The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is broadly viewed as the world’s most legitimate scientific assessment body that periodically assesses the economics of climate change (among many other topics) for policy audiences. However, growing procedural inefficiencies and limitations to substantive coverage have made the IPCC an increasingly unattractive forum for the most qualified climate economists. Drawing on our observations and personal experience working on the most recent IPCC report, published last year, we propose four reforms to the IPCC’s process that we believe will lower the cost for volunteering as an IPCC author: improving interactions between governments and academics, making IPCC operations more efficient, clarifying and strengthening conflict of interest rules, and expanding outreach. We also propose three reforms to the IPCC’s substantive coverage to clarify the IPCC’s role and to make participation as an author more intellectually rewarding: complementing the IPCC with other initiatives, improving the integration of economics with other disciplines, and providing complete data for policymakers to make decisions. Despite the distinct characteristics of the IPCC that create challenges for authors unlike those in any other review body, we continue to believe in the importance of the IPCC for providing the most visible line of public communication between the scholarly community and policymakers.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has proven its value as an institution for large-scale scientific collaboration to synthesize and assess large volumes of climate research for use by policy-makers, as well as for establishing credibility of findings among diverse national governments. But the IPCC has received considerable criticism of both its substance and process. The new IPCC leadership to be elected in October could help guide the IPCC to a clear, shared understanding of future objectives and could shape procedural reforms. We identify key opportunities for reform by addressing two related questions: Is the IPCC doing the right things? Is the IPCC doing things right?
On February 18-20, 2015, twenty-four experts gathered in Berlin to explore 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). The workshop was sponsored by the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, and the Stanford Environmental and Energy Policy Analysis Center. Leaders of three of the sponsoring organizations, Carlo Carraro (FEEM), Charles Kolstad (Stanford University), and Robert Stavins (Harvard Kennedy School), have prepared a memorandum drawing from the workshop. The memo describes the specific challenges and opportunities facing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and provides recommendations for improving the IPCC's process of assessing scientific research on climate change.