Posted by: Leslie White | April 2, 2014

What I did in Japan (and have been doing for the past 10 months)


This is one of my figures in the Summary For Policy Makers. A version of the gradient bars existed in AR4.

I am a Scientific Illustrator for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). To quote our website, the IPCC was established by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization,  “…to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change…” So every few years, the IPCC  produces a book. Or rather, it produces three books, because there is a LOT of information to assess and share. This time around, I am illustrating the second book, which focuses on the Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability related to climate change. My coworker Yuka is our Web Administrator, but she has been working on the graphics long before I started this job. Our book is several thousand pages long, and contains over 200 illustrations. These illustrations range from simple charts to complex and highly conceptual infographics. Those are the illustrations I’ve spent the past 10 months working on.

Because the book is so long, it becomes somewhat…unusable for anyone not willing to sit down and read the several thousands pages of information. So the IPCC also produces the “SPM”, which stands for Summary for Policy Makers. It’s a super condensed summary of the most critical information for governmental policy makers around the world. This SPM doesn’t simply get published like the rest of the book. A Plenary is held to review the SPM line-by-line, and the governments of the world participate in this review process.

So that is what I was doing in Japan last week: it was the Plenary meeting to approve the SPM. There are 9 figures in the SPM, so I was there to make real time edits to the figures based on the feedback from the government delegates and the IPCC co-chairs. At first, it was surreal to see my illustrations projected on three giant screens, being carefully scrutinized by over 100 governments.  Mostly, I was just amazed by the tremendous amount of work put in by the scientists, delegates, and support staff. Our Japanese hosts were wonderful, and we were lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms bloom.




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