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"JGSEE Scientist Contributing to the Historic IPCC Report"

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in February this year the historic report on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, which concluded unequivocally that global warming is a consequence of human activities (anthropogenic ). JGSEE is proud to announce that Assistant Professor Dr Amnat Chidthaisong of the Environment Division, an expert on methane emission and biogeochemistry, is one of the lead authors of this report. In the following article, Dr Amant gives an account of his contribution and experience in working among prominent scientists from around the globe for the world body.




Summary of Works for IPCC Working Group I 4 th Assessment Report (AR4)

This task started in early 2004 and will be ended officially at the end of 2007 when the full report is published. During this period, I have been working as Lead Author (LA), responsible for compiling, synthesizing and assessing the advance of scientific knowledge on the greenhouse gas methane since the last IPCC Report (2001). The AR4 is actually comprised of 5 documents, namely Synthesis Report (SR), Summary for Policymakers (SPM), Technical Summary (TS), and the full Reports. Scientists are recruited for preparing the full Report first then some will be invited to write SPM and TS. I myself am working on the full Report, TS and SPM.

How it begins? Firstly, a pool of appropriate experts who can act as potential LAs is collected by IPCC through their respective Working Group Bureau and the IPCC Secretariat, governments, and participating organizations. LAs are selected by the relevant Working Group Bureau, under general guidance and review provided by the Session of the Working Group, from those experts cited in the lists provided by governments and participating organizations. The composition of the group for a section or chapter of a Report reflects the need to aim for a range of views, expertise and geographical representation (ensuring appropriate representation of experts from developing and developed countries and countries with economies in transition).

How IPPC works? Work started with preparation of the first draft at the meeting in Trieste , Italy in September 2004. There, chapters of the Report were allocated and responsibility of each or a group of LA was assigned or volunteered. After the meeting, each LA carried home with the big burden of assessing the (world) advancements of scientific knowledge in a section assigned. The outcome of this work period (about 2 months) is called "zero draft order (ZOD). This ZOD was sent out for internal reviews, back to be edited by LA, and after that it is called first draft order (FOD). The impression is that it is difficult to do such expected-quality task in such a short time period. Normally, LAs work on the basis of the peer-reviewed and internationally-available literatures, including manuscripts that can be made available for IPCC review and selected non-peer review literature according to IPCC regulations. In the next meeting in Beijing , the main task was to deal with comments and suggestions for FOD, and made necessary change in response to comments. After about two months of that meeting, the Second draft order (SOD) was out for reviews again by both experts and governments. The section I was in charge was about 5-page length. I have got the comments back for about 20 pages. As a strict rule of IPCC, these comments have to be responded in some ways. It was not an easy task. But this is a quality-ensuring process of IPCC and a great learning process for me. This greatly helps improve the manuscript. In the next meeting in Christchurch , New Zealand , the main task was to improve the manuscript by taking into account all of these comments. The finished version was sent out again for reviews. In the last meeting for the AR4 preparing process in Bergen , Norway , the main task was to incorporate these comments or find the appropriate ways to respond to them. By this time, the report was in good shape and almost ready to be called "final draft order", but editorial works remain for the Bureau before it can be so.

It takes 6 years from the beginning to the end when report is published, with five meetings at different cities around the world. This was culminated at the Paris showcase in February 2007 where SPM was approved by governments. It is virtually certain (>99% probability of occurrence-IPCC terminology) that working with IPCC is one of the greatest experiences I ever have had in my research career. It reminds me again that how science is done and how much a quality science means to all of us.


 


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