What does diversity mean for IPCC?

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The aim of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to produce environmental assessment reports with global credibility. A crucial aspect for ensuring their credibility has been to increase their diversity of authors in terms of gender, experience and geographical distribution. But has this ambition succeeded?

Adam Standring and Rolf Lidskog have published an article where they study how successful IPCC has been in its ambition to shape a more diverse environmental expertise, and how the issue of diversity is understood and discussed within the organization. They conducted a demographic analysis of the latest two assessment cycles (AR5 and AR6) and interviewed IPCC experts.

The analysis shows that there have been improvements in diversity in recent years across measures of gender, regional representation and the proportion of authors from developing countries. These improvements have not, however, been distributed evenly when looking at the seniority of authors, where European male scientists still are largely overrepresented.

The interviews casts light on a tension between the ambition of diversity, and the practical process of producing the reports. Several of the interviewees describe the strive for diversity as a challenge, making the work more difficult and time consuming than it would have been otherwise. Issues such as language barriers and cultural clashes are mentioned. The tension in reconciling scientific excellence with a commitment to diversity was recognised in the process of author selection. The selection criteria of “best scientifically qualified” often excluded underrepresented groups whose opportunities to traditional markers of scientific production such as journal publications and network membership were often limited. Therefore both formal and informal processes were used to increase diversity.

The article describes how the motivations for diversity can be understood in both instrumental terms (affecting how the reports are produced and trusted) and substantial terms (affecting the quality of the reports). While for some interviewees, diversity seem to matter mostly in instrumental ways, allowing for broader acceptance of the reports by governments around the world, it was also acknowledged that diversity plays a fundamental role in building capacity, both for the individuals brought in and for the organization as a whole through the pluralizing of perspectives.

One of the conclusions from the article is that the issue of diversity will become even more important in the future. This is explained by an increased recognition of the importance of social and cultural factors in achieving necessary sustainable transformations. In this context diversity of expertise will be needed to assess how the problem and its solutions is understood from different perspectives.

Standring, A., & Lidskog, R. (2021). (How) Does Diversity Still Matter for the IPCC? Instrumental, Substantive and Co-Productive Logics of Diversity in Global Environmental Assessments. Climate, 9 (6).

Read more about the article here