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What comes next: after the IPCC climate change report

A row of flags against blue sky
Photo: Anton Starikov, Mostphotos

Two Lund University climate scientists, Kimberly Nicholas, who has acted as an observer at two global climate summits, and Markku Rummukainen, Sweden’s IPCC representative, talk about what comes next following the recent IPCC report.

What do you view as the next steps following what was concluded in the IPCC report?

Kimberly: Something the report makes absolutely clear is that to stop warming, humans need to stop adding carbon pollution to the atmosphere. Since about 85% of carbon pollution comes from burning fossil fuels, we have to stop production and consumption of fossil fuels as soon as possible if we want to meet the Paris agreement.

Markku: The report delivers fundamental knowledge support for processes related to climate action, both on international and national arenas. This can be about calibration of mitigation goals, handling extreme weather, and many other considerations.

What is the role of the research community going forward - is the issue now primarily in the hands of political leaders?

Markku: The research community has played a very important role in providing the basis for climate action, which has led to both the international climate negotiations and efforts around the world. While science cannot dictate decisions, continued research will provide knowledge support and also hopefully uncover any early surprises in waiting, as climate change and climate action progress.

Kimberly: In my view, more science is not needed to stabilise the climate, because science has long since done its job, in terms of describing the problem and providing pathways and options. Thankfully, science has delivered the solutions, and we have the technology we need to provide energy and services without causing climate pollution, but we need to move very quickly in shutting down fossil fuels and replacing them with clean alternatives. So there’s an important role for individuals, governments and businesses. All of us have to play our parts.

How does this report affect what happens in Glasgow in November?

Markku: The report will be presented in Glasgow and will likely provide the basis for discussions on raising ambition level. There are also processes in which the report will connect very directly, such as the ongoing so-called second periodic review of the long-term goal (i.e., global climate goals from Paris 2015). This review is about how sufficient the goals that have been decided upon are, and how the global efforts are progressing.

Kimberly: The negotiators are a key audience for the IPCC and this research, and having been an observer at two UN conferences, one in 2015 in Paris and another one in 2017 in Bonn, I’ve seen that the IPCC reports are taken very seriously and viewed as the ultimate authority, and they influence the negotiations. There’s not that much that is new scientifically in this report, but I think it further increases the urgency and the absolute necessity for rapid emissions reductions and transitions away from fossil fuels.

The framework of the Paris agreement is in place, but countries are not meeting their existing obligations. Current climate policies are heading for about three degrees of warming, which would be catastrophic, so countries have to move much faster.

Will either of you be attending?

Kimberly: I do hope to attend, and I have applied for a badge as an observer with Lund University. I am waiting to hear if I have been accepted!

Markku: Possibly, but it might depend on how the meeting will be organised, such as physical and/or virtual presence, as well as the specific agendas of the different strands at the overall meeting.

Kimberly Nicholas


Kimberly Nicholas
Senior Lecturer in Sustainability Science, Lund University
kimberly [dot] nicholas [at] LUCSUS [dot] lu [dot] se (kimberly[dot]nicholas[at]LUCSUS[dot]lu[dot]se)


Markku Rummukainen


Professor in climatology, Lund University
markku [dot] rummukainen [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se