Ukrainian scientists leave international climate report committee, amid safety fears

Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line to engage with Russian forces in the Lugansk region of Ukraine, on Feb. 25.
Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line to engage with Russian forces in the Lugansk region of Ukraine, on Feb. 25. (Image credit: Photo by Anatoli Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images)

As Russian military forces invade Ukraine and bomb the capital Kyiv and other cities, Ukraine's leading climate experts have withdrawn from an international scientific committee — just as the group is finalizing their approval of a landmark report on global climate change

Climate experts from nations around the world have spent two weeks evaluating the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) investigation, outlining how accelerating human-caused climate change is affecting societies and natural ecosystems worldwide. This is the second chapter in a sweeping climate assessment that is released every five to seven years, and it will propose strategies for adapting to current and future warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification, as well as extreme weather events, according to an IPCC statement

The IPCC's expert committee was entering the last days of review prior to releasing the report to the public on Monday (Feb. 28). But with Russian missiles falling on Kyiv and a Russian ground invasion underway, the delegation from Ukraine announced their withdrawal on Thursday (Feb. 24), citing safety concerns, Politico reported.

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"We have some delegates from other cities, not only Kyiv, and they were forced to go to shelters," climate scientist Svitlana Krakovska, head of the Ukrainian delegation, told Politico. "But most important is that it's very difficult to think about climate change impacts when you have impacts of Russian missiles in our Kyiv, and tanks everywhere." 

One of the departing Ukrainian scientists told Chloé Farand, a senior reporter for Climate Home News, that "we need to think about [the] safety of our families and it is not possible to concentrate on the wording of the summary for policymakers under attack and bombing," Farand tweeted on Friday (Feb. 25).

According to the prior IPCC report released in August 2021, global climate change is "widespread, rapid and intensifying," with Earth experiencing climate disruptions that are unprecedented in thousands of years — and the role of humans in driving these changes is "unequivocal," Live Science previously reported.

The upcoming IPCC report is gleaned from more than 34,000 scientific publications and over 62,000 review comments; and it is authored by 270 scientists representing dozens of countries, IPCC representatives said in a statement. This is the first time that scientists from Ukraine are involved in an IPCC report as lead authors, Politico reported.

While the earlier report in 2021 outlined evidence of recent climate change and predictions for how that will continue to reshape our world in the coming decades, the upcoming report will focus on pinpointing critical ways in which human communities and natural ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change, and will outline options for mitigation and adaptation, according to the IPCC.

But for Ukraine's climate scientists, the most dire threats are currently much closer to home. 

"There's real danger for me and my family," Krakovska told Politico.

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.