Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. The UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC
The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change It does not cohduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.
The Secretariat coordinates all the IPCC work and liaises with Governments. It is supported by WMO and UNEP and hosted at WMO headquarters in Geneva.
The IPCC is an intergovernmental body. It is open to all member countries of the United Nations (UN) and WMO. Currently 195 countries are members of the IPCC. Governments participate in the eview process and the plenary Sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC work programme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. The IPCC Bureau Members, including the Chair, are also elected during the plenary Sessions.
Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policyrelevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.
The establishment of the IPCC
In the 1980s. the risk of human-induced climate change was increasingly debated by scientists and policymakers and the need for independent, scientific and technical advice to inform decisionmaking on this important and complex issue became apparent. This is why in 1988 UNEP gmd WMO established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to prepare, based on available scientific infoijnation a report on all aspects of climate change and its impacts, with a view to formulating realistic response strategies. In November 1988, the IPCC established three Working Groups at its first Plenary Session, to prepare assessment reports on the:
Available scientific information on climate change,
Environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change,and
Formulation of response strategies
At this Plenary Session, the IPCC elected Mr. Bert Bolin of Sweden as the first Chairman of the IPCC.
The UN General Assembly mandate for the IPCC’s work in 1988
At the same time the 43rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in its resolution on “Protection of the global climate for present and future generations of mankind” (1988) endorsed the action by UNEP and WMO to establish the IPCC and requested as soon as possible “a comprehensive review and recommendations with respect to:
A) The state of knowledge of the science of climate and climatic change;
B) Programmes and studies on the social and economic impact of climate change, including global warming
C) Possible response strategies to delay limit or mitigate the impact of adverse climate change
D) The identification and possible strengthening of relevant existing international legal instruments having a bearing on climate
E) Elements for inclusion in a possible future international convention on climate”.
The main activity of the IPCC is to provide at regular intervals Assessment Reports of the state of knowledge on climate change. The latest one is “Climate Change 2007”, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
The IPCC produces also Special Reports; Methodology Reports; Technical Papers; and Supporting Material, often in response to requests from the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or from other environmental Conventions.
A schematic description of the IPCC process applicable to Assessment Reports, Special Reports and Methodology Reports is provided below.
IPCC prepares: at regular intervals comprehensive Assessment Reports of scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced ; mate change, potential impacts of climate change and options “r mitigation and adaptation.
Special Reports have been prepared on topics such as aviation, regional impacts of climate change, technology transfer, emissions scenarios, land use, land use change and forestry, carbon dioxide capture and storage and on the relationship oetween safeguarding the ozone layer and the global climate system. They are subject to the same writing, review and approval process as Assessment Reports.
Methodology Reports provide practical guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories. They are aimed to meet the inventory reporting requirements of Parties to the UNFCCC. Recently the IPCC 2006 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories have been published.
Technical Papers are prepared on topics for which an objective international scientific/technical perspective is essential. They are based on material already in the IPCC Assessment Reports and Special Reports and their preparation follows accelerated procedures. The latest Technical Paper entitled ’’Climate Change and Water” and was released in 2008.
The history of the IPCC through its reports
First Assessment Report (FAR) and negotiations for a framework convention on climate change, 1990
Responding to the request from the UNGA, the IPCC finalized its first comprehensive assessment report on 30 August 1990 in Sundsvall, Sweden The United Nations General Assembly noted the report findings at its 45th Session in 1990 and as a consequence decided to initiate negotiations for an effective framework convention on climate change to be completed prior to the UN Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992.
To meet the information needs of the negotiating process for the Climate Convention, the IPCC prepared, in 1992 Supplementary Reports and in 1994 a Special Report that comprised updated information on radiative forcing of climate change, an evaluation of the IPCC IS92 emission scenarios, the “IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation” and the “IPCC Phase I Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories”.
After entry into force of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1994, the IPCC remained the most important source of scientific, technical and socio-economic information. The relationship between the UNFCCC and the IPCC became a model for interaction between science and decisionmakers.
Second Assessment Report (SAR), 1995
In 1991, the IPCC decided to prepare a second comprehensive assessment report. At that time, the membership of the IPCC was also expanded to all member countries of WMO and UNEP and measures to enhance the participation of developing countries were put in place. It was agreed that each Working Group should be led to two Co-Chairs, one from a devefoped and one from a developing country.
Working Group I highlighted considerable progress in the understanding of climate change since 1990, while Working Group li broadened the scope of its assessment to include information on the technical and economic feasibility of a range of potential adaptation and mitigation strategies. Working Group III addressed, as a new feature, the social and economic dimensions of climate change over both the short and long term.
The IPCC SAR provided substantive input to the further development of the UNFCCC in particular the negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997. At the Second Conference of the Parties (COP-2) in 1996, Ministers and other heads of delegations present at COP-2 recognized the SAR as ‘ currently the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, its impacts and response options now available.”
Third Assessment Report (TAR), 2001
The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR) was initiated in 1997 and completed in 2001,
Working Group I presented improved understanding of climate processes, forcing agents and feedback and addressed the question of human influence on today’s climate. Projections of future climate were based on new scenarios and a wider range of models. Working Group II provided updated information on impacts, vulnerabilities and .adaptation, and implications for sustainable development. Working Group III assessed mitigation options, their costs and co-benefits as well as barriers, opportunities and policy instruments. It also placed climate change mitigation in the context of sustainable development.
At the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) in 2002, the Ministers and other heads of delegation present at COP-8 recognized “with concern, the findings of the IPCC Third Assessment Report, which confirms that significant cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions will be necessary to meet the ultimate objective of the Convention….”
Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), 2007
In the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Working Group I provided new knowledge on human and natural drivers of climate, a detailed assessment of past climate changes and its causes and stronger evidence on attribution of climate change including an assessment for every continent. Working Group II assessed observational evidence of impacts of climate changes, identified some of the most vulnerable places and people and mapped projected impacts against future warming trends, taking into consideration aspects such as development pathways and multiple stresses. Working Group III further evaluated emissions trends, mitigation options and pathways towards stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, along with associated costs in the near and longer term. Compared to previous assessments the report paid greater attention to the integration of climate change with sustainable development policies, the relationship between mitigation and adaptation, Article 2 of the UNFCCC and a consistent evaluation of uncertainty and risk.
Key Findings of IPCC AR4 2007
Warming of the earth’s climate system is unequivocal.
C02 atmospheric concentration—280 ppm in 1750 rose to 379 ppm in 2005.
Direct observations of changes in temperature, sea level, and snow cover in the northern hemisphere during 1961-90 indicate increased temperatures, rise in the mean sea levels, and decreasing snow cover.
Global average sea levels rose by 1.8 mm/year over 1961- 2003.
Eleven of the twelve years—1995-2006—rank among the twelve warmest years since 1850.
Both the hemispheres have observed a decline in the mass of mountain glaciers and snow cover. Precipitation has been found to be more variable, with increased frequency of heat waves droughts, heavy precipitation events, and floods.
Projected changes in the climate indicate an increase in global Temperatures in the range of 1 8°C to 4.0°C over the twenty-first century and sea level rise is projected to be between 0.18 m and 0.59 m by 2100.
The Thirteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-13) in 2007 adopted the Bali Action Plan (BAP). In the decision text:
“The Conference of the Parties, Responding to the findings of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that warming of the climate system is* unequivocal, and that delay in reducing emissions significahtly constrains opportunities to achieve lower stabilization levels and increases the risk of more severe climate change impacts,
Recognizing that deep cuts in global emissions will be required to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention and emphasizing the urgency to address climate change as indicated in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and
Decides to launch a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session ...”
2013-14 - Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
Work is underway on the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), following scoping and other preparatory activities carried out over the past two years. Work has now started with the Working Groups’ Lead Author meetings, as well as various expert meetings and workshops on cross-cutting matters.
Compared to previous reports, the AR5 will put greater emphasis on assessing the socio-economic aspects of climate change and implications for sustainable development, risk management and the framing of a response through both adaptation and mitigation. It will aim to provide more detailed information on regions, including oniclimate phenomena such as monsoons and El Nino.
To enhance overall integration some aspects including water and the Earth system, carbon cycle; ice sheets and sea-level rise; and Article 2 of the UNFCCC will be addressed in a cross cutting manner. Attention will also be given to consistent evaluation of uncertainties and risks; costing and economic analysis; and new scenarios.
IPCC Special Reports, Technical Papers and Methodology Reports
1997: Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability
1999: Aviation and the Global Atmosphere
2000 : Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer
2000 : Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)
2000 : Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
2005 : Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System: Issues Related to Hydrofluorocarbons and Perfluorocarbons
2005 : Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage
1996: Technologies, Policies and Measures for Mitigating Climate Change
1997 : An Introduction to Simple Climate Models used in the IPCC Second Assessment Report
1997: Stabilization of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases: Physical, Biological and Socio-Economic Implications .
1997: Implications of Proposed C02 Emissions Limitations
2002: Climate Change and Biodiversity 2008 : Climate Change and Water Methodology Reports:
1994 : IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories 1996 : Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories
2000 : Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in Greenhouse Gas Inventories (GPG)
"2003 : Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry
2003: Definitions and Methodological Options to Inventory Emissions from Direct Human-Induced Degradation of Forests and Devegetation of Other Vegetation Types
2006 : 2006 IPCC Guidelines on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories
2007 Nobel Peace Prize
In 2007, “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the'lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change. ^
The IPCC accepted this prize on behalf of all experts who had contributed to its assessment work during the past 20 years. It further decided to use the award money to create a Scholarship Programme aimed at enhancing the knowledge and research base and at creating opportunities for young scientists in developing countries highly vulnerable to climate change.