COP 25

My name is Sofia and I am a senior majoring in Geology & Geophysics and Global Affairs.  This December I’m attending COP25, the annual conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (last year, I attended COP24). 

Monday 9 December

I arrived in Madrid for the beginning of the second week of COP25.  COP25 was previously slated to be held in Santiago, but was relocated to Madrid after political unrest in Chile.  Chilean activists reminded attendees that climate change must be addressed with close attention to issues of social inequality, as the warming caused by a small and wealthy fraction of the global population impacts poor people most severely. 

One of the main agenda items for COP25 is to negotiate a system of rules for greenhouse gas emissions trading among countries and the private sector, as defined by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.  Also at stake are compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change, and the time frame in which countries are to implement their commitments under the Paris Agreement.    

Tuesday 10 December

Using her personal celebrity and the public interest generated by the Fridays for Future movement, Greta Thunberg attracted a large crowd and many members of the media to a panel discussion where she spoke very little.  The event was intended to provide a platform for climate scientists to speak about science.  Vice-chairs of the IPCC and representatives of research institutions communicated key points about the physical science of climate change to the public, and debunked basic misperceptions about the magnitude and scale of climate change.  For example: if the temperature in Madrid is increasing by 10 degrees just today, why is average warming of just one or two degrees so impactful?   

To me, it seems that contextualizing current warming in historical changes is a particulalry useful tactic for communicating to a broad audience.   During the last ice age, when the Earth was only 5° colder, the surface of the planet looked drastically different.  A business-as usual emissions scenario could bring about similar magnitudes of change on a warming planet.   

Wednesday 11 December

Today, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Vice Chair Thelma Krug discussed different modes of engagement with the IPCC.  In addition to contributing to the scientific literature, scientists and social scientists can serve as lead authors, contributing authors, and review editors to IPCC reports.  Dr. Krug encouraged scientists at all stages of their careers to review report drafts, as the process of creating IPCC reports requires authors to respond individually to each comment (this process is open and can be accessed on the IPCC’s website). 

IPCC representatives also emphasized their efforts towards more balanced representation with regard to gender balance and geographical representation.  Geographically, one challenge is that the pace of production of peer-reviewed publications in developed countries is much faster than in developing countries.  Much of the knowledge produced in developing countries is not captured in peer-reviewed literature, so the IPCC has established processes to account for ‘grey literature.’  Gender balance among IPCC authors has improved but still skews around 2/3 male.