School of Life Sciences

Welcome to the Working Group II Technical Support Unit
The School of Life Sciences is host to the Durban office of the Working Group II Technical Support Unit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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What can I do about climate change?
We have produced this booklet to highlight what Durban’s residents can do to contribute to ambitious climate change action.
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Alumna Makes Apolito’s Most Influential People List
Prof Debra Roberts, has been named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy for 2019 by the public servants’ networking group, Apolitical.
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Launch of IPCC Technical Support Unit Office at UKZN
The launch of this unit attracted more than 60 guests from academia, local and national government and the media.
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About the IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC along with 195 member governments, assesses scientific information related to climate change, in different sectors (e.g. water resources, ecosystems, food security, agriculture and forests, coastal systems, industry, human health, urban and rural areas, etc.) and for different regions. 

The information is published as regular comprehensive Assessment Reports and more focused Special Reports, among others. They form the scientific basis upon which decisions can be made, and local and global action (e.g., Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement etc.) can be based. The current assessment cycle is the sixth since 1990. With each cycle, the understanding of global climate change with its complex web of interconnected cause-and-effects has grown, deepened, and widened.

The IPCC comprises three Working Groups and a Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. Each Working Group is assisted by a Technical Support Unit. Working Group I deals with the physical science base of climate change, including future climate scenarios. Working Group II focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity and human societies: How vulnerable are they to climate change, and to what extent can they adapt? Can risks be reduced? What are the options for creating a sustainable future for all? Working Group III focuses on “mitigation”, i.e. reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing those already emitted from the atmosphere. The Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories oversee the IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme.

Meet the Team

Working Group II is Co-Chaired by Professor Debra Roberts (South Africa) and Professor Hans-Otto Portner (Germany). Professor Roberts is a local government practitioner and currently works as the Acting Head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in eThekwini Municipality. Roberts is the first South African practitioner-scientist working in local government to have been elected for a leading role in the IPCC. Her election reflects the increasing efforts to link scientific knowledge with practice. Having a local IPCC office will also help strengthen the African voice in IPCC processes and products

The Working Group II Technical Support Unit is located at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremen and at the School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu Natal. In February 2018, Dr Marlies Craig and Dr Andrew Okem joined the Durban IPCC office as Natural Science and Social Science Officers respectively, with Ms Philisiwe Manqele as the Administrative Officer. Dr Michelle North and Dr Nina Hunter are two postdoctoral researchers associated with the office as part of the commitment to build local climate change.


April 2021: The Durban Office of the IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit has produced this booklet to highlight what Durban’s residents can do to contribute to ambitious climate change action.

During the course of its Sixth Assessment Cycle, the IPCC has released three Special Reports which highlight the importance of bold action and the need for global system transitions that involve major changes in society and the economy. This booklet draws on the science available in these reports, as well as other sources.

This book is free for download. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, without the written permission of the copyright holders.

>> Download the booklet here

An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty

>> Take a look

The CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference aimed to inspire the next frontier of research focused on the science of cities and climate change. The conference was organized by CitiesIPCC and was held in Edmonton from March 5-7, 2018.

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Disregarding research not published in English may pose a risk to finding solutions for urgent global concerns, such as biodiversity loss, or climate change. To assess the extent of this ‘missing voice’, we compared the representation of 22 languages in scientific publications on climate change in Africa, indexed by widely used databases. Between 87 % and 95 % of publications were in English, with a small, but noteworthy, number in languages of the former European colonisers of Africa. 

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Several studies have highlighted the persistent lack of impact that African researchers have in international science. To examine this in the geosciences, we reviewed the representation and contribution of African authors using a bibliometric study of international high-impact geoscience journals. Detailed metadata from all articles (n = 182,996) published in these journals (n = 21), and from two Africa-based journals, were extracted from the Web of Science™. We then assembled information related to the research to track how frequently African authors and studies appear, relative to their international peers. 

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Over time African cities and their residents have responded to climate impacts in increasingly creative ways, based on local knowledge and available resources. Overviews of adaptation policy, plans and actions have largely been lacking for Africa, particularly at the local, city level. We applied a systematic map to assess what the human responses to climate impacts are in African cities, noting the climate drivers of these actions, the range of responses, where they have taken place, and who the actors are.

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