Between 16 and 20 October 2017, the Norwegian Environment Agency was host to the IPCC’s first Lead Author Meeting for its Special Report on Climate Change and Land. Over 130 IPCC Bureau members, authors and staff took over the Agency’s corridors and meeting rooms to start planning the report.
From deserts to forests, land surfaces are an important part of the climate system. Land surfaces act both as sinks and sources of carbon dioxide, and both affect and are affected by climate change. At the start of the 6th assessment cycle in 2015, gaining a better understanding of the feedbacks between climate change and land was seen as a priority for governments.
“Over the past year we have worked hard with governments to develop a report structure that is both science-based and policy-relevant,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of Working Group III, the Working Group that assesses how the emissions that cause climate change can be reduced. “We were excited at getting the experts together for the first time to start writing.”
After a scoping meeting in Dublin in 2016, the IPCC and world governments agreed the outline of the special report, whose full title is Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.
In seven chapters, the report will explore a range of topics, including the interactions between climate change and desertification, land degradation, food security, sustainable land management, and opportunities and risks associated with land-based adaptation and mitigation responses to climate change.
“Land is fundamental to human well-being. It is the medium on which we live and influences the balance of power and politics,” said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of Working Group II, the IPCC Working Group that assesses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. “We are looking at land in terms of impacts such as degradation, desertification and impacts on food security and how these may be multiplied and magnified by climate change. It is a complex issue.”
Based on hundreds of nominations from governments and IPCC observer organizations, the IPCC selected 103 experts to draft the report. Scientific expertise, geographic representation, gender balance and prior IPCC experience were all taken into account when making the selection.
Last week’s meeting was the first opportunity for these experts to come together, discuss their work and start developing the report. Working in teams for each chapter, authors identified the research to be assessed, and discussed how each chapter fits into the bigger picture.
“All lead authors have to digest the outcome of the scoping meeting, develop the storyline and structure of the report and distribute tasks,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of Working Group I, the Working Group that looks at the physical science basis of climate change. “In several months, they will come together again, to see what is covered in the draft compared to the outline, based on literature available, and identify gaps.”
The meeting in Oslo brought together the IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, Vice-Chairs Thelma Krug and Youba Sokona, the six Co-Chairs of the three IPCC Working Groups and one of the Co-Chairs from the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. While Working Group III is leading on its organization, this report is jointly coordinated by all three IPCC Working Groups.
“I think this meeting went really well,” said Thelma Krug, IPCC Vice-Chair. “But we still have challenges before us. There are sensitive issues: land degradation, desertification, food security and all interrelations between these. This is going to be a challenge for the second meeting.”
The authors will meet again in March 2018 to prepare a draft of the report that will be subject to a review by experts worldwide. Between the two meetings, each chapter team will start to work on sections of the report and assess the existing literature in line with the governments’ priorities. The report will be finalized in 2019.