Climate change: the state of the science

Kulturhuset in Stockholm, the venue for "Climate change: the state of the science". Photo: alex.ch via Flickr
Sep 2013
16

We asked Owen Gaffney, Director of Communications at IGBP, about their upcoming event on the IPCC Working Group I report.

Owen, tell me a bit about your event.

Owen – Our event is called ‘Climate change: the state of the science.’ It’s a public event on the 28th of September, one day after the launch of a major climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It’s IPCC’s Working Group I summary for policymakers. This is a significant milestone because it is the first part of the fifth assessment report from IPCC. The event is being organized by IGBP and partners in Stockholm it’s going to be held at the Kulturhuset, which is right in the main square in the city.

IPCC is finalising the report in Stockholm earlier in the week. There will be a major international press conference on 27 September in the city. The following day, there will be a lot going on in Stockholm. After our event there are plans for a small pop concert. Some Swedish bands and singer-songwriters will be performing. The idea is to raise awareness among young people. It is not officially linked to our event, though.

There will be several events related to the IPCC report around this time. Our event is very much targeted at a very broad audience. Given the significance of the climate change challenge, we felt it important the public has an opportunity to discuss the report with the authors.

Hans Rosling will be one of the key speakers at the event. Can you tell us something about him and why you asked him to speak at the event?

Owen – Hans Rosling is probably the most famous science communicator in Sweden. He is a public health specialist but in the last decade many of his talks relate to global change, particularly change over the last two centuries. He is a powerful speaker able to communicate complex interconnected issues. He discusses how global change, population health, poverty, energy and climate change are all interrelated. That is why he is so relevant to this context, because he can help put climate change into its broader context. This is completely in line with the work of IGBP – that’s what we’ve been doing for 25 years. We were set up because there was a realization that climate change is part of a much bigger phenomenon. It is fitting then to get Hans Rosling to open such a public forum.

Hans Rosling isn’t the only prominent speaker at your event. Can you tell us a bit about the other scientists on the panel?

Owen – IPCC Working Group I co-chair Thomas Stocker is the main speaker. He’ll outline the findings from the new report. One of the key goals of the event is to open a dialogue about the report. This is tremendously important to the scientific community. In the last four years, the IPCC has been criticised and misrepresented in some parts of the media. Now is a great opportunity to discuss how IPCC operates, its strengths and its limitations. That’s why we will spend an hour taking questions from the audience in the room and from Twitter.

So who else will be on the stage?

Owen – On the stage we have the two Working Group I co-chairs , Qin Dahe and Thomas Stocker, and also lead authors Markku Rummukainen and Deliang Chen, the former president of the International Council for Science. Sybil Seitzinger, the IGBP director, who is an author on Working Group II, is also contributing. IGBP and the other global environmental change programmes work closely with IPCC on many aspects of its work and each year we participate in science-policy dialogues organized by UNFCCC. coming along to give an IGBP perspective on things.

You mentioned that you will livestream the event and that you will take questions through Twitter. Have you done this previously and what were your experiences with this?

Owen – Yes, we did this last year at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, and that worked really well. I think Twitter is a fantastic medium for science events. It can really drive discussion and bring in people from around the world. It also prevents bores hogging mic.

Do you already have a hashtag for the event?

Owen – We will be using our own hashtag for this event #climateSTHLM, because on the day of the report and the day after there’ll be thousands of messages on hashtags like #AR5 or #IPCC. So we need a specific one to take in questions, otherwise they might just get drowned out by the other voices.

Follow @climateSTHLM. This is our official Twitter account. STHLM is the way they abbreviate Stockholm here.

Why is this report being released in Stockholm? Is there a historical connection between IPCC and the city?

Owen – Historically there’s very strong links between IPCC and Stockholm. It was a Swedish meteorologist Bert Bolin and colleagues who pushed to set up IPCC in the 1980s.  Bolin died in 2007, but he lived long enough to appreciate the recognition from the Nobel Committee. Bolin was also instrumental in setting up both the World Climate Research Programme and IGBP, and he is one of the reasons IGBP is based in Stockholm. And of course there is the association with the Nobel Prizes, though the Peace Prize is dished out in Oslo.

On 27 September, there will be an event at the Royal Academy of Sciences (which hosts IGBP) in honour of Bert Bolin. Thomas Stocker from IPCC Working Group I will present the report’s findings to the audience of mainly academics and policymakers.

There’s been a long and strong relationship between IGBP and IPCC. We have observer status with IPCC and about 70 of scientists in our networks are involved in the AR5, including our director. We participate in many parts of the process, from inputting into developing the outline of the report to suggesting lead authors.

Would you describe IGBP as a boundary organisation between science and policy?

Owen – That’s an interesting question. I don’t think IGBP is a boundary organization, though at times it operates in this role. I think IPCC is more of a boundary organisation between science and policy – the role IPCC has is formalised. Our focus is more to coordinate an international network of scientists. That, though, is one of the things that will change with Future Earth. Future Earth will have this dual role of being a science network and operating as a boundary organisation, engaging more closely with stakeholders and at the science-policy interface.

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