01 / 08 / 2023

Political conflict over climate change loss and damage (L&D) has made it difficult for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to engage with the topic in its entirety, especially in the intergovernmentally agreed Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs). The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), however, saw the inclusion of the term “losses and damages” in SPMs for the first time. Drawing on evidence from twenty-eight interviews with IPCC authors, reviewers, and L&D experts as well as an analysis of IPCC materials, this article traces the representation of L&D in the IPCC. I suggest that the clarification of different L&D orthographies (“Loss and Damage,” “loss and damage,” and “losses and damages”) through the IPCC Glossary in 2018 paved the way for L&D wording to be consensually approved in multiple AR6 SPMs. Discussing the implications of orthographic choice, I show how L&D orthographies are appraised differently by individuals, depending on their position in the L&D science–policy discourse. Building on insights from science and technology studies and international relations scholarship, I contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the role of language and spelling in reaching consensus at the climate science–policy interface.

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