The International Panel on Climate Change: the highest authority

Dr Katja Mintenbeck, marine biologist and scientific director of the IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit.


Ocean acidification

At regular intervals, the International Panel on Climate Change is faced with a mammoth task. For every new Assessment Report, it has to evaluate and summarise the latest findings on the causes of climate change, its consequences and risks, as well as the options for humans and the environment to adapt to and slow the warming, and to present this information in a way that enables decision-makers around the globe to develop and implement effective strategies to combat climate change.

Three Working Groups, each consisting of more than 250 authors from around the world, are charged with this task. Each Group is supported by a so-called Technical Support Unit: a team of scientists and project managers who ensure that the collaboration runs smoothly across national and continental borders, that every author fulfils their responsibilities, and that all those involved adhere to the strict IPCC protocol – since this is the only way to guarantee that, in the end, all 195 Member States of the United Nations adopt and approve the report, and accept the IPCC as the highest, neutral authority on the issue of climate assessment.

The Alfred Wegener Institute is currently home to the Technical Support Unit for the IPCC’s Working Group II. Its members and authors are now working on the 6th Assessment Report, focusing on the consequences of climate change for humans and the environment, on the respective adaptation options, and on the question of who or what is hardest hit by climate change. The greatest challenge here is combining insights from the natural sciences with findings from the business and social sciences to present interdisciplinary courses of action. Further, the current pandemic-based restrictions in place around the globe make the Group’s work infinitely more difficult: meetings between authors, and all other exchanges, are strictly digital. Nevertheless, the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report will represent a new milestone, and is eagerly awaited around the globe.