What is the IPCC?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 1988. It is open to all 192 nations of the United Nations.
The IPCC's mission is:
"To assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation."
The IPCC achieves its mission through the production of ‘assessment reports' and ‘special reports' along with the production of documents outlining guidelines and methodologies for reporting greenhouse gas emissions. These reports are produced through a painstaking, transparent and robust process. This process involves many of the foremost experts on climate change science and related fields from around the world (including developed and developing countries) as lead authors and reviewers.
The IPCC does not carry out research or climate monitoring itself but draws on already published peer-reviewed literature, documented industry literature and well-established practices that reflect accepted expert approaches.
The IPCC has produced four major assessments to date:
- 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)
- 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR)
- 1995 Second Assessment Report (SAR)
- 1991 First Assessment Report (FAR)
The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will be drafted between now and 2014. The final text prepared by the AR5 authors needs to be accepted by the IPCC Plenary of governments at a series of meetings, each examining text from one of the four parts of the Report. These meetings also approve a Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for each report. The meetings are expected to be held as follows:
- Working Group I (The scientific basis): September 2013
- Working Group II (Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability): March 2014
- Working Group III (Mitigation): April 2014
- Synthesis Report: October 2014
Why is an organisation like the IPCC needed?
- Climate change presents government (national & local) with a very complex set of issues. It requires an international body to assess our scientific knowledge and manage a robust, transparent process that can balance the range of perspectives different scientific disciplines and world regions may have to present a truly ‘global' view of the issue.
- A myriad of relevant scientific papers are published every year. These need to be evaluated and weighed up against one another to advance our understanding of climate change, and to identify robust findings, and key open questions.
- Various opinions, often contradictory, are expressed through the media, and through lobbying. The IPCC provides robust assessments and summaries of the scientific basis of climate change and our options to respond. International negotiations (e.g., UNFCCC, ‘Copenhagen' etc.) and national policies (by way of mitigation and adaptation programmes) can be based on IPCC outputs.