The IPCC summarises the state of research on climate and climate change in its reports, formulates new research questions and coordinates global climate research efforts. The IPCC Bureau is leading this extensive work. It is elected by member governments, provides guidance to the Panel on the scientific and technical aspects of the Panel’s work and advises the Panel on related management and strategic issues. Thirty-four scientists sit on the IPCC Bureau, but only eight of them are allowed to come from Europe. Being a member of the IPCC Bureau is considered a special honour, but it also requires a lot of work.
You have been involved with the IPCC for some time, but you are now a Vice-Chair of Working Group I, “The Physical Science Basis”. What does this change?
I have been involved as Lead Author or Coordinating Lead Author on IPCC reports, including the Special Report on 1.5°C global warming and the last assessment report for the chapter on climate extremes. However, the IPCC Bureau has above all a strategic function. We make recommendations for the planning of the reporting cycle and on which reports would be useful over the next seven years. We then select suitable authors and supervise them. The members of the IPCC Bureau also prepare summaries for policymakers. This gives us the opportunity to play an active role in supporting consensus finding and formulating challenging text passages.
What is on the agenda?
The next IPCC Bureau meeting will be in Geneva in November – that’s convenient because it means I can take the train (laughs). In a further step, in the working groups, we discuss the topics to be covered in the forthcoming reports. We will present these proposals at the next IPCC General Assembly in January.
What will the priorities be?
Right now, we are in an exceptional situation – we are experiencing first-hand the consequences of the greenhouse gases that have been emitted in the past decades. We are now living in the very scenarios we once modelled for the future. We are in the middle of this crisis. A new task is to monitor the current situation even better. There is also a focus on what we call “actionable information”, that is, how we can better support policy decisions.
Is the IPCC too slow to act?
A typical IPCC cycle lasts around seven to eight years. However, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organizes the yearly climate conferences of the parties, established a process whereby a global stocktake of the climate crisis is to be conducted every five years. This assessment is to be carried out for the first time this year and then again in 2028. Hence, I think it would be a good idea to have shorter assessments on the evolution of the state of climate and greenhouse gas emissions produced more quickly. We cannot wait until 2030 for the next IPCC Synthesis Report.