Working for transparency in climate projections

Friday, Jan 27, 2017
by lesliej

In an attempt to provide more transparency to how climate change projections are both reached and communicated, a preeminent group of climate scientists who are members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and were authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report recently published a paper in Nature Climate Science evaluating the projections in the report.  Their aim was to explain the process that experts use and the judgements they make to provide their assessments.

If they understand how the hundreds of scientific experts approached the issues and reached their conclusions, decision makers have a stronger background for taking action in response to climate change.

"The process by which scientists give advice to policymakers should be the exact opposite of the climactic scene in 'Wizard of Oz' — we want them paying attention to the people behind the curtain," said Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton’s Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs and Behavioral Policy Center Affiliated Faculty Member who was second author on the new paper and a member of the IPCC who worked on the latest report.

"The driving question was, how can we make what we're doing understandable enough so people can use it to make good decisions," he said. "We want them to have a hand in their own fate and not just trust experts congregating in a closed room. Policymakers facing crucial decisions related to climate change need to have confidence that these issues were looked at carefully."

An article describing the need for such transparency can be found on the Princeton University website. The Nature Climate Science paper can be accessed at