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A behind-the-scenes look at the UN's landmark climate change report

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Climate change
Climate change

The conclusions of the UN's most recent climate change report are frightening and definitive: it is "extremely likely," the 2,219 page report warns, that global warming is indeed manmade. But the process of arriving at those conclusions was far from clearcut. In fact, the high-pressure process required scientists to spend years scrutinizing hundreds of studies — and then reach a consensus on what that voluminous body of literature indicated.

In a behind-the-scenes look at The Chronicle, several of the scientists involved in the UN report speak candidly about working on the publication, an arduous process that's described as "the jury duty of climate science." The report's 259 authors may have agreed on overarching conclusions — oceans are acidifying, temperatures are rising — but consensus on every estimate and data point proved nearly insurmountable. And of course, after all that discord, there's still the polarized public response to deal with: "I daresay we will be attacked by both sides," one scientist predicted, "for having too high numbers and having too low numbers."