Julia SlingoNature Climate Change talks to Dame Julia Slingo, leader of the Review of the World Climate Research Programme, about the achievements and future directions of WCRP. She talks about the history and strengths of WCRP, explaining that "WCRP plays a unique role in facilitating and integrating climate research where international coordination enables scientific advances that would not happen otherwise" and highlights the Programme's strength in community engagement.

Dame Slingo recognizes the massive impact that WCRP has had on climate change science, particularly in relation to the community effort that was made as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, where the "WCRP community generated 2 petabytes of climate simulation data, and over 850 scientists from 55 countries reviewed over 9,200 published papers on physical climate science."

The focus then shifts to the future, where Dame Slingo sees that WCRP must continue to focus on fundamental, underpinning science. She makes it very clear that climate research has not yet provided all the answers and that climate science is needed more than ever before to find solutions to the impacts of climate change, develop resilience to disasters, and to enable sustainable development. She identifies three core pillars for the future WCRP. The original two overarching objectives of WCRP:

  • to determine the predictability of climate; and
  • to determine the effect of human activities on climate

underpinned by a third pillar on fundamental research on Earth system processes across timescales. Dame Slingo also recognizes that it is essential that WCRP "addresses key scientific problems with explicit societal relevance, which need to be addressed urgently, through international cooperation." She states that "acting as the recognized, international and collective voice for climate science, WCRP must continue to play its critical advocacy role, interacting strategically with research funders and governments to ensure that society has access to the best possible scientific evidence... WCRP is needed more now than ever before."

Full read-only access to the article is provided by Nature Climate Change: Wake, B. 2019. Climate research for the twenty-first century, Nature Climate Change, 9, pp. 183–185.

The Review of the World Climate Research Programme informed the WCRP Strategic Plan 2019-2028 and is central to discussions on the WCRP Implementation Plan (which will put the WCRP Strategic Plan into operation), to be developed over the next year.