CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two Oregon State University scientists have been appointed as lead authors to the newly formed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report.
The IPCC was founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations, and thus far has produced five climate assessments during that 30-year period. Each time a new assessment is made, expert scientists from around the world gather to review and report on progress made.
The fifth assessment, released in 2013 and 2014, was the largest scientific collaboration in history and led to the Paris Climate Agreements. The sixth assessment will address the physical basis of climate change along with efforts to change and the potential to mitigate dangers. The sixth assessment is expected to be finalized in 2022, in time for future international goal-setting.
OSU faculty members Alan Mix, an oceanographer and paleoclimatologist, and David Wrathall, a human geography researcher who studies environmentally forced migration, will join hundreds of colleagues from 90 countries around the world to produce the report. They are both in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.
Mix is in Working Group I, which addresses the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change. He is a lead author on the chapter, “Ocean, Cryosphere and Sea Level Change.”
“One of the key issues for our group will be loss of ice and sea level rise, which are linked to warming,” said Mix, who is president of The Oceanographic Society. “Recent data suggests that it is speeding up. We are already starting to notice the impacts of rising seas, but so far we have just seen the proverbial tip of a very large iceberg. We’ll be looking carefully at rates of sea level rise, and whether the situation is reversible.
“Based on the CO2 (carbon dioxide) we’ve already put in the atmosphere, we know that sea levels are going to rise for many centuries, and perhaps millennia, but there is still some debate about how fast seas will rise. Even at the low end of the range, it will be a real challenge – for scientists and society.”
Wrathall is in Working Group II, focusing on the Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability of Climate Change. He is a lead author on the chapter, “Poverty, Livelihoods and Sustainable Development.”
“About a billion people live in low-elevation coastal zones, or depend on the ocean for food and income,” Wrathall said. “The impacts of climate change will make living and working in the most vulnerable places more and more difficult. We’ve already experienced a taste of what that may look like with recent hurricanes that hit Texas and Puerto Rico.
“It may take decades to recover from those events and in the meantime other disasters may follow. Migration will accelerate as people lose their homes to rising seas, or storms, or drought. Migrating people moving away from vulnerability will need places to go. Where will they go? Where will they find jobs, housing, health care and schools? It is a complex problem and we know it will happen, but we need to be ready – even in places like (Oregon’s) Willamette Valley, where these migrating people may eventually come.”
The timetable for the Sixth Assessment Report is as follows:
Peter Clark and Philip Mote, also faculty members in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, have been lead authors on past IPCC assessment reports.
About the OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS): The college is renowned for research excellence and academic programs that span the earth, ocean and climate sciences, as well as the human dimensions of environmental change. CEOAS inspires scientific solutions for Oregon and the world.