The Carbon Brief & the IPCC

This term, as well as my dissertation, I am taking the modules ‘Climate Change and Its Impacts’ and ‘Tropical Forests in a Changing World’. For each of these, I have had formative presentations and summative essays to prepare for, and a key source of information for these courses has been the IPCC reports, specifically the most recent report – AR5.

These reports are known as the bible for science on climate change, yet, the more I have used them I have noticed a couple of flaws. Recently I have been looking for information on climate projections for the Amazon, but instead of creating a logic chapter on this important ecosystem that stores over 100 billion tonnes of carbon, the IPCC includes this information in a chapter called ‘Central and South America’. Therefore a lot of Amazon-specific projections are lost within a generalisation for the entire continent of South America. Given the global importance of the Amazon for carbon sequestration and land-use/deforestation/degradation challenges, targeted projections for key climatic variables and implications for carbon storage would be a lot more helpful for researchers and policymakers.

About a week after considering these limitations, I came across this interesting video of Katharine Hayhoe talking about how she would improve the IPCC report-writing process and bring it up to speed in the technical age. She is a professor in the department of political science at Texas Tech University and director of its Climate Science Center.

I think it’s really important to engage people in climate science and I really think supporting graphics, videos and websites need to be published alongside the reports to appeal to a wider audience. As a third year studying Geography, even I admit the reports are dense, and reading one chapter thoroughly can take several hours. That’s why I love the Climate Brief. It’s a site I came across a couple of months ago, and I’m so glad I did. It manages to find the perfect balance between science and journalism, giving briefings on climate negotiation meetings and environmental issues in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the reader with numbers and technical jargon. Best of all are the graphics!  The Carbon Brief creates interactive maps and clear charts to convey the most important messages. I can really see this as the future of climate change communication. I really recommend subscribing to their free weekly briefing, where you get an email every Friday summarising the week’s updates. I have shared this site to a friend of mine studying Law at Exeter and she’s found it really helpful for her Environmental Law course, as it provides accurate, detailed science in a condensed, imaginative way. I can see real potential in this kind of communication, especially for people with time constraints, unable to read the lengthy IPCC reports, or visual learners who benefit from infographics to support text.

Drop me an email ( or comment below if you have any similar resources to recommend. What are your thoughts on the future of climate change communication?

Good luck fellow students for any submissions or exams coming up! It’s a tough point in term, but keep pushing all the way to Christmas!!


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