Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a brilliant leader fighting climate change

Fighting against climate change is one of the biggest and most complex challenges facing humanity today. Global temperatures have risen by almost 1° Celsius compared to pre-Industrial levels, which has already led to a rise in sea levels, more extreme weather conditions and a change in natural habitats. The potential future consequences are set to be even more disastrous, with rising temperature levels set to wreak havoc in certain regions and affect agriculture, energy, forestry and tourism around the world. Among those leading the fight against climate change is Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a prodigious French climate scientist who has a key role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). DiscovHER takes a look at her work.

Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte is an astonishingly impressive scientific figure: at 45 years old, she is the head of the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in France, winner of the Irène Joliot-Curie Prize in 2013, and author of numerous books explaining science to children and the general public.

Last year, she was elected co-chair of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body tasked with monitoring the progression of climate change. The IPCC is not just any international organization: created in 1988, it has a membership of 195 countries and is the leading authority on climate change. The reports produced by the IPCC are at the root of any major climate change deal, such as the Paris Agreement concluded at the close of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as the COP 21.

As co-chair of IPCC’s Working Group 1, Dr. Masson-Delmotte will have a colossal task ahead of her. The aims of the group are to assess the physical manifestations of climate change, and include monitoring the changes in levels of greenhouse gases, land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, and ocean and sea levels among many other indicators. The IPCC does not undertake research but collates the work of scientists around the world. Dr. Masson-Delmotte, then, will be tasked with coordinating the work of hundreds of authors from around the world, and create reports aimed at scientists and decision-makers alike. The two other working groups of the IPCC explore the effects that climate change is and will produce on natural systems, and the options for mitigating or removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, respectively.

One of the things that most annoys Dr. Masson-Delmotte is climate change sceptics. In an anecdote published in the French newspaper Libération, she recounts her shock at hearing arguments on the radio against the existence of climate change, an encounter which propelled her to publically fight this worrying trend. Amongst other initiatives, she has published a range of books that aim to popularize science and teach the general public about climate change, such as the children’s book Le climat : de nos ancêtres à vos enfants (The Climate: from Our Ancestors to Your Children) written with Bérengère Dubrulle.

Does Dr. Valérie Masson-Delmotte inspire you? Let us know @4womeninscience.

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