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Seven ways to participate in the IPCC, by Okereke

In this final article of this series on the IPCC, I want to conclude by laying out the seven ways through which individuals, groups, and nations can participate in the work of the IPCC.

Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke
Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke delivering the keynote address

Previous articles have already explained the structure and process of the IPCC and made the point that the IPCC is one of the most influential international scientific organisations in the world today with critical influence in the design and formation of climate change and international development policies at both national and global level.

Here are the seven ways to participate in the work on the IPCC.

As Lead Authors and Coordinating Lead Authors

Lead Authors are the scientists responsible for drafting the IPCC reports and other special reports such as 1.5. These experts are selected by the IPCC Chair in consultation with Working Group Co-Chairs. In selecting Lead Authors and Coordinating Lead Authors, the IPCC Bureau is required to pay attention to ensure adequate coverage of all relevant disciplines and viewpoints. They are also required to ensure equitable regional and gender representation as well as a balance between new experts and those that have been involved in past IPCC reports. As explained in the previous articles, IPCC comprises three working groups.

These are Working Group I, on the Scientific Basis of Climate Change; Working Group II, on Climate Adaptation and Vulnerability, and Working Group III on Climate Mitigation Options including carbon removals. Each of the Working Group has 100s of scientists as Lead Authors selected from countries all over the world. Authors are nominated by IPCC members states and observer organizations and final selection of authors are made by the IPCC Bureau headed by the IPCC Chairman.

The Coordinating Lead Authors are also scientists devoted to the development of the reports. However, in addition to drafting sections in the chapters to which they have been assigned, the CLAs also have the additional responsibility of coordinating the chapters they are leading and also working with the Working Group CO-Chairs, the Bureau, and the Technical Support Unit (TSU) to pull the entire report together.

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External Chapter Reviewers

Without being an IPCC Author, it is still possible to make contributions as a reviewer. As a matter of rule, all IPCC reports are subjected to rounds of reviews where all most anybody can make comments. These rounds of reviews present the entire world with the opportunity to read the drafts being produced and make comments. This is the opportunity that people have to ensure that their views and a wider range of perspectives are adequately represented in the report. It is often normal for IPCC drafts reports to attract between 30,000 and 40,000 review comments from all over the world.

To qualify to review an IPCC report, one needs to register using the links sent by the IPCC Secretariat. Currently, there is a call for registration and review of the First Order Draft of the IPCC Working Group II report on Climate Adaption and Vulnerability. It will be great to see a lot of Nigerians register and provide review comments. The First Order Draft of the Working Group III report on Mitigation and other response options will be available for public review from late December. Historically Nigerians and many other African countries have not been participating effectively in the review process as only a few people bother to register and review IPCC documents.

Chapter Review Editor

Chapter Reviewers Editors are often selected by the IPCC Bureau from the basket of nominations they receive from the IPCC Member States and Observer Organisations. The role of the Chapter Review Editor is to make sure that IPCC Lead Authors and Coordinating Lead Authors respond adequately to the thousands of review comments submitted to CLAs and LAs during the development of the report. Chapter Review

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Editors are usually experts in the subject area being covered by the chapter to which they are assigned. They are there to provide an objective and independent view that can help the Lead Authors inadequately reflect the diverse perspectives needed to ensure a balanced and comprehensive report.

Contributing Authors

Contributing Authors are those that help to draft chapters of IPCC without being Lead Authors or Coordinating Lead Authors. These are scientists invited to contribute to small portions of the chapters based on their unique expertise and especially when the Lead Authors feel that such expertise and input are needed to provide a comprehensive and balanced assessment. It is often the decision of the Coordinating Lead Authors’ responsibility to invite Contributing Authors as they deem necessary to complete their assessment.

While the names of the external reviewers do not appear on the published report, the names of Contributing Authors are normally listed and their input acknowledged in the report. One of the reasons why it is advisable for scholars to actively engage in the review process as this can lead to the reviewers being invited to become contributing authors.

Chapter Scientists 

IPCC chapter scientists are recruited to work with Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors in drafting IPCC reports. Normally they do not participate in the actual writing of the report but provides technical, scientific, and organisational support to Authors. They help with reviewing the literature, organising folders, developing figures, and organising interaction among authors both during and outside of the Lead Authors Meetings. Chapter Scientists must attend the IPCC meetings and are listed in the reports. Just like Authors and Coordinating Authors, Chapter Scientists work on a voluntary basis and are not paid by either the UN or the member organisations.

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Scholarly Contribution

One of the most important ways to contribute to the work of the IPCC is through the publication of relevant literature. It is worth emphasizing that the IPCC does not do its own research but only reviews the latest peer-reviewed published scientific papers that are relevant to climate change. It, therefore, follows that ultimately the best way for scholars to have a strong voice in the IPCC process is to publish consistently in high visible journals. In addition to publishing relevant papers, authors may help the visibility and uptake of their work by pointing out these works to IPCC Authors in the course of the external reviewing process.

Usage and Engagement 

IPCC works hard to review the scientific basis of climate change and provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications, and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options. However, governments around the world have not engaged or used the work of the IPCC as much as they could possibly could. IPCC desires to see its work used by all stakeholders including governments, businesses and civil society.

The IPCC regularly prepares easily more digestible or plain versions of its report for use by ordinary people. Besides, they also organise outreach events to increase the awareness of the IPCC work. Countries, research institutions and civil society can benefit enormously by contacting and working with the IPCC to organise outreach events that can help their consistencies to learn more about, use, and contribute to the work of the IPCC.

For more in-depth information on the IPCC and the work it does please see https://www.ipcc.ch/

By Professor Chukwumerije Okereke (Director of the Centre of Climate Change and Development at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria.  He was an IPCC Lead Author in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), and the Special Report on 1.5 (SR1.5). He is currently Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report – AR6)

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