‘No time to lose’: Berkeley Lab scientists contribute to crucial climate report

Photo of climate conference participants
Dr. Charles Koven/Courtesy
Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provide their expertise to a climate report released Aug. 7 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. By building models and comparing them to global data, these researchers reaffirm the current climate crisis and emphasize the necessity of reaching net-zero carbon emissions.

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released a report Aug. 7 regarding the current state of Earth’s climate.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory climate scientist and drafting author of the report Charles Koven said the U.S. Global Change Research Program invited potential American researchers to apply. Researchers were then evaluated by the IPCC Bureau, which assembled an international selection of climate science experts.

“We are able to contribute to large and important research projects such as building climate models, testing them against data from around the world,” Koven said in an email.

Susan Hubbard, associate lab director for Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, or EESA, explained that in addition to Koven, several other Berkeley Lab scientists were invited as contributors to the IPCC report — including Michael Wehner, Chaincy Kuo and director of the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division for EESA William Collins.

Koven noted that EESA has cultivated climate scientists, particularly those doing his brand of research. He builds and workshops comprehensive climate models to understand how the carbon cycle evolves alongside climate change.

This work adds onto the findings of the IPCC report, which Koven described as indicative of what is already happening in our changing climate system and what the international community can expect to happen in the future.

“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia,” the report reads. “Limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.”

Hubbard added that due to the “widespread, rapid and intensifying” nature of climate change, climate extremes such as wildfires, floods and heatwaves will worsen as humanity carries on emitting tons of greenhouse gases.

Koven noted that the only way to stabilize our climate is to reach net-zero carbon emissions through a concentrated global effort.

“Meeting the decarbonization and negative energy technology challenges will require innovation on a pace and scale that may be unprecedented in our history, but we have no time to lose,” Hubbard said in an email.

Most of the tools needed to reach that stabilizing level already exist, Koven added. Berkeley Lab is also developing negative emissions technologies that extract carbon from the atmosphere to reverse the effects of climate change, Hubbard noted.

The availability of these scientific mechanisms and human ingenuity are what lend Koven and Hubbard hope in the face of the climate crisis.

“A really crucial finding of the report is that once we stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere, then the planet will stop warming,” Koven said in an email. “It just takes the will to act at the scale that is required.”

Contact Katherine Shok at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @katherineshok.