"Science to Policy" Briefing on the IPCC 5th Assessment of Climate Change Science

Researchers from the College of Science recently took part in a Welsh-perspective ‘science to policy’ briefing on the IPCC 5th Assessment of climate change science.

Tavi at IPCC briefingAs one of four member institutions of the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W –a five-year £4.2m project funded by HEFCW), Swansea University is extremely active in the field of climate change, with researchers in Geography, Biosciences, Environmental Law, and Health Sciences, and over 100 peer-reviewed articles in the last three years. As Swansea C3W institutional director and Cryosphere thematic cluster leader, Professor Tavi Murray (pictured on the left) from the Glaciology Group was invited to speak on the briefing Expert Panel.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded in 1988 by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization and is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. The role of the IPCC is to systematically review and present scientific, technical and socioeconomic research relevant to climate change, in order to reliably inform policy-makers. It aims to be “policy-relevant, but not policy-prescriptive”. The recent IPCC output presents the findings of the Physical Science working group, and is the first stage of the 5th Assessment Report, due to be finalised in late 2014. You can read a summary of the 2,000-page report here

Welsh scientists made a significant contribution to this latest IPCC report, with 33 articles cited, of which 9 were by Swansea University scientists. Professor Tavi Murray was one of the lead authors (chapter Observations: Changes in Snow, Ice and Frozen Ground) and a contributing author (chapter Sea level change), and at the recent meeting Swansea was noted for its particular strength in glaciological/cryospheric and palaeoclimate research.

In Cardiff Bay, scientists brought a Welsh perspective to the latest report, in particular looking at its relevance to Welsh Government policy, and at the public perceptions of climate change (Professor Nick Pidgeon from C3W Cardiff University). Key take-home messages were that it is now “extremely likely” that climate change has been brought about by human activity, and the importance of localising predictions – for example, sea level rise and precipitation will have large geographical variations. Professor Pidgeon noted that independent scientists are the most trusted source of climate change information by society, and there ensued an interesting debate on how scientists can maintain their independence – and thus credibility – whilst still having an impact on policy and voicing an opinion. Gareth Jones, Director General of the Welsh Government Sustainable Futures, said, “the Welsh Government fully accept the IPCC report and are committed to climate change”, adding that low carbon measures were not just a necessity, but in fact an economic opportunity – the costs of ignoring climate change far exceed those needed for mitigation. Nick Pidgeon said that solutions lie in technology, engineering interventions and lifestyle changes, but that the general public still views climate change “as a debate”. Speakers agreed that Wales is in a unique position to respond to these findings, in that the Welsh population is more concerned about climate change than the rest of the UK (possibly due to recent flooding), and the renewable energy capacity in Wales is especially high.

The next working group report – on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – will be released in 2014.

Photo caption (left to right): Professor Tavi Murray, Swansea University; Dr Vicky Pope, The Met Office; Dr Nick Pidgeon, Cardiff University; Dr Corinne Le Quéerée, Tyndall Centre; Gareth Jones, Sustainable Futures, WG; Professor James Scourse, Bangor University; Professor Ian Hall, Cardiff University; Peter Davies, Climate Change Commission for Wales