Monday, September 23, 2013

The future of the IPCC

There is lots of talk how the IPCC could be continued or modified. I want to add one more scenario, namely regionalization.

Some questions are answered, such as that the ongoing release of greenhouse-gases will lead to higher temperatures, higher sea level and changes of some other relevant variables such as heavy rainfall at midlatitudes. This is politically relevant knowledge, as it clearly indicates that having less emission is better than having more emissions, simply because the response of the climate system to such changes will be smaller and slower, and it is easier to deal with smaller and slower changes than with larger and faster changes. While the qualitative aspects are not much disputed, some uncertainty remains quantitatively, such as the sensitivity to increased GHG presence, the sensitivity to other drivers such as the sun, and the history of global climate; the rise of sea level and the change of tropical cyclones. Also the quality of models, with respect to clouds, aerosols and the macroturbulence in the ocean needs to be monitored.

All these are issues are of a global character, and something like Working Group I of IPCC should be continued; issues like the frequency of these reports, of the changing of authors, the review process etc. should be addressed. On the other hand, the quality of the output of working Group I was always good – quite differently from working group II, where ideological streaks seem to be more frequent.

This working group II is mostly dealing with regional change and impacts. In this field, many questions are open, many field appear unresearched. A problem is that the assessment by IPCC is dominated by English-speaking scientists, also when dealing with regional issues so that relevant literature in regional languages finds it hard to be considered. Also, this format leads to a preference of global studies of regional problems, with significant ad-hoc assumptions, while more regional studies on the specifics may be more useful.

Thus, for the field of regional climate change and impact, a bottom-up approach seems more appropriate. Therefore I am proposing to replace working group II by a possibly large group of independent regional assessment efforts, following the example of BACC, NOSCCA and the “Hamburger Klimabericht”, where a large group of regional scientists is dealing. These regional efforts have the advantage that much more people with insights into the specifics of the region may be employed; they operate with a strict separation of scientific assessment and political evaluation – BACC is used after its completion by HELCOM, the Hamburger Klimabericht by the Senate of Hamburg. Questions by political interests are welcomed, but no answers from such bodies.

These regional reports are not a description of "best knowledge" about climate, climate change and impact, but a description of the knowledge, if it is con-sensual, dis-sensual or non-existing. Obviously "best knowledge" is a social judgment and has very much to do with power and leverage; is appealing to the concept of truth instead of "so far most plausible consistent deconstruction of causes and effects". Adopting this point of view would is a major improvement over IPCC practices, where sometimes the lead authors' opinions are framed as "best knowledge", and the review process favours politicized main-stream views (mainly in WG II).

The “central IPCC” could work out rules of how the report should be done, how scientific integrity is maintained; it organizes a useful time table, with first the central “global” report, and the regional reports later – IPCC certificates the regional efforts.

Sometimes the argument is made that such regional efforts would be insufficient because in many regions of the world such effort would not have the appropriate basis of regional scientists for doing so. This may be indeed so, but the present process is instead making foreign experts to regional experts. In this way the foreign hegemony and unwanted lack of regional expertise of the region is maintained; also it would reflect the lack of scientific knowledge for these regions – which needs to be documented, and then rectified with support of the regional scientific community.


Peter Bobroff said...

I have seen lots of papers on Pielke Sr's site that purport to show that the climate models have little or no regional or decadal skill.
It seems that adaptation is a natural for a regional approach but mitigation doesn't seem like a regional issue.
Is this too simplistic?

@ReinerGrundmann said...


this binary logic is too simplistic. There are quite a few regional drivers of climate change, such as land use and black smoke from diesel engines or home stoves.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

I should have said there are regional drivers which should be mitigated at the regional level, such as black carbon etc.

Peter Bobroff said...

I was thinking only of CO2 but agree entirely with the non CO2 mitigations you list.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Judy Curry makes a passionate plea for the abolishment of the IPCC, favouring regional climate services. I quote from her blog:

'. after several decades and expenditures in the bazillions, the IPCC still has not provided a convincing argument for how much warming in the 20th century has been caused by humans.
. the politically charged rhetoric has contaminated academic climate research and the institutions that support climate research, so that individuals and institutions have become advocates; scientists with a perspective that is not consistent with the consensus are at best marginalized (difficult to obtain funding and get papers published by ‘gatekeeping’ journal editors) or at worst ostracized by labels of ‘denier’ or ‘heretic.’
. decision makers needing regionally specific climate change information are being provided by the climate community with either nothing or potentially misleading predictions from climate models.'