By Robert C. Stowe, Executive Director, Harvard Environmental Economics Program; Manager, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements
The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements—and its Director, Robert Stavins—have completed a multi-year, multi-faceted engagement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is an intergovernmental organization that engages the global scientific community in assessing research on climate change and synthesizing this research for policymakers. The IPCC, as the leading organization pursuing this mission, prepares its reports primarily for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its member governments.
Fifth Assessment Report
The IPCC's volunteer scientist-authors prepare major reports synthesizing the research literature on climate change approximately every five years. Over 800 scientists participated in the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), completed in 2014. As did its predecessors, AR5 actually consists of three somewhat independent documents prepared by "Working Groups" on "The Physical Science Basis," "Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability," and "Mitigation."
Robert Stavins served as a Co-Coordinating Lead Author for a thirteen-member team preparing a chapter for the Working Group III (Mitigation) report entitled "International Cooperation: Agreements and Instruments." (For the full text PDF, click on Chapter 13 on this page.) Gabe Chan, who recently received his Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University, served as a Chapter Scientist and a key member of the chapter team throughout the AR5 process.
Professor Stavins was also a member of the Core Writing Team (about fifty scientists total) of the AR5 Synthesis Report, which distilled the key conclusions of all three working-group reports and which must be approved by IPCC member governments.
A news item from the Harvard Project about Professor Stavins' appointment in 2010 is here.
Another Harvard Project story (April 2014) on the release of AR5, including links to numerous interviews with Professor Stavins about AR5, is here.
Assessing the IPCC
The Harvard Project conducted a research initiative from mid-2014 through late 2015 exploring approaches to improving the process by which research on climate change is assessed—with a focus on the social sciences (economics, political science, policy studies). Participants in the initiative reviewed potential reforms in IPCC assessments and also the development of assessment processes complementary to the IPCC.
The major activity of the initiative was a research workshop held in Berlin in February 2015. The workshop was co-sponsored by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (Italy), the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (Germany)—also the host—and the Stanford Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis Center (USA).
The Harvard Project reported on the workshop here.
The Director of the Mercator Institute, Ottmar Edenhofer, was also the Co-Chair of Working Group III (Mitigation) of IPCC's AR5. The Harvard Project highlighted a profile of Professor Edenhofer in Naturehere.
The initiative has produced a number of publications:
The workshop co-organizers hosted a side-event panel at the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, in Paris in December 2015. A video with highlights of the panel and interviews with the speakers is here.
As the initiative's finale, Robert Stavins organized a panel at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) meeting in San Francisco on January 5, 2016. Speakers include the co-organizers of and other participants in the Berlin workshop.
The research initiative on the assessment of climate science was supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
For more information about this publication please contact the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements Coordinator at 617-496-8054.