Episode 34:

Behind the Scenes at the IPCC: A Podcast with Dr. Katharine Mach, Stanford Woods Institute

Guest: Dr. Katharine Mach

Broadcast March 14, 2017

Episode 34: In episode 34 of America Adapts, Doug Parsons talks with Dr. Katharine Mach, Director of Stanford Environment Assessment Facility – Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and former Co-Director of the Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Topics covered:

  • ADAPTATION ON CAMPUS – Doug and Katharine discuss how adaptation is an emerging academic area of study on campus and what sorts of programs are now available to students.
  • HARVARD, STANFORD THEN THE IPCC – Katharine discusses her own academic history and how she was recruited to join the staff of the IPCC.
  • HOLISTIC ADAPTATION – Adaptation requires integrating various disciplines in both research and implementation and Katharine describes her experiences.
  • BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER – Katharine describes ‘synthesis’ and the role it plays in the IPCC process.  Learn the inner workings of the IPCC and the challenges of collaborating across cultures and continents.
  • CLIMATEGATE – Doug and Katharine discuss the fall out of the Climategate scandal and what institutional changes it led to and also the challenges of doing sound science on such a highly charged issue.
  • ON THE GROUND IN MOROCCO – Katharine discusses traveling to Marrakesh, Morocco, where the world’s climate community was following up the historic Paris Climate Agreement.  She describes landing in Morocco on the day of the US election and talking with representatives from other countries on what the election of Trump meant.
  • MISSION PARIS – Katharine describes the truly historic process behind the Paris climate agreement and what happens next.
  • CHINA STEPPING UP – As the role of the US becomes increasingly uncertain, Doug and Katharine talk about the steps China is taking to mitigate its carbon footprint.
  • CAUTIOUS IPCC – Doug discusses with Katharine the IPCC’s reputation as being too cautious in its models, demonstrating the constraints of a report published once every five years.
  • HIGH AND LOW ADAPTATION – Katharine discusses developing metrics for identifying adaptation actions that factor in future biological and socioeconomic factors.  What steps will future societies take to adapt to climate change?
  • ADAPTATION ELEVATOR SPEECH – Katharine discusses her own experiences communicating climate change and adaptation and highlights some of the leading communicators in the field.  We also discuss communicating climate change with skeptics, and how skepticism has developed into a truly western phenomenon.
  • MARCHING FOR SCIENCE – Doug and Katharine briefly discuss the upcoming march for science in Washington, DC and the challenges of being apolitical in an increasingly politicized society.
  • ADAPT OR MITIGATE – Katharine weighs in the on the tension between carbon mitigation and the need to adapt to climate impacts today.

Key Quotes:

“The IPCC is a grand partnership between the governments of the world and the scientists of the world.”

Additional Segment: Dan Ackerstein and Tim Watkins join Doug to discuss recent comments by the new Administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt. Pruitt, in no uncertain terms, comments that he doesn’t think humans are the major contributors to global warming.  Dan, Tim and Doug discuss the implications of these comments.

Additional Resources:

IPCC Report on Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability


Stanford Woods Institute Adaptation Memo


Dr. Katharine Mach


Additional Information on Dr. Mach


Dr. Mach’s CV

EPA Adminstrator Scott Pruitt’s comments on global warming:



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