Science Group Deeply Alarmed by Efforts to Downplay IPCC Special Report at COP24

Statement by Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy

Published Dec 10, 2018

KATOWICE, POLAND (December 10, 2018)—The IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5 Degrees was requested in the Paris Agreement decision in 2015 to inform countries on how to close the substantial gap between the collective emissions reduction commitments made under the Agreement and the much greater level of ambition needed to meet its temperature limitation goals of 1.5 and well below 2 degrees Celsius. 

At the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice’s closing plenary on Saturday night, four countries—Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States—blocked efforts to “welcome” the IPCC report, instead insisting the body should only “take note” of it. Without a consensus on how to characterize the report, the full Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will have to resolve the matter later this week.  

Below is a statement by Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), who has been involved in the international climate negotiations since they began in 1991.

“The efforts of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait to diminish the value and importance of the IPCC Special Report, a comprehensive scientific report they themselves requested three years ago in Paris are deeply irresponsible and must not prevail. The IPCC’s scientific reports are the gold standard of climate science analysis. 

“The United States’ opposition to acknowledging the urgency of the IPCC’s findings and welcoming its recommendations is especially troubling. The U.S. is a global scientific superpower, and scientists in U.S. federal agencies, universities, corporations and nonprofit institutions have been deeply involved in the work of the IPCC since its founding. 

“The problem comes right from the top, as President Trump doesn’t even accept the findings of his own federal agencies’ scientists in the recent National Climate Assessment. Mr. Trump has ignored near-unanimous scientific consensus, instead doubling down on his belief that all scientists have a political agenda and that human-induced climate change is uncertain, at best, or even a conspiratorial hoax. 

“While the U.S. and the other three blocker countries may be content to simply ‘note’ the report’s existence, communities on the frontlines of climate change around the world are more than noticing, they’re suffering the devastating consequences of climate change daily, including flooding, wildfires, drought and heat waves.

“The IPCC Special Report is a wake-up call from the world’s scientists that must be heeded. It is a declaration of planetary emergency that all governments must respond to with profound and rapid action, not merely ‘take note’ of. 

“Ministers arriving in Katowice must emphatically reject the efforts of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait to downplay the report’s findings, and acknowledge the need to dramatically scale up mitigation and adaptation activities, as well as to provide increased support for developing country action, including strategies to cope with the ever-mounting impacts of climate change. It’s also vital that the Polish COP Presidency work with ministers to craft a planetary emergency package for adoption at the closing plenary at the end of the week. The world is demanding—and expecting—nothing less.”