Calling Early Career Scientists: Become a Chapter Scientist for the IPCC

IPCC Working Group III recently launched a call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists to support the authors responsible for producing one of the three Special Reports coming out this cycle. The Working Group III Technical Support Unit talks about the role of Chapter Scientists in the IPCC process and how to get involved.


Last month, the IPCC Working Group III launched a call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists to support the authors responsible for producing the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (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, or SRCCL).

We are really excited about the launch of the call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists for a number of reasons. Not only is this an amazing opportunity to provide the critical support that SRCCL chapter teams need to manage a demanding workload in the production of this report, it is also a fantastic way of increasing Early Career Researcher involvement with the IPCC.

What is a Chapter Scientist?


A Chapter Scientist’s role is to provide technical support to a team of authors as they go through the intensive process of developing chapter content for an IPCC report. Day to day responsibilities can include anything from fact checking, to assisting with the development of figures and tables, and reference management.

Taking on the role of Volunteer Chapter Scientist is a great way for Early Career Researchers to gain important insights into what it means to work at the science-policy interface, to work first-hand with leading international experts, to build a global network of research contacts, and to learn about how the IPCC really works from an insider’s perspective.

IPCC authors at the first Lead Author Meeting of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land in Oslo in October 2017. Credit: M.Ferrat.

IPCC authors at the first Lead Author Meeting of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land in Oslo in October 2017. Credit: M. Ferrat.

Chapter Scientists have access to the cutting-edge literature that forms the underpinning of all IPCC reports. They are also invited to attend three Lead Author Meetings in different locations across the globe with the report authors. These meetings provide the chance for Chapter Scientists to participate in high-level chapter discussions of innovative concepts, to work alongside leading experts in their field and, to not only experience first-hand, but also develop the professionalism and leadership skills required to succeed within a global, multi-cultural research environment.

Chapter Scientists in previous IPCC cycles

A chapter scientist and IPCC authors at a Lead Author Meeting. Credit: R. van Diemen.

An IPCC author, an IPCC Vice-Chair and a chapter scientist at a Lead Author Meeting. Credit: R. van Diemen.

In previous IPCC assessment cycles, Chapter Scientists have played an invaluable role in supporting author teams to develop and deliver high-quality IPCC products. Along with the author teams, Chapter Scientists dedicated their time to producing internationally renowned reports, which were ultimately used by governments all around the world as critical evidence to support the development of policies for the mitigation of climate change.

However, the IPCC has also heard that it needed to do better at improving regional representation within its process. Participation in the IPCC in general, and report authorship in particular, has not always been as diverse as possible, with developed countries being somewhat overrepresented in IPCC processes and products.

2To be selected for this report, applicants must be citizens of and resident in a developing country (countries not included in Annex I of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). We are hopeful that by proactively engaging more Early Career Researchers from developing countries in the development of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land we can make a positive contribution to expanding the participation of developing countries in the IPCC, and incorporate some new voices into the report development process.

This is also a chance to build upon the groundwork laid in previous IPCC assessment cycles and provide a platform to proactively support the career progression of Early Career Scientists in developing countries.

Chapter Scientists and the Special Report on Climate Change and Land

An author team working on the Special Report on Climate Change and Land. Credit: M. Ferrat.

An author team working on the Special Report on Climate Change and Land. Credit: M. Ferrat.

For the Special Report on Climate Change and Land in particular, we are seeking to recruit Volunteer Chapter Scientists who have recently obtained, or are currently studying towards, a Masters degree or PhD in a subject related to the interface between climate change and land. To support the training of the next generation of assessment scientists, preference will be given to graduate students and recent graduates.

How to apply

For further information please see the Call for Volunteer Chapter Scientists, and read more about the Volunteer Chapter Scientist role and selection criteria. If this sounds like you or someone you know then we really would encourage you to submit an application before the deadline on 17 December, 2017.

Other ways to get involved

If you do not meet the selection criteria for the SRCCL Volunteer Chapter Scientists role, don’t be disheartened. We would recommend you visit the IPCC website for additional information about Other Ways in which Early Career Researchers can contribute to the work of the IPCC, and consider other roles that might be appropriate to your circumstances.

If you are interested in regular updates about our activities, subscribe to the IPCC WGIII Newsletter here.

The IPCC Working Group III Technical Support Unit

The IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs and members of the TSU. Credit: J. Baidya.

The IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs and members of the TSU. Credit: J. Baidya.

Working Group III gets going on the 6th assessment cycle

October 2017 was a busy month for the IPCC. With three Lead Author Meetings and the nomination of authors for the next big Assessment Report, the 6th assessment cycle is well and truly underway. Professor Jim Skea Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, talks about what’s in store for Working Group III this cycle. 

IPCC Working Group III Co-Chairs Jim Skea and P.R. Shukla

What’s in store for the 6th assessment cycle

From the Kyoto protocol to the Paris Agreement, each IPCC cycle has fed directly into international decision-making. We expect that this cycle will be no different. More than ever, science and scientific evidence is playing a central role in policymaking at all levels.

blogpicCountries gave IPCC scientists a demanding workload this cycle. On top of the three Working Group Assessment Reports, governments have requested three Special Reports and an update on the methodology for calculating greenhouse gas inventories.

The first special report, on global warming of 1.5°C, is high profile and challenging. It will look at the impacts of a 1.5°C warmer world, and the pathways available to countries to stay below this temperature increase. The report will be agreed in time for the facilitative dialogue at COP24 in 2018, where the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take stock of the collective efforts in relation to progress towards the goal of the Paris Agreement.

Work on the other two Special Reports has also begun. One will focus on climate change and land, and the other on oceans and the cryosphere. These two reports will be agreed in 2019.

IPCC Working Group III during the approval of the AR6 outline at the 46th session of the IPCC in Montreal, Canada.

IPCC Working Group III during the approval of the AR6 outline at the 46th session of the IPCC in Montreal, Canada. Photo by IISD/ENB | Mike Muzurakis

As in previous cycles, each Working Group will also publish its contribution to the overall Assessment Report. These will then be brought together in the Synthesis Report, which will be agreed in 2022. These reports will be published in time for the global stocktake on collective progress towards the Paris Agreement that will take place in 2023.

So there is plenty to keep us busy, and expectations are high. But we aren’t just doing more this cycle, we are also looking at how we can do things differently.

What’s new for the IPCC?


IPCC authors at the First Lead Author Meeting of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land in Oslo, Norway

As the elected leadership of the IPCC, my fellow Co-Chairs and I set the strategic direction of the IPCC’s work.

At the start of this cycle, we set a number of aspirations for our work. We are placing a strong emphasis on making sure our reports are actionable.

We want to link climate change to the Sustainable Development Goals, enhance the participation of developing country experts, deepen engagement between Working Groups, link top-down and bottom-up scientific approaches and, crucially, enhance the relevance for policymakers charged with following through decisions made under the UN Framework. In this way, we hope that long-term, strategic thinking can be better aligned with shorter, policy-relevant timescales.

What’s in store for climate change mitigation in AR6?

blogpic4In previous assessment cycles, Working Group III reports (those that assess options for reducing the rate at which climate change is happening, or climate change mitigation) were criticised for being too abstract. We heard that our reports focussed too much on the long-term, with no clear guidance on what immediate steps might be needed.

As the Co-Chairs of Working Group III, Professor Shukla and I have some specific objectives for this cycle. We are making efforts to:

  • Strengthen the links between the insights obtained from high level integrated assessment modelling and the concrete steps required to mitigate climate change
  • Increase policy relevance and neutrality by incorporating inputs from business, industry and finance
  • Connect to domestic challenges such as job creation, economic diversification, health, innovation and technology development, energy access and poverty alleviation
  • Include more insights from the social sciences
  • Embed communications from the start of the cycle.


There is a fantastic range of expertise on the Working Group III Bureau. We are supported by seven Vice-Chairs and a Technical Support Unit spread across two countries. We are all working hard to achieve these objectives.

Towards the 6th Assessment Report

In September 2017, the 195 government that make up the IPCC agreed the outline of the 6th Assessment Report. The report will be made of 17 chapters and will be anchored firmly in a narrative of sustainable development.

blogpic6A series of sectoral chapters, including energy systems, buildings, transport and agriculture, will look at different aspects of climate change mitigation. A chapter on social aspects of mitigation will bridge the gap between the services that people need, and how different sectors can meet these needs.

We will look at institutional aspects, including national and international perspectives and finance. For the first time, the report will also look at the role of technology and innovation.

To further embed this report in “the real world”, we want to include case studies to demonstrate success stories across these different sectors.

Some challenges for Working Group III

Carbon dioxide is a long-lived gas, and temperature increases are roughly linearly correlated to the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This means that the longer we wait, the harder and the more expensive it will be to tackle climate change.

blogpic7AR5 had a database of 1200 scenarios from integrated assessment models. These large models look at how socio-economic developments affect sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. Combined with climate models, these IAMs provide a range of possible scenarios for the future.

These models show the scale of the challenge ahead of us.

The 5th Assessment Report concluded that mitigating against climate change would require:

  • A more efficient use of our energy
  • Greater use of low or no carbon
  • Increasing sinks of greenhouse gases (for example reducing deforestation, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage, or BECCS)
  • Changing our lifestyle, behaviour, consumption patterns

To stay below 2°C, emissions need to fall below zero by the end of the century. By mid-century, emissions in final demand sectors like transport and buildings will need to be no higher than they are today. Keeping to this while ensuring that all people can access the energy they need means that a lot of mitigation efforts will be needed to get these final demand sectors down.

Looking ahead

blogpic8The next five years will be busy ones, but Working Group III is looking forward to bringing together scientists, policymakers and other stakeholders to make the 6th assessment cycle a success.

We have many challenges ahead of us, but also incredible opportunities to tackle climate change while promoting a sustainable and equitable future.

So let’s get to work!

Professor Jim Skea is Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. He is also Research Councils UK Energy Strategy Fellow at Imperial College London, supporting the UK Research Councils in deciding where and how to invest their energy research resources.

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