Agriculture, land use and climate change: how CIAT’s experts contribute to the IPCC
Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) are authors on recent and upcoming reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their research and expertise contribute to some of the most vexing issues related greenhouse gas emissions and land-use impacts on the climate
Agriculture and land use account for about 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To reach global targets on emissions reductions and to keep global warming below 2 degrees C, massive and immediate transitions in the agricultural sector are required. To help guide policymakers towards sustainable change, various CIAT experts work with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) on reports on climate change and mitigation.
Bridging the gap between science and policy
Louis Verchot, who leads the Land Restoration Group at CIAT, is a longtime contributor to the IPCC. He started working with the panel in 2003 and has since then been engaged several times to work on reports. In 2007, he received a recognition of contribution to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IPCC and latest he was a lead author on this year’s IPCC’s special report on land. Since his work began with the IPCC he has seen progress in how scientists and policymakers communicate and fulfill the goals of the IPCC reports.
“The IPCC has been key in bridging the gap between climate scientists and policymakers that existed before this work really began. The final assessment reports are results of negotiations between scientists and country representatives. So before publishing there is a whole process of agreeing on what is in the report and that process is key to create an understanding of the knowledge at hand among policy makers,” he says.
Refining nation-level GHG inventories
Ngonidzashe Chirinda, a climate research from Zimbabwe, has spent two years working on the 2019 Refinements of the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, which are guidelines for how countries report their estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and removals to the UN. The latest guidelines were made in 2006. Since then, science has made great progress.
“What we did was to review the new studies, recalculate and look at new emissions factors. We also looked at how some of the emission factors that were admitted are not easy for developing countries, so we came up with simpler methods to incentivize developing reporting,” says Chirinda.
Chirinda, who is a Soil and Climate Change Scientist and leads the Greenhouse Gas Laboratory at CIAT, found great professional inspiration in the work with IPCC.
“Taking part in the IPCC work is fulfilling because I see that I contribute with important knowledge at a global scale. And then it was a lesson in thinking more about solutions. We know so much about the problems and we need to spend more time coming up with solutions. I realized that there are so many complex problems out there, and maybe there is one waiting for me to come solve it,” he says.
The sixth assessment report
Colombian environmental biologist Jacobo Arango is a lead author in the IPCC’s upcoming sixth assessment report and is part of a larger working group writing a chapter on long-term mitigation goals and climate scenarios.
“We look at long-term mitigation-developing pathways, that means different development pathways that countries can take,” says Arango, who specializes on topics related to livestock and gas emissions. “For example, what happens if a country continues to use coal and fossil fuel? And what happens if they shift to more sustainable pathways? We use modelling to predict what would be the emission over the next twenty, fifty and hundred years if we do A, B or C, and we look at how these emissions will impact global warming.”
The goal of the IPCC reports to inform policymakers on what needs to change and how based on scientific findings. However, the changes needed are not always happening immediately, and for Jacobo Arango that is one of the challenges of being an IPCC author.
“This work also brings frustration, because as a scientist you know the scale of the problem and you would like to see change tomorrow. But it is also exciting because scientists from all over the world come together, because this is a cause that matters to them. We don’t do this for ourselves, our families or our neighbors. We do it for the planet,” says Arango.
The sixth IPCC assessment report is scheduled to be published in 2021.
The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) delivers research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives. Alliance solutions address the global crises of malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation.
The Alliance is part of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future.