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Being a social scientist on the IPCC: Reflections on invigorating highs and deflating lows

Tuesday 25 June 2019, 12:00 - 13:00
School of Geography Seminar Room 2 (Garstang building room 8.11)
Professor Petra Tschakert

Petra Tschakert, winner of the 2019 Piers Sellers prize, will share her insights and experiences of being a social scientist on the IPCC.

During this seminar, Petra will reflect on six years working on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as coordinating lead author, respectively, on the AR5, WGII, Chapter 13 (Livelihoods and Poverty) 2010-2014, and on the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C on Chapter 5 (Sustainable Development, Poverty Eradication and Reducing Inequalities) 2017-2018. As a human-environment geographer, Petra’s goal was to ensure that important insights from the social sciences regarding poverty, vulnerability, marginalization, inequalities, and equity were adequately represented, not only in the chapters but also in the Summaries for Policy Makers and the AR5 Synthesis Report.

She remembers fondly the many invigorating highs, from the art of creating compelling graphics to exceptional intellectual exchanges between co-authors. Yet, there were also truly difficult moments, particularly those that involved long and draining epistemological struggles – which knowledge counts, or counts more – and the pervasive disciplinary hierarchies that exacerbate the gendered power dynamics within the IPCC. These struggles around authority and often wrong assumptions about the role the social sciences can and ought to play in such cross-disciplinary assessments can reach deflating lows when fused without critical reflection in the quintessential ‘pressure cooker’ – short timelines, varying degrees of scientific rigour, and high political stakes.

Photo by IISD/ENB | Sean Wu