Open IPCC

Today at a PhD summer school here in Berlin, I held a presentation on a potential paper I already spent some time thinking about. The working title is “Public participation in environmental assessments: The case for an open IPCC”. I don’t know yet whether I will actually write a paper about it, since I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do. Anyway, the presentation can be downloaded here (ppt), and the abstract reads as follows.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) serves as a science-policy interface, providing policy makers with valuable information on which they can decide how to react towards climate change. Even though the processes employed in the IPCC assessments – and the assessments themselves – have been proven widely reliable, public perception of the IPCC has suffered markedly due to “Climategate”, the publication of about 1,000 emails from a server of the Climatic Research Unit in November 2009, and to the realisation that there is a small number of errors in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Attacks against climate science do not only arise from paid professionals, to whom disinforming the public with regards to climate change is a PR job. It has its roots also in a number of civic sceptics, to whom the IPCC processes appear intransparent, biased, and unreliable. These individuals should not merely be discarded as troublemakers, but sought to be integrated in a public participation process leading to an open IPCC, extending its original role towards a science-policy-society-interface.

In the first part, I will present the case for why the IPCC assessment process should be opened. This will be done with a focus on normative and functional aspects. I will then give an overview of the state of public participation in environmental assessments. The third part will be used to develop scenarios for how an open assessment process could be managed in practice. This includes technical means, e.g. software solutions and web platforms on which the assessment could be co-produced, acceptability, and practicability, especially in light of the small budget of the IPCC and the extremely limited time of the reports’ authors.

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