So What is the IPCC exactly?

A 2018 meeting of IPCC working groups. Image: IISD

If you read about climate change then likely you have come across data cited from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the IPCC. In fact, there’s a forthcoming special report from the panel to be released later this week but we decided to spend some time leading up to it to take a deeper dive into the IPCC in hopes of giving you a bit of background about this critically important body. We’ll cover the report on Thursday when it’s released as well as global reactions to it but in the meantime, keep reading each day to learn more about the IPCC!

Founding: The IPCC was created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with the objective of providing governments at every level with the scientific information necessary to develop climate policies.

The Specifics: It’s almost spooky reading the notes from the December 1988 UN General Assembly that established the IPCC as scientists were already signaling alarm and urgency about greenhouse gas emissions and it’s disheartening to realize how long it took governments like the United States to take any kind of meaningful action (if they’ve taken any at all).

     "Noting with concern that the emerging evidence indicates that continued
growth in atmospheric concentrations of "greenhouse" gases could produce
global warming with an eventual rise in sea levels, the effects of which could
be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels,
     Recognizing the need for additional research and scientific studies into
all sources and causes of climate change,"

What Makes the IPCC Unique: As the American Institute of Physics explained, “unlike earlier conferences, national academy panels, and advisory committees, the IPCC was in the hands of people who participated not only as science experts, but as official representatives of their governments — people who had strong links to national laboratories, meteorological offices, and science agencies like NASA. The IPCC was neither a strictly scientific nor a strictly political body, but a unique hybrid.”

How the IPCC is Structured: As the Conversation explained, “the IPCC is organized into three Working Groups and a Task Force. Working Group I deals with “The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change”, Working Group II deals with “Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, and Working Group III deals with “Mitigation of Climate Change”. The Task Force refines the methodology for the calculation and reporting of national greenhouse gas emissions and reductions. All these groups have two co-chairs, one from a developed country and one from a developing country.”  The IPCC currently has 195 member countries with thousands of researchers from all over the world contribute who contribute to IPCC reports.

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