Synthesizing a Policy-Relevant Message from the Three IPCC “Worlds” – a comparison of topics and frames in the SPMs of the Fifth Assessment Report.

K Fløttum, Des Gasper, AL St.Clair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The paper investigates topics, emphases, frames and absences in the Summary for Policymakers parts of the three Working Group reports in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report and the Summary for Policymakers of the Synthesis Report. It explores similarities and differences by using various tools of lexical and discourse analysis, combining quantitative and qualitative methods. The main results are these: First, each Working Group’s Summary reflects not only the Working Group’s distinctive mandate but also a distinctive intellectual framing. Second, although there are some significant differences in the emphases given to different themes from the Working Groups, the Synthesis Summary covers the main topics of the three other Summaries, and constitutes a relatively integrated summary of the complete Assessment Report. Third, we find though that the Synthesis Summary centrally follows up the risk framing and language which are prominent in Working Group II but semi-absent in the other Working Groups, as part of constructing a policy-relevant statement from the three distinctive reports. In addition, the Synthesis Summary makes use of linguistic devices which contribute to ‘amplify’ the strength of statements, as part of transferring messages effectively from the scientific context to a policy-maker audience. Fourth, we find that the style and tone of the IPCC Summaries conduce also to important absences and imbalances in emphasis: main victims of climate change (particular groups of vulnerable people) remain virtually invisible in the Summaries, unlike the impacts in nature and ecological systems or the aggregate economic impacts, and correspondingly the challenges, options and opportunities for action remain relatively underdeveloped in the analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Paper written for Norwegian Research Council project: AR5 in Europe.

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