The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for assessing the most recent scientific research on climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 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 IPCC is organised in three Working Groups and a Task Force that focus on specific aspects of climate change. The IPCC does not undertake new research, but examines published and peer-reviewed literature to develop a comprehensive assessment of scientific understanding which is published in IPCC Assessment Reports.

Fifth Assessment Report

The IPCC is currently compiling the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) which provides an update of knowledge on the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change. AR5 includes three Working Group reports and a Synthesis Report to be published in stages throughout 2013 and 2014. The three Working Group contributions to the Fifth Assessment Report have now been released.

IPCC Assessment Reports undergo rigorous review processes to ensure they present an objective and complete assessment of current information. The drafting process of each of the Working Group reports has three review stages:

  • review of the first-order draft (FOD) by scientific experts
  • review of the second-order draft (SOD) by experts and governments
  • government review of the final draft of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM).
Publication of the AR5
Working group and report Final publication date

Working Group I                
The physical science basis

27 September 2013

Working Group II
Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

31 March 2014

Working Group III
Mitigation of climate change

13 April 2014

Synthesis Report

October/November 2014

Working Group I (The physical science basis)

The Working Group I examines the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change, including:

  • detection and attribution of climate change
  • changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere
  • observed changes in air, land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, glaciers and ice sheets, oceans and sea level
  • historical and paleoclimatic perspective on climate change
  • biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, gases and aerosols
  • evaluation of climate models
  • projections of future climate.

Working Group II (Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability)

Working Group II examines the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, potential impacts, and options for adaptation. In doing this, the Working Group examines the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development:

  • by sector (water resources, ecosystems, food and forests, coastal systems, industry, and human health)
  • by region (Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, North America, Polar Regions, Small Islands).

Working Group III (Mitigation of climate change)

Working Group III examines (with both a near-term and long-term perspective) options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere.

The Working Group does this by sector (energy, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management) and includes analysis of the costs and benefits of different approaches to mitigation, including consideration of the available instruments and policy measures.

Special Report on Extreme Events

In 2012 the IPCC released the Special Report for Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX report) which brings together the latest research on climate change and extreme events.

Key findings from the SREX report include:

  • It is virtually certain that the world will experience a decrease in cold extremes and an increase in the frequency and magnitude of warm extremes over the 21st century.
  • It is very likely that mean sea level rise will contribute to upward trends in extreme sea levels in the future.
  • It is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation will increase over many areas of the globe.
  • Key findings from the SREX report for Australia include:
    • Australia has already observed an increase in warm days and a decrease in cold days. This trend is projected to continue with large scale increases in the number of days over 35 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius and an increase in heatwave duration.
    • Extreme rainfall events are projected to increase.
    • Tropical cyclones are likely to become more intense and shift southwards; however the frequency of tropical cyclones could remain unchanged or even decrease.
    • Since the 1950s there has been an observed increase in drought over the south west and south east of Australia with projections indicating this could continue.
    • In south-east Australia, the frequency of very high and extreme fire danger days is expected to rise by 15-70 per cent by 2050. The fire season is expected to lengthen.

The most effective adaptation and disaster risk reduction actions for extreme events are those that offer development benefits in the relatively near term, as well as reductions in vulnerability over the longer term.

Further information