‘Shitshow’: Key UN climate report was delayed by scientist strike

‘Shitshow’: Key UN climate report was delayed by scientist strike
Опубликовано: Friday, 17 March 2023 15:29

Report will be released Monday, after a monthslong delay that sparked criticism of global body’s leadership.


The global body drafting the U.N.’s biggest climate science report faces intense criticism ahead of the publication of its latest landmark report, with one author describing a "total shitshow" following a strike by scientists.

The final instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) sixth major assessment of the state of the climate — due to be released Monday — was originally scheduled to land in October 2022.

But the report’s publication was delayed, a move the IPCC at the time blamed on "operational reasons." The delay upset countries, scientists and green campaigners who had counted on having the report in hand going into global U.N. climate talks in Egypt in November.

Now, minutes from a meeting in September recently uploaded to the IPCC website, detail how scientists "paused" their work on the report in protest over an "abrupt change" in support personnel.

Former Swiss government scientist Jose Romero was brought in to oversee the Technical Support Unit, which assists the scientists in preparing the report, in May. Shortly after that, some authors walked off the job, according to the minutes.

What followed was called a “perceived crisis” in the minutes prepared by the IPCC secretariat. The document also details how staff from across the organization were assembled to provide support to the authors and “rebuild the trust required to have them end their pause in writing.”

The scientists, who mostly give their time voluntarily alongside day jobs in universities or government departments, eventually completed the report. On Friday, they were in discussions with governments on the final wording.

An IPCC author, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the deeply controversial matter, told POLITICO that the entire process had been mishandled.

“It’s a total shitshow, but everyone acts as if everything is fine,” the author said.

In a statement, the IPCC’s media office noted there were "operational changes, including in the [report’s] Technical Support Unit level, but nevertheless, the IPCC produced a high-quality Assessment Report" and that it will be released in time for this year’s COP28 climate talks in Dubai.

The report is directly overseen by IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, whose term ends in July. To run for a second term, he would need the approval of the governments that make up the IPCC.

But confidence in the handling of the report appears to have damaged trust in the IPCC’s leadership among some countries.

According to the minutes, delegates at the September meeting, which included government officials from across the world and high ranking scientists, raised “concerns and disappointment” about the delay.

The IPCC’s reports provide a definitive account of the current science on the disruption of the climate. Earlier chapters detailed the widening gap between climate’s haves and have-nots and the vanishing chance of holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Delegates at the September meeting bemoaned the fact that the so-called “synthesis report” — which pulls together findings from three previous chapters on the physical changes, global impacts and mitigation of global warming — would miss the opportunity to add impetus to the discussions at the COP27.

They also raised worries about the “likely ramifications” for the IPCC’s future work and the scientists’ capacity to contribute this year to a scheduled stocktaking of all countries’ efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

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