About the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Overview

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The role of the IPCC, set out in the Principles Governing IPCC Work, is to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The Panel is open to government representatives from all members of the United Nations and of the WMO.

The IPCC is organized into three Working Groups and a Task Force:

  • Working Group I assesses the understanding of the climate system and climate change;
  • Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it;
  • Working Group III 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.

The IPCC Bureau, composed of scientific and technical experts elected by the Panel, supports in planning, coordinating and monitoring the work of the IPCC.

Main activities and products

A main activity of the IPCC is to provide regular assessments of the state of knowledge on climate change. The IPCC also prepares Special Reports and Technical Papers on topics where independent scientific information and advice is deemed necessary and it supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These reports reflect the state-of-the-art understanding on the subject matter. The reports themselves are highly technical, but include summaries that are written to be accessible to the non-specialist.

Preparation of reports

IPCC reports are written by teams of authors who are nominated by governments and international organizations and are selected by the IPCC Bureau for specific tasks according to their expertise. The authors are from universities, governments and private research centres, business and environmental associations, and other organizations from more than 100 countries. Hundreds of experts are involved in drafting IPCC reports and many others participate in the review process.

The preparation of all IPCC reports follow Procedures agreed to by the Panel.  The IPCC initiates a new assessment with scoping discussions of experts and policy makers to establish a general outline and to identify key policy-relevant questions. Author teams prepare each chapter of the report by assessing the state of science through a critical evaluation of published literature. To ensure that it is credible and objective, the report then passes through a rigorous two-stage scientific and technical review process.  The final contents of individual chapters of the report are ‘accepted’ by the IPCC Plenary and the technical summary ‘adopted’. The Summaries for Policymakers of the report is approved on a line-by-line basis by governments at IPCC Plenary Sessions.

A fundamental component of the preparation of an IPCC report is the consensus-building process that establishes, based on existing knowledge, what can be agreed upon, how confident scientists are in these conclusions, and what areas of uncertainty remain.  This consensus does not necessarily mean that there is unanimity among IPCC authors or the underlying research, but rather that the authors agree that their report and its conclusions fairly represent the state of scientific understanding at that point in time.

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