In the summer of 2009, Stanford Professor Chris Field embarked on a task of urgent global importance.
Field had been tapped to assemble hundreds of climate scientists to dig through 12,000 scientific papers concerning the current impacts of climate change and its causes.
The team, Working Group II, would ultimately produce a 2,000-page report as part of a massive, three-part U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which details a consensus view on the current state and fate of the world's climate.
The job would take nearly five years, spanning time zones and languages, and requiring patient international diplomacy, dogged organizational discipline and a few napkin doodles. Marathon debates conducted over Skype crashed the service more than once.
"It's got lots of moving pieces, personalities and opportunities for things to go right or wrong," said Field, who co-chaired the effort. "You end up with a report that reflects the balance of understanding across the scientific community."
In addition to being a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science, he heads the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy.
This team conducted most of the work behind closed doors, but Field and other Stanford faculty members who played key roles shared a behind-the-scenes story of what it takes to generate the most comprehensive diagnosis of the health of the planet and the risks it faces.
Beginning the journey
For Field's group, the long road began in earnest at a July 2009 meeting in Venice, Italy, where 209 scientific experts and IPCC members from around the world developed a chapter-by-chapter outline of the report. Their outline was later formally accepted at a meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
|Contact: Rob Jordan|