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3M’s Brian Mader has front-row seat in the UN panel on climate change

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:37 am CDT

©FAO Alessia Pierdomenico


Science for Climate

When you do an online search of the term “climate change,” you get more than 400 million results.

And one of the most impactful organizations appearing in these results is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations, the IPCC provides scientific, technical, and socioeconomic assessments on the state of climate change and the risks associated with it, along with detailed policy guidelines and recommendations for the world’s policymakers.

For 13 years, 3M has had a frontrow seat to the IPCC proceedings. 3M EHS Laboratory Manager Brian Mader is one of 188 authors and review editors from academia, national laboratories, industry, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who currently evaluate and write reports on various areas associated with climate change.

Each member country in the United Nations nominates people to represent their country on different climate subjects. Mader is part of a 32-member committee that focuses on industrial processes and product use.

Mader was nominated in 2005 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who liked the work 3M was doing on greenhouse gases (GHG): “When we did our first GHG report, it was new territory for us. We had to develop a lot of our own methods to determine our GHG inventory, and we did that. When the EPA found out there was a desire on the part of the IPCC to write guidelines for how countries could add up their emissions, they recommended me.”

The selection worked out well. In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “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.” Mader was formally acknowledged for his contribution to that effort.

As science progresses, so do the IPCC guidelines. Currently, the group is working on its second year of refinements for the 2019 guidelines. Updates are primarily new GHG measurement methods companies and organizations can use, but also new categories. Take, for example, the smelting of rare earth metals: In 2006, no method existed to estimate GHG emissions from rare earth metal production, but now there is, so there’s a new section on that.

About the process, Mader says, “You spend time talking about exact wordings — like, should a procedure be listed as good practice versus best practice? — and then you form a consensus, always based on science.

“Given the current contentious political climate, it’s admirable that IPCC reaches out across countries, across industry, academia, government, and NGOs. When I go to the meetings, it’s very much a mixture of these folks, all working for a common cause.

“It’s satisfying, too, that 3M thinks it’s important enough to support my involvement in this effort.”


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