by Judith Curry
The Fifth Assessment has been a particularly turbulent period for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). . . but the pace at which the world changes is stepping up, and we can be sure that the IPCC must adapt to these changes if it still wants to retain significance in the future.
The IPCC is soliciting input from participating nations regarding the future of the IPCC. This submission from Netherlands is being discussed in the skeptical blogosphere, lets take a look at some suggestions that I find particularly good:
The IPCC needs to adjust its principles. We believe that limiting the scope of the IPCC to human-induced climate change is undesirable, especially because natural climate change is a crucial part of the total understanding of the climate system, including human-induced climate change.
JC comment: While I loudly applause a suggestion for more focus on natural climate change, this may be a mismatch for the IPCC given its imprimatur fromthe UNFCCC and UNEP.
The IPCC needs more transparent, focused and up-to-date assessments. The use of the internet continues to expand. It would be easier to keep IPCC assessments up to date if they would be fully web-based. Digitalisation also increases the transparency of the reports.
The assessment should be more dynamic by regular updates of the chapters, with only one round of expert review, and by shortening the assessment cycle. The reports are currently perceived to be quite dated already a few years after they have been published. We suggest two working groups instead of three. For example, it is possible to expand WGI to include WGII subjects that are closely connected to the information in WGI. An example is the SREX special report, where climate extremes and risk-based information are combined. WGIII would then include adaptation and mitigation measures and their environmental impacts. In this way there would be two working groups, which would shorten the cycle but will also to improve the consistency in the assessment cycle and facilitates the synthesis.
JC comment: More effective use of the internet and hyperlinks is a no brainer. I particularly like two working groups instead of three, for the reasons given above.
The IPCC should reconsider the regionalisation of the assessments, aiming for an efficient division of work among relevant organisations. We are aware of the relevance of regional information, particularly for vulnerable regions in developing countries with limited resources. However, we believe organisations such as the WMO should strengthen the position and the resources of the Global Framework of Climate Services (GFCS) in line with the Nairobi work programme. The main goal of GFCS is to enforce the resilience of vulnerable regions by facilitating the access to tailor-made climate information on spatial scales that are more useful to stakeholders than IPCC can ever provide. This does not diminish the possible role there is to play for the IPCC in providing guidance for interpreting regionalised climate information and also building capacity in this respect in developing countries.
The other UN climate organization
Here is a riddle: What do you get when you take the UNEP out of the IPCC?
Answer: IPCC – UNEP = WMO(GFCS)
Lets take a look the UN WMO Global Framework of Climate Services (GFCS). From their mission statement:
“Enables better management of the risks of climate variability and change and adaptation to climate change, through the development and incorporation of science-based climate information and prediction into planning, policy and practice on the global, regional and national scale.”
Four priority areas of the GFCS: Agriculture and Food Security, Disaster Risk Reduction, Health and Water
From the GFCS, the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services (ICBS) was launched with its first meeting last week. The overall initiative is outlined in this Special Issue of the WMO Bulletin.
From the article What do we mean by Climate Services?:
As indicated by the well-known adage “climate is what you expect and weather is what you get” used to distinguish between the climate and weather, climate information prepares the users for the weather they actually experience. For most users climate and weather are mutually interchangeable. It is, therefore, imperative for climate and weather services to operate in close tandem, so as to be seamless to the end-user. The seamless delivery of services from the long- to short-term time scales is critical to ensure effective and consistent use of information for various real-world decision-making contexts. Timescales are key in understanding climate services.
The end-users perspective is a key in the tailoring of climate services. The “end-users” are in fact a heterogeneous mix of stakeholders from the national, sub-national and community levels. Each user can derive a benefit – potential or actual – in using climate services.
However, not all users are end-users. Some recipients of climate information, such as trend projections and forecasts of various climate and weather parameters, interpret, analyze and process it in light of sector-specific knowledge in order to produce a useable, tailored and integrated climate service that can be communicated to end-users. For example, agricultural experts employed by departments of agriculture may receive 10-day rainfall forecast bulletins (climate information) to which they overlay information based on their knowledge of the growing season for farmers in a given region of the country, such as stage of planting, plant phenology, etc (sector-specific knowledge), in order to produce a tailored rural advisories (climate services).
These “intermediary users” are the partners of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in producing climate services. They work hand-in-hand with forecasters to transform climate information into a climate service. They are, in practice, the national stakeholders in charge of processing climate information (input) to produce sector-tailored climate services (output).
Intermediary users or service co-producers are different from the final end-users of climate services who often do not need climate information/data, but a finished useable climate advisory service or product that they can input into their decision-making. The latter category encompasses farmers, fishermen, vulnerable communities, etc., as well as national decision-makers and planners who need finished climate information products at longer timescales (climate projections).
Titles of the other articles in the Special Issue provide additional perspective on what this is all about:
- Localizing climate information for agriculture
- Weather and climate resilience
- Reducing and managing risks of disasters in a changing climate
- The application of climate science to benefit society
- Clim-Health Africa
- Reconciling post-positivist and post-modern worldviews in climate research and services
- Addressing the potential climate effects of China’s Three Gorges Project.
Nowhere in any of the documentation I have read on the GFCS have I seen the words carbon mitigation. This effort seems to be focused adaptive management of climate change, whether the cause is natural and/or anthropogenic.
GFCS on extreme weather during 2001-2010
In preparation for the inaugural session of the IBCS, a document was prepared entitled The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Climate ExtremesIPCC SREX. The findings are broadly consistent with the IPCC SREX , although the analyses are more superficial. Excerpts:
Many of these events and trends can be explained by the natural variability of the climate system. Rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, however, are also affecting the climate. Detecting the respective roles being played by climate variability and human-induced climate change is one of the key challenges facing researchers today.
There were fewer deaths, even while exposure to extreme events increased as populations grew and more people were living in disaster-prone areas. According to the 2011 Global Assessment Report, the average population exposed to flooding every year increased by 114 per cent globally between 1970 and 2010, a period in which the world’s population increased by 87 per cent from 3.7 billion to 6.9 billion. The number of people exposed to severe storms almost tripled in cyclone-prone areas, increasing by 192 per cent, in the same period.
While the risk of death and injury from storms and floods declined, the vulnerability of property increased. This is because the expansion of socio-economic and infrastructural assets led to an increase in the amount and value of property exposed to weather and climate extremes.
While the report is relatively sensible, he press release from the WMO heavily spins this report along the story line of CO2 alarmism.
JC summary: As the relevance of the IPCC is waning, the relevance of the ICBS seems to be rising. While the IPCC is about the nexus of climate science and raw politics associated with energy policy, the ICBS is an emerging nexus between climate science and the national bureaucracies of the weather/hydrological services and end users. I have no illusions about challenges facing the ICBS, but it seems to be time/effort/funding better spent at this point than pursuing additional IPCC reports.