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CSIR researchers to author global assessments of climate change science and policy

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CSIR scientists are part of a team of global researchers that will work on the next assessment of the science of climate change, starting in June 2018. The assessment, which is in its sixth edition, is commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will inform policymakers, international climate negotiators and other stakeholders about the state of knowledge on all aspects of climate change. 

Contact Person

Pedro Monteiro

pmonteir@csir.co.za

CSIR scientists are part of a team of global researchers that will work on the next assessment of the science of climate change, starting in June 2018. The assessment, which is in its sixth edition, is commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will inform policymakers, international climate negotiators and other stakeholders about the state of knowledge on all aspects of climate change. 

The societal impact of these assessments is global agreements, such as the Paris Agreement in 2015, which set the long-term mitigation targets and adaptations required to avoid dangerous climate change. 

The IPCC was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988. The body provides policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, while putting forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. Every seven to eight years, the IPCC releases an assessment report comprising research from more than 700 experts from 90 countries who are divided into three working groups. Working Group I is responsible for the physical science basis of climate change, Working Group II looks at impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and Working Group III covers mitigation of climate change.

The CSIR’s Dr Pedro Monteiro was invited to be one of the coordinating lead authors of Chapter 5: Carbon and biogeochemistry of Working Group I; Prof Francois Engelbrecht will be one of the lead authors of Chapter 4: Future global climate: Scenario-based projections and near term information of Working Group I; and Dr Sasha Naidoo will be one of the lead authors of Chapter 13: National and subnational policies and institutions of Working Group III of the IPCC Assessment Report 6 (AR6). The inclusion of these scientists speaks to the expertise that they have acquired in their various fields, as well as the contributions they continue to make nationally and internationally.

Monteiro says, “South African and global science of climate change has been driving one of the largest transformations of national and global economies since the 19th century by highlighting the need to drastically reduce our dependency on fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change. This is possible through the global coordination of the assessment of the progress of the science and its stronger links to the policy development arena, such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, that sets mitigation targets and adaptation support mechanisms”. 

He adds that, “IPCC assessments provide governments, at all levels, with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. These assessments are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change”. IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus ensuring objectivity and transparency.

“Our contribution to the global understanding of global warming and climate change was initially largely based on terrestrial carbon dynamics and has now grown to also involve the role of the oceans, particularly the Southern Ocean, which has recently been recognised as a global climate ‘fly-wheel’ and a part of the global system in which South Africa has a comparative geographical advantage. Our participation in international panels offers an important platform to both profile our science, as well as keep our science at the cutting edge,” he says.

Engelbrecht says, “Africa is the continent thought to be most vulnerable to climate change, due to the relatively low adaptive capacity of developing economies. Moreover, in Africa the climate change signal is relatively strong, with temperatures in the African subtropics rising at about twice the global rate of temperature increase. It is thus crucial for African climate scientists to actively participate in the assessment of the plausible climate change futures in Africa. The development of the first African-based Earth System Model at the CSIR is a particularly important development towards AR6. The projections of future climate change generated by the CSIR are not only providing new insights into climate change impacts in Africa, but developing the new model has also induced an extensive capacity-building programme in the Earth Sciences at the CSIR and in South Africa”.

Naidoo currently manages three projects for the Department of Environmental Affairs, one of which aims to produce an up-to-date assessment of South Africa’s climate technology needs across key sectors to adapt and mitigate climate change effects, in order to achieve sustainable developmental goals. Her contribution to Working Group III will be informed by the high-level of work that has been done in terms of South Africa’s commitment to responding to climate change, including the current policies and legislation to mitigate climate change. The chapter on national and subnational policies will include an assessment of policy instruments and regimes; derive cross-country insights from implementation of policies and strategies; analyse sectoral policies; facilitate interactions between national actions across countries; as well as develop mitigation and adaptation linkages. This is important in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various policy instruments and how they interact.

The contributions of the three working groups to AR6 will be finalised in 2021 and the AR6 Synthesis Report will be finalised in in the first half of 2022, in time for the first United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change global stocktake, under the Paris Agreement in 2023.

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