Experts reflect on CSIRO’s contribution to global climate science

By Ella RiggertApril 28th, 2022

With the leading global climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to publish a synthesis of its sixth report in September, three CSIRO contributors to the report series reflect on CSIRO’s contribution to global climate science.

CSIRO experts are among scientists from 195 countries who have spent the past four years producing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, in what is the most comprehensive assessment of climate science, impacts, adaptation and mitigation.

CSIRO has been involved in all three Working Group reports, with the final Synthesis Report to be finalised in September 2022.

It builds on the Working Group III report: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, released in April 2022, and Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, released in March 2022.

Among the global team of contributors to the Working Group II report were three CSIRO scientists: Dr Francis Chiew, Kevin Hennessy and Dr Uday Nidumolu, who were selected as Lead Authors to the report.

Tree ferns seen resprouting amidst a charred landscape

Australia shares the same drought and water resource risk profile with other parts of the world, and our ability to look at and analyse disaster resilience, such as fire and extreme rainfall events, is valuable to the planet.

Helping the world adapt to the challenges of climate change

Climate science expert Kevin Hennessy said he and colleagues were extremely proud to contribute to the IPCC and assess solutions to help the world adapt to the challenges of climate change.

“It’s a good feeling being able to influence and contribute to what is happening on the global stage,” he said.

“There is nothing else like it in the world and we all feel very honoured to be part of the process and were impressed by the level of international collaboration. Australia and New Zealand’s scientists are very respected internationally. It is a privilege to be involved at the level we have been.”

If we adapt and mitigate, there are sustainable pathways for food production.

Kevin said there was not “only one solution” in understanding and tackling climate change: “We need to build resilience – not just reduce emissions.”

“There are a series of steps, or adaptation pathways, that can be undertaken as a result of different economic, social and environmental triggers. There are incremental measures that can be put in place.”

Leading hydrology and water resources expert, Dr Francis Chiew, said the global knowledge brings with it the possibility of local adaptation and adoption.

“For example, we are able to share learnings from the Murray-Darling Basin and provide examples to other countries who were very interested in our work,” he said.

Rigorous and robust science to inform policy

Most of CSIRO’s portfolio of research is connected to understanding current climate change impacts, future risks and adaptation options. Through our cutting-edge climate knowledge and services, research is enabling a sustainable, resilient and productive future for Australia, our region and the world.

The delivery of the IPCC reports is a robust, trusted and independent process and considered one of the most peer-reviewed publications in science – taking four years to write, review and approve.

The Sixth Assessment Report provides policymakers with the most comprehensive assessment of scientific information related to climate change in the IPCC’s history. The previous IPCC assessment report was published in 2013/2014.

Dr Uday Nidumolu, CSIRO Principal Research Scientist for Climate Smart Agriculture and IPCC Lead Author on impacts on food, fibre, and ecosystem services, said the report was the most peer-reviewed report in the world.

“It is very rigorous and robust, which it should be, as we are talking about the future of the planet,” he said. “And it concerns everyone – we only have one home.”

Uday said climate projections for cropping regions of Australia indicate a warmer and drier climate, which would have changes and consequences for food production.

“The question is how do we manage this in a climate sensitive way?” he said.

Dry dam with very little water
The Victorian side of Lake Hume, at 4% in 2007 (image: Tim J Keegan via Flickr)

CSIRO’s Dr Uday Nidumolu, IPCC Lead Author, said that climate projections indicate a warmer and dier climate for cropping regions of Australia, with consequences for food production. (image: Tim J Keegan via Flickr)

“Australian broadacre farmers are good at adapting and excellent climate risk managers, and they do so from year to year, season to season, but if this trend continues and Australia becomes progressively warmer and drier, how will farmers manage is an important question that we should be thinking about and exploring solutions for.

Uday said it was important to adapt and find a sustainable pathway. “If we adapt and mitigate there are sustainable pathways for food production,” he said.

Kevin said Australia and New Zealand’s knowledge gaps could be addressed by further specific research, such as a national climate change risk assessment for Australia.

“That way we can do a proper analysis, from the costs and benefits of doing nothing, all the way through to the costs and benefits of both adaptation and mitigation,” he said.

“The research would then be able to inform and influence national policy and national investment in emission reductions and adaptation initiatives.”

Beyond the Sixth Assessment Report

As Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO contributes to our global knowledge in identifying impacts of climate change, and helping our world adapt.

We’re providing adaptation and resilience solutions in areas such as water and agriculture, disaster resilience, energy systems, supply chain and logistics, urban living and biodiversity.

CSIRO’s impact in tackling climate change adaptation requirements is helping underpin knowledge on not just how Australia can adapt to climate change, but the rest of the world.

“The impacts of climate change are already here,” Francis said.

“Australia is just one of several regions in the world that shares the same drought and water resource risk profile and our ability to look at and analyse disaster resilience, such as the fire and extreme rainfall events we have recently experienced, is valuable to the planet.”

1 comments

  1. Seriously concerned that all this work, excellent that it no doubt is, is decades too late to have enough impact within the time we’ve got left.

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