Rotorua scientist shares Nobel Peace Prize honour

15 May 2008

A Rotorua scientist’s contribution to international efforts aimed at building world-wide understanding of human-induced global warming, has been recognised with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Crown Research Institute Scion’s Dr Peter Beets provided expert knowledge on forestry carbon stocks and land use change, to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organisation established by the United Nations in 1988 in response to growing international debate about the risks of anthropogenic climate change.

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in part to the IPCC, who in turn presented Dr Beets with a certificate honouring his role in the awarding of the Prize. Dr Beets has been involved with the Panel for the past five years.

The IPCC’s remit is to evaluate in an open, objective and transparent way all scientific, technical and socio-economic literature available world-wide concerning man-made climate change. Through international collaboration and peer review, the Panel assesses causes, current and projected impacts, and potential remedial measures.

The Panel comprises 2,500 scientists and researchers from more than 130 nations, the majority of whom work for the Panel on a voluntary basis. About 500 members have received a certificate from the IPCC acknowledging their contribution to the prize-winning work of the Panel.

“It was a great surprise and an honour,” says Dr Beets on receiving the acknowledgment.

 “It is a wonderful gesture for the IPCC to recognise the people who have been involved in this pivotal work towards the understanding of the human effect of climate change.

 “The Panel was established not to conduct research of its own, but to evaluate and assess existing theories and data, much of which is confusing and conflicting. From this we author ‘good practice’ guidelines for governments and policy makers, providing them with the best tools and techniques for making sound decisions on how to accurately measure and mitigate green house gas sinks and emissions.

“The guidelines have had a major influence on the way the world views, and is responding to, climate change. For example, after the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997, many governments rushed to implement carbon policies based on whatever information was available at the time. We have seen instances where some of these governments, including New Zealand’s, have been forced to re-evaluate their methods for assessing forest sinks and policies as a result of our findings, their previous methods having been found to be flawed.”

The 2007 Nobel was awarded to the IPCC jointly with former US Vice-President and climate change activist Al Gore. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it selected the IPCC and Mr Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”