PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Speaking with one voice for climate science – Climate researchers’ opinion on the communication policy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Simone Roedder  

With its regular reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) aims to provide 'policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive' scientific guidance to global climate policy. The reports are jointly produced by hundreds of authors in a consensus-based assessment process. Following the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report in 2013, however, the status quo and future of both, the report and the organisation, have become the subject of controversy - in the public and political sphere as well as in science. But the climate community's opinion on the IPCC has so far not been systematically studied. In this paper, we present findings from an online-survey of climate researchers in Northern Germany. The survey was informed by a cross-disciplinary literature review on the panel and its reports, as well as by an in-depth analysis of individual report chapters. It was sent out in June 2015 to a sample of 300 climate scientists. As of September 1, the response rate is above 50%. Preliminary results suggest that there is a high acceptance of the IPCC assessment reports in the climate community, but a range of opinion on the current policies to compile and communicate reports. Based on the survey data, we will discuss scientists' evaluations of the IPCC's communication policies and the panel's role in public discourses. Questions addressed include the interplay between consensus and scientific authority in public discourses and possible backlashes of public communication on scientific debates within the field of climate science. Eventually, this research aims to inform current debates on global policy assessment making for science communication, public policy and the respective fields in the environmental sciences and beyond.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.