Insiders’ view of the IPCC

Incidentally, the same series of lectures from Stanford’s Woods Institute that included Shai Agassi has a group talk given by Chris Field, Michael Mastrandrea, Terry Root, Steve Schneider and John Weyant, scientists involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on behalf of the United States. I was very struck by how passionate and funny (in a policy-wonkish kind of a way) they all were.

Again, there’s no direct link I can give you, but the path in iTunes is:

iTunes Store → iTunes U → Stanford → Science and Technology → Woods Energy Seminar

Update: Finding anything much in the iTunes Store turns out to be incredibly hard, as things slide on and off the front page and directories change like paths in an enchanted forest. Searching seems to be the way to go. In this case, searching for “Michael Mastrandrea” does the job.

It’s a free download, of course.

Between them, the scientists give an excellent insider’s view of the IPCC’s process — just how the vast array of experts and diplomats locked in a bunch of conference rooms in hotels around the world reach consensus on perhaps the most contentious public-policy issue of our time.

Two major takeaways:

  1. The diplomats negotiating wordings on behalf of their governments are almost all career public servants and subject experts, not political appointees. They get instructions before they leave, but on the ground, they use their own judgment.
  2. Closely paraphrasing one of them: If you asked most of the scientists if they wish the final reports were more hard-hitting, they’d tell you yes, they do. If you asked them whether the final reports accurately reflect the science, the scientists would say they do.

They spoke in April, after the second of this year’s three debate-changing IPCC reports on climate change, but what they had to say was more about the process than the details of the reports, so it’s definitely still relevant.

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