(A08)
What do we still not know about the IPCC?
Location Cavendish Lecture Theatre (Faraday Complex)
Date and Start Time 26 Jul, 2018 at 11:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Kari De Pryck (University of Geneva) email
  • Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon) email
  • Jasmine Livingston (Lund University) email

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Short abstract

The panel explores new research directions on the IPCC, focussing on how, facilitating the meeting between the scientific and political debates, the organisation allows various political actors to play an active role in the consolidation of scientific consensus: 'politics is science by other means'.

Long abstract

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a well-known institution producing assessments on climate knowledge. It is considered as a model of international expertise because of its 'innovative' design, in terms of science-policy interface and assessing procedures.

The IPCC has triggered much scholarly interest and in 2010 it became the object of an important paper by Hulme and Mahony. The article 'What do we know about the IPCC' was the first review of the literature on the organisation. The authors highlighted the challenges faced by the organisation in maintaining geographical and disciplinary balance, preserving legitimacy and credibility, communicating (un)certainties, and affecting knowledge production and decision-making.

Despite the continued production of scholarly work on the IPCC, much remains to be known. While the 'scientific' component of the organisation has been the object of much research, its 'intergovernmental' nature remains understudied. The hybridity of the IPCC is acknowledged, but the literature often attributes a secondary role to the governments and underrepresents the political functions of the organisation. Furthermore, among the Working Groups, WG I and to some extent WG II have received more attention than WG III, in which mitigation policies are assessed.

We invite contributions discussing the meetings that the IPCC facilitates between scientific debates and international diplomacies at different scales. The panel will discuss new research directions aimed at getting politics back into IPCC studies, in the context of increasing doubts about the effectiveness of GEAs.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

International expertise under 'controversy'. The case of the IPCC

Author: Kari De Pryck (University of Geneva) email
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Short abstract

In this paper, we explored how controversies have influenced and made more visible the practices, procedures and discourses of hybrid organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Long abstract

International expert organizations are an integral part of global environmental politics. In particular, the mobilization of scientific information has been essential to identify complex environmental problems and their consequences at different temporal and spatial scales. International expert organizations, however, are often contested, especially on issues where "facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent" (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993, p. 744). Godard (1993) introduced the notion of controversial universes to describe the constrained environment within which these organizations evolve. In this paper, we explored how controversies have influenced and made more visible the practices, procedures and discourses of international organizations, using the case of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one of the most contested examples. We relied on both qualitative (interviews, archive analysis, ethnography) and quantitative methods (database of experts). We argued that institutional changes following internal and external controversies are shaped by the disagreements concerning the legitimacy and credibility of the organization. They have led to a need for a balanced representation of all nations in the assessment and to more negotiated outcomes. Critiques have also fostered an increase in the formalization of procedures and a more attentive management of the information displayed on the organization.

The experts network

Author: Tommaso Venturini (École Normale Supérieure Lyon) email
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Short abstract

Introducing a Database of IPCC Authors and Delegates and discussing its possible uses

Long abstract

The IPCC is a fascinating institutional puzzle. Despite its gruelling mission (maintaining a rolling dialogue on climate change between the different disciplines and scientific approaches and between the academic community and world governments), the IPCC have prospered over thirty years and five assessment cycles.

In its three decades, the organisation has thrived quantitatively and qualitatively: its reports have grown from the 1222 to 5021 pages; its authors increased from 586 to 2731; and its national delegates from 737 to 3382; all while the Panel was strengthening its authority as a bridge between scientific research and diplomatic negotiations (for which it was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace).

Most amazingly, such expansion has not been accompanied by an "institutional hardening" of the organisation. The IPCC remains "network organisation" with no permanent organs and no lifelong employees (apart from a relatively small Secretariat). Rather than on a stable bureaucracy, the IPCC has based its success on a vast and complex system of practices and procedures that it progressively developed to select its members and coordinate their contributions.

To shed lights on these interactions and the coordination patterns that they produced, we build a database containing the names, the roles and the national and institutional affiliations of all the individuals that have contributed to the IPCC. In this contribution we will present such database and discuss the possible lines of investigation that it could enable.

Balancing formalisation of procedures against professional judgement in synthesising science for policy purposes: the case of the IPCC

Authors: Göran Sundqvist (University of Gothenburg) email
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Short abstract

The aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the interplay of formal tools and informal expertise in the IPCC work of producing assessment reports. In this respect, we focus on how the IPCC, in the new post-Paris situation, handles i) uncertainty management and ii) policy relevance.

Long abstract

The aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of the interplay of formal tools and informal expertise in the IPCC work of producing assessment reports. Any effort at synthesising research findings for policy purposes must rely on a balance between formalised procedures and expert judgements. However, these balancing acts are not well understood. STS scholars often focus on the significance of informal considerations and negotiations in scientific practice. Practitioners of many disciplines, on the other hand, rely extensively on measuring instruments, protocols and other formal tools, often discussed by STS scholars under the heading of mechanical objectivity. Porter (1995) emphasises the political utility of mechanical objectivity, while arguing that those are helpful when contested decisions are to be justified. To these exogenous incentives of formalisation we add endogenous incentives, arising within research communities seeking to align techniques of gathering and processing data. This paper describes the manner in which the IPCC, relying on a combination of formalised procedures and expert judgements (based on exogenous and endogenous incentives), handles i) uncertainty management (how to specify what is known and what remains uncertain) and ii) policy relevance (how to get the policy connection right). In addition to offering a contribution to the understanding of key issues underlying the work of the IPCC, including focusing on continuity as well as the new post-Paris situation, in which both uncertainty management and relevance are challenging issues, we also offer recommendations on where formalisation is appropriate and where it should be avoided.

Why is there early career scientists in IPCC?

Author: Karin M Gustafsson (Örebro University) email
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Short abstract

For IPCC, the key to become trustworthy has been to enroll world leading scientists. With AR5 IPCC enrolled early career scientists to assist as chapter scientists. This paper explore the role created for early career scientists and how this role is to be understood in terms of credibility.

Long abstract

In the context of increasing doubts about the effectiveness of global environmental assessments, the key strategy for IPCC to create a trustworthy organization with credibility, relevance and legitimacy has been to enroll world leading scientists to 'speak truth to power'. The strategy has been given both positive and negative critic. With AR5 IPCC officially enrolled early career scientists to assist as chapter scientists (CS) for the first time. After evaluating the CS' work, IPCC recommended a continued use of CS in future assessments. At the same time, IPCC also declared that "training and capacity building is outside of the mandate of the IPCC". Together with the ambition to enroll world leading scientists, this statement raises questions; why is there early career scientists in IPCC, and what role are they supposed to play in the organization? This study explore the introduction of early career scientists into IPCC, the role they play in the organization, and how this role is to be understood in terms of credibility, relevance and legitimacy. The study analyze interviews, documents, and scientific journal articles. The study theoretically elaborate on how the socialization process contribute to institutional continuity or change. The study shows how IPCC, by introducing the role of CS, opened for the possibility of institutional change. The study also shows how IPCC, with the introduction of CS, committed to a moderate path of deliberation, and to the position that credible, relevant, and legitimate knowledge comes from having the world's leading scientists do the assessment.

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

Author: Jasmine Livingston (Lund University) email
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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.

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.

Organising policy-relevant knowledge for climate action: Integrated Assessment Modelling, the IPCC, and the emergence of a collective expertise on socioeconomic emission scenarios

Authors: Christophe Cassen (Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement) email
Alain Nadai (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) email
Béatrice Cointe (University of Oslo) email
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Short abstract

This paper analyses how Integrated Assessment Models organised into a community around the production of socio-economic scenarios for the AR5 (2005-2014). It studies the repertoire that served to organise this work, frames epistemic practices of this community, in interaction with the IPCC WGIII.

Long abstract

The IPCC, in its regular assessment of climate change research, covers a wide range of sciences and expertise, with three Working Groups with different focus (physical basis, impacts and adaptation, mitigation). Whereas physical climate models relevant to Working Group I have received much attention, few studies have tried to unpack to plurality of scientific perspectives that make up climate change research, and the relationships among them. In particular, little is known about expertise on climate change adaptation and mitigation. We seek to analyse one increasingly influential source of expertise on mitigation, that is within Working Group III of the IPCC: Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), which were prominent within the AR5. We retrace how IAM research organised into a community around the production of socio-economic scenarios during the preparation of the IPCC AR5 (2005-2014). Our objective is to describe the co-emergence of a research community, its instruments, and its domain of applicability. We highlight the role of the IPCC process in the making of the IAM community, showing how IAM worked their way to an influent position, and analyse elements of the repertoire that served to organise collective work on scenarios in interaction with the IPCC and the European Union, and which now frames the community and its epistemic practices. This is a step towards a more refined understanding of climate expertise and of the dynamics and specifics of policy-relevant science.

A topography of climate change research

Author: Max Callaghan (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) email
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Short abstract

This paper machine reads the vast scientific literature on climate change. I employ topic modelling to ask, what is the literature about? How has the topic landscape changed? And how can this landscape inform our understanding of the IPCC's relationship with the literature?

Long abstract

The IPCC aims to comprehensively assess the literature on climate change, while balancing legitimacy, relevance and credibility. With 128,000 scientific articles published about climate change since the 5th assessment report in 2013 (compared to just 1,848 before the first assessment report), comprehensive, credible and relevant assessments become ever more challenging. Machine reading this vast corpus offers a way to engage with the literature and understand broad trends at scale. I present a dynamic topic model of over 300,000 abstracts indexed in the Web of Science (WoS). The dynamic topic model identifies fast-growing topics on negative emissions and cities, as well as established topics on atmospheric forcing. By comparing the documents with lists of citations from IPCC reports, I report which topics have been better covered by the IPCC and which topics have received less coverage. This comparison yields evidence to complement the demands made by policy-makers about the IPCC for more solution-oriented knowledge. While topics about the causes and processes of climate change are relatively well represented in IPCC reports, more "solutions-oriented" topics like co2 storage, soil carbon or hydrogen, are less well represented.

The history and politics of the carbon budget

Author: Bård Lahn (CICERO Center for International Climate Research) email
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Short abstract

This paper traces the history of the concept of a global "carbon budget". It illustrates how the IPCC process engages scientists directly in modifying how climate change is framed as a political issue, and explores the implications of this modifying-work.

Long abstract

In the ten years since it first reached the public spotlight, the concept of a global "carbon budget" of allowable CO2 emissions has proven to be a productive conceptual innovation in climate science and policy. It has given rise to a large scientific literature as well as new policy discourses and activist approaches. It has however also sparked controversy, with regard to both its scientific merit and its policy relevance - with some commentators arguing that the concept should be abandoned altogether.

Drawing on document analysis and interviews with IPCC authors, this paper traces the historical origins of the carbon budget as a concept at the intersection of climate science and policy, from its origins in Earth system science and European climate governance ideals of the 1980s, through to the most recent reports of the IPCC. It focuses in particular on how the assessment process of the IPCC offers means for scientists to modify how climate change is framed as a political issue, and explores the implications of this modifying-work.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.