Friday, February 02, 2007


Background on the IPCC Report

Today’s news is full of the latest results from the international assessment of the projected climate situation. As the report itself is still not available online, it seemed appropriate to lay out some background about what is and isn’t going to be in it.

The report comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1988. Its charter is “to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data or other relevant parameters. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature.”

The IPCC has three working groups that assess the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change; assess the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, the negative and positive consequences of climate change, and the options for adapting to it; and assess options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change. It also runs a Task Force that inventories the release of greenhouse gases internationally.

On a roughly six-year timescale, the IPCC releases an Assessment Report that gives the most up-to-date status that can be agreed upon by the working group members. The Third Assessment Report, Climate Change 2001, is available online.

The news today is about the release of the report from Working Group I, on the science issues. Much of the report is devoted to the observational evidence from surface and atmospheric temperatures, from changes in the cryosphere (the poles, glaciers, etc.), and from changes in the oceans. The big news-making part is the section on modeling the climate system, with the concomitant projections on how the climate is likely to change in the coming century.

Working Group II, which addresses the current and projected impacts on ecosystems, on water and food supplies, on health, on industry, and on relocations, will release its report after a meeting April 2 – 5, in Brussels. It has already submitted a draft report last month. Working Group III, which focuses on mitigation actions, will meet on its final report April 30 – May 3, in Bangkok, but will release a draft on February 12. A final synthesis report will go out for review during the summer, and will be the subject of the full IPCC meeting November 12 – 16, in Valencia, Spain.

So, the primary emphasis of today’s news is the growing consensus on the man-made component of climate change – the Working Group committed to a 90% likelihood that human activity is the dominant factor – and the smaller range of uncertainties on the changes projected by the ensemble of climate models.

Short summary: we’re screwed. Details will follow.

Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?