latest elections, the body has initiated a new cycle of producing the next AR.

What does the IPCC Chair do?

The primary role of the IPCC Chair is to oversee the reports which come out in each assessment cycle. Together with the IPCC Bureau, the Chair also sets the research agenda, which could include the release of additional special reports on specific topics. For instance, the outgoing Chair, Hoesung Lee, brought more focus on climate change solutions after he assumed office in 2015, a recent report by Reuters said.

The Chair is required to possess a rare combination of scientific and diplomatic skills, which are needed to get the approvals of governments on the report summaries. The tenure of the Chair usually lasts five to seven years, depending on the duration of the assessment cycle, and they can serve up to two terms only — India’s RK Pachauri remains the only person till now to serve two terms as the Chair. He headed the fourth and fifth assessment cycles of the IPCC, between 2002 and 2015.

What are the IPCC assessment cycles?

So far, the IPCC has had six assessment cycles, during which it released six comprehensive assessment reports. In each of these cycles, the body also produced several special reports on specific topics. Not only this, IPCC also publishes methodology reports during these cycles, in which it provides guidelines for governments to estimate their greenhouse gas emissions and removals.

Kickstarted in 2015, the sixth assessment cycle, the most recent one, was concluded in March this year with the release of the synthesis report — a relatively non-technical summary of the previous report that came out during the cycle. The previous reports included reports put out by the three working groups, including Working Group I, which aims at assessing the physical scientific basis of the climate system and climate change, Working Group II, which examines the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change and its consequences, and the Working Group III, which focuses on climate change mitigation, assessing methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere

As mentioned before, with the conclusion of fresh elections, the IPCC began its seventh assessment cycle, which like its predecessors would come to an end in the next five to seven years. As a next step of the new cycle, the IPCC Chair and the bureau members will select authors or experts, who are nominated by governments and various other organisations, including international and intergovernmental, for the upcoming reports.

These authors are selected based on their expertise, taking into account the range of scientific, technical and socio-economic views as well as geographical and gender balance. After the selection, the writing process begins.

Notably, the IPCC doesn’t conduct its research, but asks the authors to “assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks,” the IPCC said.

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