What's Next for the IPCC?

rajendra pachauri

Image courtesy of the World Economic Forum via flickr

Topping a Nobel Peace Prize-winning performance won't be easy, but the IPCC is hoping to do just that with its next report, set to be released no later than 2013, by honing in on two key themes: practicality and precision. Meeting last week in Budapest, Hungary, the government delegates to the multilateral organization agreed to several procedural changes that would help streamline the process -- and ensure the next report is released on time.

Science's Eli Kintisch reports (sub. required) that the scientists agreed to focus on providing more information about the actual impacts of global warming and what can be done to reduce GHG emissions growth. In order to get the report out by 2013, within the usual 6-year time frame, they decided to omit several sections -- primarily the more data-heavy scenarios some researchers use to build their global warming models.

climate model

Image courtesy of UCAR

They also decided to push the concept of having the panel's three working groups develop their reports in parallel rather than sequentially; as Richard Moss, a scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, explained, the new cooperative mindset will "expedite and improve the process" by reducing uncertainty and providing governments with better policy prescriptions.

Significantly, for those (like us) who've criticized the IPCC for being too conservative or for employing outdated numbers, the panel sponsored a series of workshops to elaborate more timely emissions scenarios -- taking into account new statistics on energy use, population growth and emissions reductions technologies. Its members chose four to use in future models, the most pessimistic of which predicts atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could hit 1370 ppm by 2100; the most optimistic one predicts they will peak at 490 ppm before starting to fall.

The use of only 4 scenarios -- the previous report used over 40 different scenarios -- to build climate models is expected to lead to greater cooperation and consistency among the modeling community. By employing the same set of starting conditions, modelers will better be able to compare their findings and collaborate on developing more sophisticated models.

Rajendra Pachauri, the current chair, is widely expected to reprise his role when the IPCC's members meet this September in Geneva to elect their leaders.

Via ::Science: IPCC Tunes Up for Its Next Report Aiming for Better, Timely Results (journal, sub. required)

See also: ::Has the IPCC Outlived its Usefulness?, ::Al Gore And IPCC Panel Win The Nobel Prize