Context Overview. Scientific Developments and Approaches in Climate Change Research in a Pandemic

 19 October 2020

1.     Climate Observations and the COVID-19 Pandemic

1.1.          The 2015 – 2019 period has become the warmest period in the history of climate observations. The global average temperature went up by 1.1oC compared to the pre-industrial period and by 0.2oC relative to the 2011-2015 period. Since the 1980s every next decade was warmer than the previous one (WMO State of the Global Climate Report 2019).[1]

1.2. According to new climate forecasts published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO, 2019[2]), an annual average global temperature will most likely be at least 1oC higher than that of pre-industrial levels (1850 – 1900) during each of the next five years (2020 – 2024). At the same time, it is possible (20%) that it will exceed 1.5oC during at least one of these five years (WMO, 2019).

1.3. Climate change has not stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a temporary reduction of emissions caused by the protection measures against COVID-19 and a decline in economic activities, they started approaching the pre-pandemic levels again (WMO, 2020) [3]. Concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to grow. Therefore, taking sustainable action to tackle climate change is more critical than ever.

1.4. Moreover, the impact of quarantine measures on the effectiveness of response to hazards related to the weather, climate and water have already become known. The number of extreme weather events continues to increase. At the same time, the pandemic makes it more difficult to deal with issues of evacuating people and placing them in shelters during tropical cyclones, as the category five cyclone Harold in the southern part of the Pacific ocean has shown. On top of that, there is a risk that overburdened healthcare systems may not be able to cope with an additional burden of treating patients affected by heat waves, for example (Taalas, 2020).[4]

1.5. Weather, water and climate observations continue despite the limitations related to COVID-19. National meteorological and hydrological services continue to transmit data from automated and other stations daily, providing the round-the-clock climate services (WMO, 2020).[5] These data are essential in conducting new climate research both at the global and regional scale.


1.6. The Global Atmosphere Watch stations continue their monitoring activities and play a critical role in recording data on reduction of the concentration of the major pollutants and air quality improvements resulting from the industrial downturn. Nonetheless, the carbon dioxide concentrations recorded by the main stations remain to be high (WMO, 2020). [6]

2.     New Research on Climate Change and Tools During a Pandemic

2.1. In 2020, IPCC celebrates the 30th anniversary since the publication of its first Climate Change Assessment Report (1AR). We have seen a significant progress in understanding of the climate change problem between the beginning of the first Assessment Report and the publication of the Fifth Assessment Report (5AR). [7]

2.2. The key message of the Fifth Assessment Report is that scientific evidence and arguments played a critical role to take urgent climate change-related measures, i.e. adoption of the Paris Agreement. The Fifth Assessment Report is a key pillar to promote and encourage decisions, thus holistically addressing such issues as adaptation and reduction of GHG emissions, sustainable development and equality.

2.3. Currently, the Sixth Assessment Report is underway, the following special reports produced during its preparation: (i) IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 °C (2018)[8], (ii) IPCC Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019)[9] и (iii) IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019).[10] See Box 1 (a and b) to review the key findings of the Reports produced in 2019.

2.4. In the forthcoming Sixth Report, each working group will present various perspectives as per decisions offered and address response measures through climate information assessment required for decision making, risk assessment, adaptation, emission reduction, as well as sustainable development actions.





Box 1 (а) IPCC Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate

Key findings[11]

·       Glaciers may lose up to the fifth of their volume in this century even if emissions are low, with over 80% in such regions as Central Europe. .

·       Global ocean level increase may be close to one meter by 2100 even if the global temperature increases by 3°C - and the present policy contributes to this. As a result, millions of people will migrate from coastal areas.

·       As a result of sea temperature and ocean acidity increase, fauna and ocean ecosystems will face serious challenges. Even if it is possible to restrain global warming within 1.5 °C, 90% of coral reefs will disappear.

·       By end-century sea heat wave frequency may increase by 50 times (if temperature increases by 3-5 °C) versus end of 19th century.


Box 1 (б) IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land

Key findings[12]

·       Agriculture, forestry and other types of land use generate 23 % of man-made GHG emissions.   

·       At the same time, land-based natural processes lead to carbon dioxide absorption in the amount equivalent to almost one third of carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning fossil fuels and industrial operations.

·       On the downside, land exposure to climate change remains high. Approximately 500 million people reside in the areas that experience desertification and land degradation.

·       One third of food produce falls on losses or waste, with different volumes in developed and developing countries. Scaling back of such losses and wastes would allow reducing GHG emissions and improving food security situation.

·       Therefore, more rational management of land resources may contribute to resolving climate change issues.


2.5. The focus on risks and solutions in the context of their regional specifics as well as special attention paid to cities will be a distinctive feature of the Sixth Assessment Report. In essence, this focus on decision making reinforces the right of the IPCC’s political relevance, which links policy makers with the scientific community (IPCC 2020).

2.3. The topics of the Sixth Assessment Report (contributions of the three working groups) will be presented in 2021, while the consolidated report will be ready in 2022.

2.4. The Unity in Science Report has become one of the main releases in 2020, which combines the most relevant data and information on climate change. The report is the second in the series of reports prepared by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) with participation of the Global Carbon Project, IPCC, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, UNESCO, UNEP and the Great Britain Meteorological Office (WMO 2020)[13].

2.5. It is clear that the pandemic has left its mark on implementation of new research on climate change. Due to limited air and road travel and other lockdown measures worldwide, numerous field trips and data collection activities had to be moved to the online format. Thus, the ‘online’ method has become the tool of not only interpersonal communications, but also a mechanism for data and information collection (surveys and questionnaires) [14], experience exchange and capacity building.

2.6. The online mechanism and the tools associated with it (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex) have become the leading virtual platforms for trainings and workshops (UNFCCC 2020[15]) and have been enhanced to hold largescale virtual conferences on climate change in various languages with simultaneous translation (CAREC Institute 2020 and CAREC 2020) [16].

2.7. The expert and research audience’s interest in self-training and self-education has increased significantly during the self-isolation period. As a result, around 100 scientific magazines provided free access to their publication and articles (The Scientist 2020[17]), among which are the well-known Elsevier and Science Direct.[18]

2.8. It is gratifying to see that the research on climate change and related sciences in Central Asia, which started in an offline format prior to the pandemic (2018-2019), continued to be tested and validated in the online format in 2020. As such, the MODSNOW instrument, which objective is to improve the hydrological forecast using remote sensing was tested in 10 river basins in the Central Asian countries in 2018 – 2019. In 2020, due to the pandemic, users of this tool represented by the hydrometeorological services of the Central Asian countries had an opportunity to learn how to use the tool by means of online workshops (CAREC 2020)[19].

2.9. At present, the MODSNOW tool is used by specialists of hydrometeorological services on-line; it allows obtaining highly reliable hydrological forecasts with an average accuracy of up to 77% (CAMP4ASB 2020).[20] This approach suggests that remote sensing using the MODSNOW model as an example, is an indicative result of a climate study that has successfully used the formats of hands-on and online approaches during the pandemic (CAREC 2020).[21]

2.10. Considering an increase in the number of extreme events caused by the changing climate, which have a significant impact on social and economic stability and safety of the population of Central Asia[22], the priority areas of the CAMP4ASB project activities in 2020 included improvement of hydrological forecasting and effective reservoir management. Adaptation of new tools for reservoir inflow hydrological forecasting and reservoir water resource monitoring and management in the face of climate change is ongoing supported by Dutch experts from Deltares.[23] Pilot river basins have already been selected and remote training of hydrologists in the Central Asia countries is ongoing at the moment (CAMP4ASB 2020).

2.11. Supported by the University of Florida and the Ukrainian Institute of Hydrometeorology, CAREC has been working on adaptation of the DSSAT and CGMS models respectively since 2020. These models are designed to improve crop forecasts in the countries of Central Asia. Results of new adapted tools are expected to be used in crop forecasting in the context of climate change on-line, both at the level of individual regions of the countries and to serve certain farms (CAMP4ASB 2020).

2.12. Desk research and literature review using online consultations also played an important role in generating new knowledge products in the field of climate change. Since 2019, the work has been ongoing on development and design of training manuals and courses on climate and hydrological modelling using the GIS tool. This task is implemented by seven selected universities in the Central Asian countries. Teachers are the main product recipients, and, in essence, its developers, while students and young researchers in the Central Asian countries are the targeted audience. (CAMP4ASB 2020)[24]

3.     The Topic of Science, Tools and New Approaches in the Field of Climate Change in the CACIC-2020 Agenda

3.1. The main objective of the session is to draw the attention of the conference participants to current and potentially new research on climate change, which may open up new possibilities for an evidence based approach in the pandemic and discuss timely methods and approaches to implementation of such research in the Central Asian region.

3.2. The topic of scientific achievements on climate change and the progress in preparation of the Sixth Assessment Report in the pandemic as well as development of a scientific network in Central Asia[25] will be presented by Dr. Yuba Sokoni on behalf of IPCC Vice-Chairman during the welcome session and detailed by Dr. Sergey Semenov in the first report of the session.

3.3. One of the key aspects of the session is to draw attention to the key achievements in the field of climate change in Central Asia. The participants are expected to learn about integration of new methods and tools in the field of climate research from a Kazhydromet representative and will analyze the agricultural crop forecasting results for the Central Asian Region presented by experts from the University of Florida.

3.4. A discussion following key presentations is expected to help attract attention to other methods and tools that are becoming more popular in climate research during the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference participants representing international and regional institutes will share their best practices in the field of climate change and related sciences. It is also planned that steps will be determined toward breaching gaps in evidence based works on a given topic for the region and on the contribution to the process of peer-review and analysis of IPCC reports by the academic community in Central Asia.


[1] For more details on the report, click here

[2] For more details follow the link:

[3] For more details follow the link:

[4] Press-release, P. Taalas, Secretary General, WMO, see the link

[5] For more details click: here.

[6] See the link in 10.

[7] For more details follow the link

[8] Key findings of the Report are provided in the context review produced in 2019 within the framework of CACCC-2019; the review is available here. To view the digital version of the Report please follow the link

[9] To view the digital version of the Report please follow the link

[10] Full title of the Report is Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystem. For more information please follow the link

[11] Adapted from press release by CAN-EECCA and Greenpeace. To view more information please follow the links:

[12] Adapted from IPCC press release. To view more information please follow the link:

[13] The Unity in Science Report in English:

[14] Access to resources of online research

[15] An online platform example

[16] An example of a regional virtual conference on climate change organized by the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Network (CAREC Institute) and the scheduled Central Asian Conference on Climate change (CACCC-2020) organized by CAREC, Oct. 19-23, 2020:

[17] More details:

[18] More details: and

[19] More details:

[20] Report on the results of forecast validation for the 2019 vegetation period, in English. Available at:

[21] See the link in 12.

[22] The breach of the Sardoba reservoir in the Syrdarya region (Uzbekistan) on May 1, 2020 caused by millions of cubic meters of water that broke through the concrete fence lead to catastrophic consequences. More than 85 thousand people were evacuated from the disaster zone in Uzbekistan, and more than 30 thousand people were evacuated in Kazakhstan, which was reached by the reservoir water. More details:

[23] For more information on the preliminary express assessment conducted by Deltares, please, follow the link:

[24] See the interim progress report of the CAMP4ASB project (July 2020). Materials are available upon request.

[25] A new status of CAREC as an Observer, which was granted at the beginning of 2020. For more details, please, follow the link

This publication is available in Russian