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IPCC final report: why the IPCC still matters


As of: 03/19/2023 4:02 PM

How is our planet? For years, scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been collecting and evaluating data — and the final part of their work will be published on Monday. Meteorologist Marotzky explains in an interview why the panel is so important. Mr. Marotzke, synthesis report on Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC was established in November 1988. Why is the IPCC needed?

Joachim Marotzki: So governments know what to expect. Regarding man-made climate change, they need a knowledge base. In 1988, it was recognized that this knowledge base should be provided in a systematic manner. Since then, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been working to collect and assess knowledge about climate change. The synthesis report will be published on Monday. Honestly, can this report be described as a summary of the reports of the three working groups that have already been published?

Marotzky: This is possible. I did not participate this time, but in the last progress report I also participated in the synthesis report. At that time, we tried to combine the results and evaluate the three working groups on the most important topics. This gives you a completely different perspective on the subject.

Not only did I look at it from the perspective of a climate physicist, but my colleagues and I also looked at the consequences of climate change, how to avoid climate change and what measures are already in place. In my opinion, with this common opinion, the texts have gained more, become better and, above all, more understandable. In this respect, the Synthesis Report presents an entirely new adjective.

to a person

Jochem Marotzky is a German climatologist and oceanographer and since 2003 Director and Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. He was the coordinating lead author of the chapter “The World’s Climate in the Future: Scenario- and Information-Based Projections for the Near Future” in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report.

Knowledge about climate change is out there At the end of each working group report is a summary for decision makers. What is the significance of these summaries?

Marotzky: Clearly, these summaries are the most important part of the IPCC’s reporting. It summarizes our most important vision and most important assessments. In this respect, they are the core of what we have put together. But they are also very important politically. There are annual climate conferences – at the end of last year in Egypt, at the end of this year in Dubai. At these climate conferences, what is stated in decision-makers’ summaries of IPCC reports is accepted unchallenged as scientific knowledge and no longer questioned. To put it bluntly: What is written in summaries for decision makers is scientific law. This is acceptable in politics.

Jochem Marotzke, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, on the following status report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

tagesschau24 09:00 AM, 17.3.2023 Do you think that decision makers pay enough attention to these reports?

Marotzky: In almost every country in the world, the summary for decision-makers is the scientific basis for climate policy, and this applies to Germany as well. There is no doubt that the federal government takes the IPCC’s reports as the scientific basis for its work. But if you ask the question: does this knowledge also lead to action in the same measure? Then the answer: No, not enough.

For example, we see very clearly today that the world is not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. This is what the Paris climate agreement stipulated. This means that we see very clearly that what we know about climate protection and climate change is not directly and in some cases not remotely implemented in government actions or in social action. So there is a huge gap between what we know needs to be done and what is actually happening.

Climate protection must remain realistic Writing the IPCC report takes about three to four years. As a writer, do you get frustrated when you see that there really isn’t enough?

Marotzky: This may come as a surprise, but it does not disappoint me, because we must recognize that scientific knowledge plays only a small role in making political decisions. Political decisions have to be negotiated every day, one might say unfortunately, but that is the way it is, short-term interests and short-term crises come into play again and again. The fact is that long-term decisions repeatedly suffer from short-term constraints and necessities. In that sense, I’m also a realist when it comes to it. I don’t expect that what is scientifically recognized will be implemented immediately.

I don’t think this is possible either, because other interests get in the way. In Germany, for example, we see the debate about phasing out coal. Of course, it would be better for climate protection if coal was phased out as quickly as possible. But the fate of entire regions also depends on it, jobs depend on it. And then it would be very difficult to say that climate protection should now dominate everything and be the absolute priority. It would be unrealistic to expect. And I don’t even think it’s legitimate. The Federal Constitutional Court made this very clear in its 2021 decision that climate protection is also in competition with other legitimate constitutional goods. In this regard, one cannot expect that now everything will be subject to climate protection.

The IPCC currently has three working groups

The first working group It deals with the scientific causes of climate change. Climate physics is crucial here, explains meteorologist Marotzki—everything that has been observed in order to assess climate change over the past decades is summarized here. The statement reads in the current report: It is clear that human influence has caused a rise in the temperature of the atmosphere, oceans and land.
Working Group II It deals with the vulnerability of social, economic and natural systems to climate change and its consequences. It also describes ways in which people can adapt to climate change. According to Marotsky, this group is more interdisciplinary. If you look at how climate change affects society and ecosystems, it’s not just about climate events that happen. Then the consequences of climate change also depend on how well a society is armed, how vulnerable it is and how resilient it is.
Working Group III Shows political, economic and technological options to mitigate man-made climate change. According to Marotsky, this body of work is heavily dominated by economists. This raises the question of what economically viable options are available to limit climate change. For example, what are the economically attractive options for moving away from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity? In this working group, political decision-making processes are also examined and ethical questions are taken into account, such as the extent to which ethical and moral standards influence decisions. But does this mean that the IPCC is necessary at all?

Marotzky: I am convinced that without the IPCC Paris climate agreement of 2015 It wouldn’t have happened. I am also convinced that without the IPCC, climate would not be the political issue it is today. In this regard, it is also not correct that nothing happened. It is political, a lot has happened politically and socially. Climate change is a major political issue today. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, and I can’t imagine it would have happened without the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The interview was conducted by Anja Martini, science editor at Tageschau. Edited and condensed for the written version.