Is the IPCC as Interdisciplinary as it Should Be?

by Emil Morhardt

Sibling 2011 scientiometric (bibliometric) analyses of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) (Bjurström and Polk 2011a, b) ask questions about how interdisciplinary—as opposed to how multidisciplinary—the IPCC is in considering the state of climate change research, and the degree to which consideration of the natural scientific evidence and its economic consequences outweighs any other considerations. If each chapter were confined to a single discipline, say ice core analysis, but there were many chapters covering different types of studies, that would be perfect multidisciplinarity—at least over the range of disciplines covered—and zero interdisciplinarity. After characterizing the disciplinary content of 96 journals that were each cited 12 times or more (a total of 6417 technical papers were involved), the authors concluded that this was more-or less the case. Each chapter stayed well within its disciplinary constraints. The scientists in each discipline have their noses to the grindstone and are leaving the research in other disciplines to others. Furthermore, except for a smattering of economics, there is not much other than natural science under consideration (although medicine and energy, both of which received significant coverage might be considered as outside the realm of the natural sciences.) The only fields that looked as though they might be interdisciplinary, based on the dispersion of topics in individual journals, were in journals with the words “environmental”, “ecological”, or “policy” in their titles. Since these journals are specifically trying to attract papers that cross two disciplines, it is good that at least some of them received at least 12 citations. Continue reading

Depletion of Fossil Fuels and Climate Change

by Makari Krause

Fossil fuels, while a large part of our energy production, are not a renewable resource and will eventually be depleted. Current climate models, such as the ones used by the IPCC, use levels of future fossil fuel production that Hook and Tang (2013) think are improbable. While fossil fuel combustion currently causes a large part of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, these emissions are linked to fossil fuel production and will decrease as we begin to run out of these resources. There is a multitude of different scenarios that predict future fossil fuel emission and they range hugely in their predictions. The IPCC uses a set of six scenarios called the Special Report of Emission Scenarios (SRES), which are an input for many of their aggregated climate models and influence their conclusions. Hook and Tang question the accuracy of these SRES and aim to review the assumptions that the scenarios make about fossil fuel availability. Continue reading