How the IPCC Works
The IPCC works to carefully summarize the state of scienctific understanding with respect to global climate change. It does not carry out new research nor does it monitor climate-related data. It meets in plenary sessions about once a year to decide on the work plans of the Working Groups and the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and to agree on the contents of its reports. Hundreds of the world’s top scientists work to develop the IPCC Assessment Reports through critically analyzing and synthesizing the best scientific, technical and socio-economic information available in peer-reviewed and internationally available literature. Their findings are then extensively reviewed by an independent stet of scientists and then, after revision, by a wide range of interested parties. Experts in interpreting scientific matters for government leaders work with the scientific authors to carefully and effectively convey this information to policy-makers.
To ensure the issues of climate change and its implications are studied from the broadest perspective, the IPCC divides its work among three Working Groups and a special task force. The three Working Groups cover: The Physical Basis of Climate Change; Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; and Mitigation of Climate Change. The special task focuses on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.
Reports developed by each each of these bodies go through an extensive, multi-level review process. Reviewers typically represent more than 150 countries as well as a wide range of public and private sector organizations.
Because the IPCC is an intergovernmental body, IPCC reports are reviewed by governments as well as experts. As drafts are prepared and finalized, comments received from both are taken into account by lead authors -- sometimes altering the text, sometimes refining the text, and sometimes answering the comment and not changing the text. This rigorous process has produced a series of major assessments and special reports that have been unanimously agreed upon by all of the countries and by all of the leading scientists serving as lead authors. One-hundred twenty-two coordinating lead authors and lead authors, 515 contributing authors, 21 review editors, and 337 expert reviewers contributed to The Third Assessment Report.
For more about the workings of the IPCC.
The IPCC Working Groups and Task Force
The IPCC has three Working Groups and a Task Force. Each focuses on a different aspect of climate change:
- Working Group I: The Physical Basis of Climate Change assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change.
- Working Group II: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change and options for adapting.
- Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change.
- The Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories is responsible for the IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme.
Each of these four bodies has two co-chairs, one from a developing country and one from a developed country.
Science Included in the IPCC Review
The IPCC draws its findings from papers published in the leading peer-reviewed scientific journals on climate change and its implications. Input from selected non peer-reviewed sources is also considered, provided that it can be reviewed as part of the IPCC review process.
Other IPCC Areas
The IPCC also includes the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (2006 IPCC Guidelines) provide methodologies for estimating national inventories of human-caused emissions by sources. These include energy; industrial processes and product use; agriculture, forestry and other land use; and waste. It also contains information regarding the ultimate “sinks” of greenhouse gases. Sinks are processes, activities or mechanisms that remove a greenhouse gas, aerosol or precursor of a greenhouse gas or aerosol from the atmosphere. For example, soil and trees tend to act as natural sinks for carbon.
In addition to its Assessment Reports, the IPCC produces a broad variety of special reports including the Special Report on Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System: Issues Related to Hydrofluorocarbons and Perfluorocarbons, Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, and Aviation and the Global Atmosphere.