The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by two United Nations Organizations, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to assess “the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.” Review by experts and governments is an essential part of the IPCC process. For its first task, the IPCC was asked to prepare, based on available scientific information, a report on all aspects relevant to climate change and its impacts and to formulate realistic response strategies.
The first assessment report of the IPCC served as the basis for negotiating the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since then, the IPCC has remained the most important source for the Convention’s scientific, technical and socio-economic information. The relationship between the UNFCCC and the IPCC has become a model for interaction between science and decision makers. Several attempts have been made to establish a similar assessment process for other environmental issues.
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What unique features help the IPCC succeed in its mission?
- Its reports are policy relevant but not policy prescriptive.
- The IPCC emphasizes scientific integrity, objectivity, openness and transparency
- Reports go through a rigorous review process that involves many experts around the world, and is open to all member governments.
- The success of the IPCC also depends on the enthusiasm and cooperation of thousands of experts from all regions of the world that have contributed over the years to the preparation of IPCC reports as authors and reviewers.
For more information, visit: www.ipcc.ch.
Earlier Assessment Reports
The Third Assessment Report (TAR), completed in 2001, concluded in its first Working Group report that, “In light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Furthermore, it is very likely that the 20th Century warming has contributed significantly to the observed sea level rise... and widespread loss of land ice.”
The Second Assessment Report (SAR), issued in 1995, provided key input to the negotiations which led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997. One of its main conclusions was: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
The First Assessment Report (FAR), completed in 1990, played an important role in establishing the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the UNFCCC which provides the overall policy framework for addressing the climate change issue. In its scientific findings the FAR concluded:
- “Anthropogenic climate change will persist for many centuries.”
- “Further action is required to address remaining gaps in information and understanding.”
- “There is continuing imperative to communicate research advances in terms that are relevant to decision making.”