IAC Review of the IPCC,
Contribution to 15 June, 2010 meeting
Chris Field
Carnegie Institution for Science
Background and IPCC role
• Director, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science
• Professor, Department of Biology, Stanford University
• Professor, Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford
• Faculty Director, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford university
• Elected member: US National Academy of Sciences
• Elected Fellow: American Association for the Advancement of Science
• Elected Fellow: American Academy of Arts and Sciences
• 20+ years of research on global carbon cycle, carbon-climate interactions,
climate change impacts, biomass energy
• Funding from Carnegie Institution, Federal Agencies, Private Foundations,
once-removed private sector
• CLA, WGII, AR4: Chapter 14, North America
• Co-chair, WII, AR5
Opening comment
• An IPCC report is a massive effort
• IPCC coordinates the work of thousands of
volunteer scientists
• Thousands of scientists contribute to the work of
the IPCC
• Quality and accomplishments a wonderful credit
to the commitment and integrity of the
contributing scientists
• And to the willingness of countries to work with
the IPCC mandate of comprehensive, balanced
Two agendas
• Specific questions from the IAC committee
• Personal reflections on the strengths,
weaknesses, and potential of the IPCC
Questions from the committee
• How has the assessment process evolved over
the years?
• What are the differences between working
groups 1 and 2?
• e.g., approach, use of non-peer reviewed literature,
treatment of uncerainties, any pressures to be more
conservative or more confident than the data
• What are my thoughts on other issues covered in
the committee's statement of task?
• What are plans for the fifth assessment?
• Special Report on Regional Aspects to
Regional Chapters
• Uncertainty guidance
• FAQs
Comparing WGI, II & III
• Organized research agenda: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Clearly defined expert community: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Clearly defined literature: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Ability to quantify uncertainty: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Interactions with other stresses: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Role for practitioners: WGI, WGII, WGIII
• Relevance to everyday people, ecosystem, & activities:
Treatment of uncertainties
• Confidence and likelihood
• Quantitative and qualitative estimates
Highlighting key messages
• Culture of the plenary approval sessions
• Needs of each of the stakeholders
• Challenge of crafting clear, crisp, accurate text
in big, high-pressure sessions
Plans for the AR5
• Effective communication of uncertainty
• Integrity
• Basic mechanisms
• Multiple lines of evidence
• Support for decisions under uncertainty
• Concept of a pdf
• Risk = probability x consequence
• Nature of consensus
Intrinsic uncertainty in climate sensitivity
Roe and Baker Science 2007
Presented as risk
Old view: An interconnected system
& Vulnerability
Climate Models
Integrated system approach
Moss et al. Nature 2010
Major themes -- WGI
Carbon cycle & biogeochemical feedbacks
Clouds & aerosols
Near-term & long-term climate change
• Predictability, projections, commitments,
• Sea level
• Regional climate processes
Major themes -- WGII
Integration of climate science & climate impacts
Broad range of assessed impacts
Climate change in the context of other stresses
Framing to support good decisions, including
information on risk
• Expanded treatment of adaptation
• Integration of adaptation, mitigation, &
• Comprehensive treatment of regional aspects of
climate change
Increase in global mean temperature above 1990 level
Updated Reasons
for Concern, 2009
Smith et al. PNAS 2009
Major themes -- WGIII
Sustainable development
Ethics & equity & climate policy
Integrated risk and uncertainty
Transformation pathways
International/regional/national issues
Investment & finance
Personal reflections
IPCC operations
IPCC operations
• Mostly working-group led products
• Mostly weak links among, plenary, chair, WG
co-chairs, and secretariat
• Limited scope for decisions without plenary
IPCC is especially good at
• Focused assessments
• Clear group of experts
• Large, cohesive literature in traditional scientific
More challenging topics
• Multi-sector assessments
• Regional assessments
• Impacts with and without development &
• Quick responses to rapidly-changing needs
Conceptual challenges
• Finding the right balance between scientific
precision and clear communication
• Effectively communicating risk
• Interacting and indirect impacts
• Sustaining policy relevance without policy
Concluding thoughts
Special challenges of regional assessments
Insuring coordination among the WGs
Country support
IPCC governance
IAC questionnaire
1. What role(s), if any, have you played in any of the IPCC assessment processes?
2. What are your views on the strengths and weaknesses of the following steps in the IPCC assessment process? Do you have any
recommendations for improvement?
Scoping and identification of policy questions
Election of bureau including working group chairs
Selection of lead authors
Writing of working group reports
Review processes
Preparation of the Synthesis report, including the Summary for Policy Makers
Adoption of report by the IPCC plenary
Preparation of any special reports
3. What is your opinion on the way in which the full range of scientific views is handled?
4. Given the intergovernmental nature of IPCC, what are your views on the role of governments in the entire process?
5. Given that IPCC assessments consider a vast amount of literature, what are your views and suggestions for improvement on the sources of
data and the comprehensiveness of the literature used, including non-peer-reviewed literature?
6. What are your views and suggestions regarding the characterization and handling of uncertainty in each of the working group reports and
the synthesis report?
7. What is your view of how IPCC handles data quality assurance and quality control and identification and rectification of errors, including
those discovered after publication?
8. What is your view of how IPCC communicates with the media and general public, and suggestions for improving it?
9. Comment on the sustainability of the IPCC assessment model. Do you have any suggestions for an alternative process?
10. Do you have any suggestions for improvements in the IPCC management, secretariat, and/or funding structure to support an assessment
of this scale?
11. Any other comments
IAC Statement of task
Statement of Task
The Review Committee is requested to perform the following tasks:
2.1. Review the IPCC procedures for preparing assessment reports including, but not restricted to:
Data quality assurance and data quality control;
ii. Guidelines for the types of literature appropriate for inclusion in IPCC assessments, with special attention to
the use of non peer-reviewed literature;
iii. Procedures for expert and governmental review of IPCC materials;
iv. Handling of the full range of scientific views; and
Procedures for correcting errors identified after approval, adoption and acceptance of a report.
2.2. Analyze the overall IPCC process, including the management and administrative functions within IPCC, and the role
of UNEP and WMO, the United Nations system and other relevant stakeholders, with a view to strengthen and
improve the efficiency of the assessment work and effectively ensure the consistent application of the IPCC
2.3. Analyze appropriate communication strategies and the interaction of IPCC with the media to ensure that the public
is kept apprised of its work.
2.4. Prepare a report on the outcome of the activities referred to above, including:
Methodology of the report preparation and measures taken to ensure high quality of the report findings;
ii. Recommendations for amendments to the IPCC procedures;
iii. Recommendations concerning strengthening the IPCC process, institutions and management functions;
iv. Any other related recommendations; and
Outline of a plan for the implementation of recommendations.

- InterAcademy Council | Review of the IPCC