Paul N. Edwards appointed as a lead author for the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Paul N. Edwards of CISAC has been appointed as a lead author for the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the scientific organization supporting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Organized by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, the IPCC’s reports provide the scientific underpinnings for the international climate negotiations that led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The IPCC reviews the state of the science of climate change every 5-7 years. Its Sixth Assessment Report—to which Edwards will contribute--will be completed in 2021. Edwards will serve as lead author for four years to develop, review, and complete the assessment.

Through his appointment, Edwards becomes the first social scientist to serve as a lead author in Working Group 1, which assesses the physical science of climate change. The other two working groups deal with impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (Working Group 2) and mitigation of climate change (Working Group 3).  Edwards will travel to Guangzhou, China, next week for the first meeting of lead author—a trip for which he has purchased carbon offsets.


Paul N. Edwards is William J. Perry Fellow in International Security and Senior Research Scholar at CISAC, as well as Professor of Information and History at the University of Michigan. At Stanford, his teaching includes courses in the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies and the Program in Science, Technology & Society. His research focuses on the history, politics, and culture of knowledge and information infrastructures. He focuses especially on environmental security, including climate change, Anthropocene risks, and nuclear winter.

Edwards’s book A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), a history of the meteorological information infrastructure, received the Computer Museum History Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the Louis J. Battan Award from the American Meteorological Society, and other prizes. The Economist magazine named A Vast Machine a Book of the Year in 2010. Edwards’s book The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996) — a study of the mutual shaping of computers, military strategy, and the cognitive sciences from 1945-1990 — won honorable mention for the Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science. Edwards is also co-editor of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001) and Changing Life: Genomes, Ecologies, Bodies, Commodities (University of Minnesota Press, 1997), as well as numerous articles.