IPCC in action: Part I

Obviously this is (and needs to be) a very formal and transparent process, open to the public at any stage and closely scrutinized by panels of expert scientists and relevant government employees and policy makers. The present AR4 -WGI process started back in April 2004 when the author teams of the report were selected and the Lead Authors first met in September in Italy to launch the composition of the “zero order draft” which was subsequently submitted to the Technical Support Unit (TSU) for an informal review by invited experts (mostly well-known scientists). In May 2005 the second Lead Author meeting will take place in China to consider comments on the zero order draft and initiate the first order draft writeup. This is why the scientists in Hawaii were ablaze; they have to hurry up and publish their results by the time the first order draft is …drafted.

Later in 2005, the first order draft which was looked at by the TSU must now become available to external reviewers. At this point any scientist in the world can ask to review and comment on the draft. The Third Lead Author meeting will be held in December of 2005 in New Zealand and it will consider comments on the first order draft and initiate the writing of the second order draft. By now all the researchers will have to have their work published in order to be included in the report (talking about tight schedule for our Hawaiian scientists).

By April 2006, the second order draft will be made available to even more external reviewers. Now policymakers and actual Governments can make comments and/or recommendations, so that in June 2006, the fourth Lead Author meeting will evaluate the second order draft, revise it and initiate writing of the final draft to be submitted to TSU and again to Governments for concluding remarks.

Already by January 2007 when the Working Group I Plenary Session of Government representatives will have to approve the Summary for Policymakers line by line and accept the report. (Don’t sweat, it has been done before!)

The scientific part of the final draft of AR4 (WGI) is expected to cover issues such as observations of the state of the atmosphere and the radiative forcing, the ice and sea climate change, paleoclimate, biogeochemistry and evaluations of global and regional model simulations and climate predictions. CMEP and the Hawaiian throngs will mainly contribute to this last part of AR4 and will be a major part of the scientific evidence for climate changes and projections.

So, what is CMEP exactly? Well, it is a very ambitions and painstaking project which has managed to bring together all the aforementioned modeling groups which run specified model experiments with very similar forcings and then performed coordinated diagnostic analyses to evaluate these model simulations and determine the uncertainty in the future climate projections in their models. The output from all the atmosphere-ice-ocean-land coupled general circulation models (GCMs) is hosted in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory database. The model variables that are evaluated against all sorts of observations and measurements range from solar radiation and precipitation rates, air and sea surface temperatures, cloud properties and distributions, winds, river runoff, ocean currents, ice cover, albedos, even the maximum soil depth reached by plant roots (seriously!).

Projections for the these variables are given for different model simulations of climate scenarios. What do the models predict for our era if pre-industrial aerosol forcing was kept constant (i.e. no anthropogenic effects)? Or what is the climate going to be if emissions are held at their present-day levels? Other, more sophisticated scenarios were drawn up based on reasonable estimates of what the future world will be like because of decisions and actions governments will/might make (more info).

For instance, the A1 scenario (what unfortunate nomenclature!) considers a future world of very rapid economic growth, low population growth and rapid introduction of new and more efficient technology. Major underlying themes are economic and cultural convergence and capacity building, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. In this world, people pursue personal wealth rather than environmental quality. (a …”current-administration”‘s world)

The A2 scenario imagines a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is that of strengthening regional cultural identities, with an emphasis on family values and local traditions, high population growth, and less concern for rapid economic development. (an Osmond family world?)

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