Accepted paper:

The IPCC as an organizer of scientific research: the case of the 1.5 Special Report


Jasmine Livingston (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the complicated relationship between science and policy by looking at how the IPCC has played an important role in shaping research agendas and outcomes. It takes the case of the 1.5 degrees special report to examine how politics is increasingly defining the work of the IPCC.

Paper long abstract:

The role of the IPCC as a boundary, or hybrid organisation, between science and policy, has been well documented. However although much research has focused on the role that the IPCC has had in shaping policy outcomes, less has been said on the IPCC's role as a hegemonic organiser of scientific research within the broader scientific community. This paper takes the case of the 1.5 degree Special Report, requested of the IPCC by the UNFCCC in the wake of the signing of the Paris Agreement, as a case of how the politics of climate change have found themselves increasingly defining the work of the IPCC. I draw on interviews with authors of the 1.5 SR, alongside document analysis to trace the origins of the 1.5 SR, and explore what role science, and the IPCC in particular, had in 1.5 degrees undergoing transformation from an unrealistic political target to an accepted symbol of climate action. I argue that this has indeed partly been due to the scientific community taking 1.5 degrees increasingly seriously, and seeing work on 1.5 as a central motivation for scientific research, and that this is something that the IPCC has been directly involved in. I explore the politics of 1.5 as a number which, although I argue is mainly symbolic in policy terms, has, in scientific terms, become a substantive focus of research efforts. I highlight a paradox whereby 1.5 degrees' scientific meaning has come about through political negotiation.

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