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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Abbreviation IPCC
Formation 1988
Type Panel
Legal status Active
Website .ch.ipccwww

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 43/53. Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and UNEP.[4] The IPCC is chaired by Rajendra K. Pachauri.

The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change.[5][6] The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to "stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [i.e., human-induced] interference with the climate system".[5] IPCC reports cover "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."[6]

The IPCC does not carry out its own original research, nor does it do the work of monitoring climate or related phenomena itself. The IPCC bases its assessment on the published literature, which includes peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources.[7]

Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute (on a voluntary basis, without payment from the IPCC)[8] to writing and reviewing reports, which are then reviewed by governments. IPCC reports contain a "Summary for Policymakers", which is subject to line-by-line approval by delegates from all participating governments. Typically this involves the governments of more than 120 countries.[9]

The IPCC provides an internationally accepted authority on climate change,[10] producing reports which have the agreement of leading climate scientists and the consensus of participating governments. The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was shared, in two equal parts, between the IPCC and Al Gore.[11]


  • Aims 1
  • Organization 2
  • Assessment reports 3
    • Scope and preparation of the reports 3.1
    • Authors 3.2
    • First assessment report 3.3
    • Supplementary report of 1992 3.4
    • Second assessment report 3.5
    • Third assessment report 3.6
      • Comments on the TAR 3.6.1
    • Fourth assessment report 3.7
      • Response to AR4 3.7.1
    • Fifth assessment report 3.8
      • Representative Concentration Pathways 3.8.1
  • Special reports 4
    • Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) 4.1
      • Comments on the SRES 4.1.1
    • Special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation (SRREN) 4.2
    • Special Report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX) 4.3
    • Methodology reports 4.4
      • Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories 4.4.1
      • 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories 4.4.2
  • Activities 5
  • Nobel Peace Prize 6
  • Responses 7
    • Projected date of melting of Himalayan glaciers 7.1
      • Watson criticism 7.1.1
    • Emphasis of the "hockey stick" graph 7.2
    • Conservative nature of IPCC reports 7.3
    • IPCC processes 7.4
    • Outdatedness of reports 7.5
    • Burden on participating scientists 7.6
    • Proposed organizational overhaul 7.7
  • InterAcademy Council review 8
  • Endorsements of the IPCC 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14


The principles that the IPCC operates under[12] are set out in the relevant WMO Executive Council and UNEP Governing Council resolutions and decisions, as well as on actions in support of the UNFCCC process. The aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:[6]

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.


The chair of the IPCC is Rajendra K. Pachauri, elected in May 2002. The previous chair was Robert Watson. The chair is assisted by an elected bureau including vice-chairs, working group co-chairs and a secretariat.

The IPCC Panel is composed of representatives appointed by governments and organizations. Participation of delegates with appropriate expertise is encouraged. Plenary sessions of the IPCC and IPCC

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Grameen Bank
Muhammad Yunus
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
with Al Gore

Succeeded by
Martti Ahtisaari
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    • IPCC Organisation
    • IPCC Principles PDF (8.38 KB)
    • IPCC publications
    • 16 years of Scientific Assessment in Support of the Climate ConventionIPCC –  PDF (618 KB).
    • IPCC AR4 WG1 Report Available for Purchase
      • Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs) of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:
        • Working Group I (The Physical Science Basis)  PDF (3.67 MB),
        • Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) PDF (923 KB)
        • Working Group III (Mitigation of Climate Change) PDF (631 KB)
    • "Papers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". Harvard College Library.  — The collection of drafts, review-comments and other documents relating to the work of the Working Group I of the Assessment Report 4.
  • A summary of the Fifth Assessment Report WG1 TS and of the Fourth Assessment Report SPMs by GreenFacts.
  • The World Bank – Climate Change and concerns over water resources The World Bank's portal to climate change and water publications.
  • IPCC article at the Encyclopedia of Earth – General overview of the IPCC
  • Climate Change – What Is the IPCC by Jean-Marc Jancovici
  • Climate Change Freeview Video Interview 2006 – Sherwood Rowland, Nobel Laureate (1995) for work on ozone depletion discusses climate change. Provided by the Vega Science Trust.
  • Evolution of Climate Science in the IPCC Assessments: Understanding the 20th Century Climate Change. A video of a lecture given at Princeton University by Venkatachalam Ramaswamy, Acting Director and Senior Scientist, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), Professor in Geosciences and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton University.
  • IPCC Data Distribution Centre Climate data and guidance on its use.
  • Nature 476,429–433(25 August 2011) Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation -Nature International Weekly Journal of Science

External links

  • Agrawala, S. (August 1998). "Context and Early Origins of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". Climatic Change 39 (4): 605–620.  
  • Agrawala, S. (August 1998). "Structural and Process History of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". Climatic Change 39 (4): 621–642.  
  • The World Bank climate change and water sector, 2009 Water and Climate Change: Understanding the Risks and Making Climate-Smart Investment Decisions. Retrieved 31 October 2013.

Further reading

  • US NRC (2010), America's Climate Choices: Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change; A report by the US National Research Council (NRC), Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press,  
  • US NRC (2001), Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions. A report by the Committee on the Science of Climate Change, US National Research Council (NRC), Washington, D.C., USA: National Academy Press,  
  • UK Royal Society, Climate Change: A Summary of the Science, London: Royal Society . Report website.
  • Rive, N.; Jackson, B.; Rado, D.; Marsh, R. (11 June 2007). "Complaint to Ofcom Regarding "The Great Global Warming Swindle" (final revision)". OfcomSwindleComplaint website. . Also available as a PDF
  • Stern, N. (2006). "Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (pre-publication edition)". London, UK: HM Treasury 
  • PBL (5 July 2010), Assessing an IPCC assessment. An analysis of statements on projected regional impacts in the 2007 report. A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), Bilthoven, Netherlands: PBL . Report website.
  • PBL, et al. (November 2009), News in climate science and exploring boundaries: A Policy brief on developments since the IPCC AR4 report in 2007. A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), and Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR), Bilthoven, Netherlands: PBL . Report website.
  • Parson, E., et al. (July 2007), Global Change Scenarios: Their Development and Use. Sub-report 2.1B of Synthesis and Assessment Product 2.1 by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, Washington, DC., USA: Department of Energy, Office of Biological & Environmental Research 
  • Meinshausen, M., et al. (November 2011), "The RCP greenhouse gas concentrations and their extensions from 1765 to 2300 (open access)", Climatic Change 109 (1-2): 213–241,  .
  • NASAC (2007), Joint statement by the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) to the G8 on sustainability, energy efficiency and climate change, Nairobi, Kenya: NASAC Secretariat . Statement website.
  • Lambeck, K. (7 February 2007), Science Policy: On the edge of global calamity, Canberra: Australian Academy of Science .
  • ITGP (October 2010), THIRTY-SECOND SESSION OF THE IPCC, held in Busan, (IPCC-XXXII/INF. 4 (27.IX.2010)). REVIEW OF THE IPCC PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES: Notes on the Informal Task Group on Procedures (ITGP), IPCC, retrieved 1 February 2014 . Archived page.
  •   (pb: )
  • IPCC SAR WG1 (1996). Houghton, J.T.; Meira Filho, L.G.; Callander, B.A.; Harris, N.; Kattenberg, A., and Maskell, K., ed. Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group I to the   (pb: ) pdf.
  •  , (pb: , ). Also published in English (html) (PDF) on the IPCC website. Summary for policymakers available in French, Russian, and Spanish.
  • IPCC TAR WG3; Davidson, Ogunlade; Swart, Rob; Pan, Jiahua (2001), Metz, B.; Davidson, O.; Swart, R.; and Pan, J., ed., "Climate Change 2001: Mitigation", Climate Change 2001: Mitigation, Contribution of Working Group III to the   (pb: )
  • IPCC TAR WG2 (2001). McCarthy, J. J.; Canziani, O. F.; Leary, N. A.; Dokken, D. J.; and White, K. S., ed. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the   (pb: )
  • IPCC TAR WG1 (2001). Houghton, J.T.; Ding, Y.; Griggs, D.J.; Noguer, M.; van der Linden, P.J.; Dai, X.; Maskell, K.; and Johnson, C.A., ed. Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the   (pb: )
  • IPCC TAR SYR (2001). Watson, R. T.; and the Core Writing Team, ed. "Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report". Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the   (pb: )
  •   (pb: ).
  • IPCC AR4 WG2 (2007). Parry, M.L.; Canziani, O.F.; Palutikof, J.P.; van der Linden, P.J.; and Hanson, C.E., ed. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the   (pb: )
  • IPCC AR4 WG1 (2007). Solomon, S.; Qin, D.; Manning, M.; Chen, Z.; Marquis, M.; Averyt, K.B.; Tignor, M.; and Miller, H.L., ed. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the   (pb: )
  •  .
  • IPCC AR5 WG1 (2013), Stocker, T.F., et al., ed., Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group 1 (WG1) Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5), Cambridge University Press . Climate Change 2013 Working Group 1 website.
  • IPCC AR5 WG2 A (2014), Field, C.B., et al., ed., Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II (WG2) to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Cambridge University Press . Archived 25 June 2014.
  • IPCC AR5 WG3 (2014), Edenhofer, O., et al., ed., Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III (WG3) to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Cambridge University Press . Archived 29 June 2014.
  • IPCC (September 2013), IPCC AR5 leaflet, retrieved 2013-11-28 
  • IAMP (2010), Inter Academy Medical Panel (IAMP) Statement on the Health Co-Benefits of Policies to Tackle Climate Change, Trieste, Italy: Inter Academy Panel (IAP) Secretariat, hosted by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) 
  • IAC (1 October 2010), Climate Change Assessments, Review of the Processes & Procedures of the IPCC, InterAcademy Council (IAC),  . Archived page.
  • Economic Affairs Committee (21 June 2005). "The Economics of Climate Change, the Second Report of the 2005–2006 session, produced by the UK Parliament House of Lords Economics Affairs Select Committee". London, UK: The Stationery Office Ltd., by order of the House of Lords . High-resolution PDF versions: HL 12-I (report), HL 12-II (evidence).
  • Australian Academy of Science (August 2010), The Science of Climate Change: questions and answers, Canberra: Australian Academy of Science,  . Low-resolution (2 Mb) or high-resolution PDF (25 Mb).
  • Australian Academy of Science (n.d.), Science Policy: Climate Change: The Australian Academy of Science's comments on the Joint science academies' statement: Climate change adaptation and the transition to a low carbon society, Canberra: Australian Academy of Science 
  • Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias, et al. (1 May 2009), Climate change and the transformation of energy technologies for a low carbon future. A joint-statement made by the science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa (the G8+5), London, UK: Royal Society . Statement website.
  • Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias, et al. (10 June 2008), Climate change adaptation and the transition to a low carbon society. A joint-statement made by the science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa (the G8+5), London, UK: Royal Society . Statement website.
  • Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias, et al. (16 May 2007), Sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection. A joint-statement made by the science academies of the G8 nations and Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa (the G8+5), London, UK: Royal Society . Statement website.


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  118. ^ a b Michael Oppenheimer et al, The limits of consensus, in Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2008-2009: with a Special Section on Energy and Sustainability, Donald Kennedy, Island Press, 01.12.2008, separate as Climate Change, The Limits of Consensus Michael Oppenheimer, Brian C. O'Neill, Mort Webster, Shardul Agrawal, in Science 14 September 2007: Vol. 317 no. 5844 pp. 1505-1506 DOI: 10.1126/science.1144831
  119. ^ Lessons from the IPCC: do scientific assessments need to be consensual to be authoritative? Mike Hulme, in (eds.) Doubelday,R. and Willesden,J. March 2013, page 142 ff
  120. ^ Do scientific assessments need to be consensual to be authoritative? Curry, JA and PJ Webster, 2012: Climate change: no consensus on consensus. CAB Reviews, in press, 2012
  121. ^ "Climate heretic: Judith Curry turns on her colleagues". NatureNews. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  122. ^ a b Of Montreal and Kyoto: A Tale of Two Protocols by Cass Sunstein 38 ELR 10566 8/2008
  123. ^ a b Technische Problemlösung, Verhandeln und umfassende Problemlösung, Reiner Grundmann in Gesellschaftliche Komplexität und kollektive Handlungsfähigkeit, ed. Schimank, U. (2000). Frankfurt/Main: Campus, p.154-182 [;jsessionid=1F12495443EF6AC95BFF12F29F3C4829?itemId=escidoc%3A1235032%3A2&view=EXPORT book summary at the Max Planck Gesellschaft, in German
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  127. ^ The Economics of Climate Change
  128. ^ See main article on Stern Review
  129. ^ Example of concerns over outdatedness of IPCC reports, see p.3
  130. ^ Guidelines for inclusion of recent scientific literature in the Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report.
  131. ^ Carbon Equity report on the Arctic summer of 2007
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  134. ^  
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  146. ^ Tollefson, J. (2010). "Climate panel must adapt to survive". Nature 467 (7311): 14.  
  147. ^ Statement by ICSU on the controversy around the 4th IPCC Assessment 23 February, 2010
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See also

  • Joint science academies' statement of 2001. "The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents the consensus of the international scientific community on climate change science. We recognise IPCC as the world's most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes, and we endorse its method of achieving this consensus".[31]
  • Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. "We concur with the climate science assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001 ... We endorse the conclusions of the IPCC assessment..."[32]
  • Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. "CMOS endorses the process of periodic climate science assessment carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and supports the conclusion, in its Third Assessment Report, which states that the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate."[33]
  • European Geosciences Union. "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [...] is the main representative of the global scientific community [...][The] IPCC third assessment report [...] represents the state-of-the-art of climate science supported by the major science academies around the world and by the vast majority of scientific researchers and investigations as documented by the peer-reviewed scientific literature".[34]
  • International Council for Science. "...the IPCC 4th Assessment Report represents the most comprehensive international scientific assessment ever conducted. This assessment reflects the current collective knowledge on the climate system, its evolution to date, and its anticipated future development".[147]
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA). "Internationally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)... is the most senior and authoritative body providing scientific advice to global policy makers".[148]
  • United States National Research Council. "The [IPCC Third Assessment Report's] conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue".[149]
  • Network of African Science Academies. "The IPCC should be congratulated for the contribution it has made to public understanding of the nexus that exists between energy, climate and sustainability".[150]
  • Royal Meteorological Society, in response to the release of the Fourth Assessment Report, referred to the IPCC as "The world's best climate scientists".[151]
  • Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London. "The most authoritative assessment of climate change in the near future is provided by the Inter-Governmental Panel for Climate Change".[152]

Various scientific bodies have issued official statements endorsing and concurring with the findings of the IPCC.

Endorsements of the IPCC

The panel also advised that the IPCC avoid appearing to advocate specific policies in response to its scientific conclusions.[145] Commenting on the IAC report, Nature News noted that "The proposals were met with a largely favourable response from climate researchers who are eager to move on after the media scandals and credibility challenges that have rocked the United Nations body during the past nine months".[146]

  1. establish an executive committee;
  2. elect an executive director whose term would only last for one assessment;
  3. encourage review editors to ensure that all reviewer comments are adequately considered and genuine controversies are adequately reflected in the assessment reports;
  4. adopt a better process for responding to reviewer comments;
  5. working groups should use a qualitative level-of-understanding scale in the Summary for Policy Makers and Technical Summary;
  6. "Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence"; and
  7. implement a communications plan that emphasizes transparency and establish guidelines for who can speak on behalf of the organization.[144]

The IAC found that, "The IPCC assessment process has been successful overall". The panel, however, made seven formal recommendations for improving the IPCC's assessment process, including:

In March 2010, at the invitation of the United Nations secretary-general and the chair of the IPCC, the InterAcademy Council (IAC) was asked to review the IPCC's processes for developing its reports.[141][142] The IAC panel, chaired by Harold Tafler Shapiro, convened on 14 May 2010 and released its report on 1 September 2010.[135][143]

InterAcademy Council review

In February 2010, in response to controversies regarding claims in the moderated "living" WorldHeritage-IPCC.[138][139] Other recommendations included that the panel employ a full-time staff and remove government oversight from its processes to avoid political interference.[140]

Proposed organizational overhaul

In May 2010, Pachauri noted that the IPCC currently had no process for responding to errors or flaws once it issued a report. The problem, according to Pachauri, was that once a report was issued the panels of scientists producing the reports were disbanded.[135]

Scientists who participate in the IPCC assessment process do so without any compensation other than the normal salaries they receive from their home institutions. The process is labor-intensive, diverting time and resources from participating scientists' research programs.[133] Concerns have been raised that the large uncompensated time commitment and disruption to their own research may discourage qualified scientists from participating.[134]

Burden on participating scientists

Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chair, admitted at the launch of this report that since the IPCC began work on it, scientists have recorded "much stronger trends in climate change", like the unforeseen dramatic melting of polar ice in the summer of 2007,[131] and added, "that means you better start with intervention much earlier".[132]

The submission deadlines for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) differed for the reports of each Working Group. Deadlines for the Working Group I report were adjusted during the drafting and review process in order to ensure that reviewers had access to unpublished material being cited by the authors. The final deadline for cited publications was 24 July 2006.[130] The final WG I report was released on 30 April 2007 and the final AR4 Synthesis Report was released on 17 November 2007.

Since the IPCC does not carry out its own research, it operates on the basis of scientific papers and independently documented results from other scientific bodies, and its schedule for producing reports requires a deadline for submissions prior to the report's final release. In principle, this means that any significant new evidence or events that change our understanding of climate science between this deadline and publication of an IPCC report cannot be included. In an area of science where our scientific understanding is rapidly changing, this has been raised as a serious shortcoming in a body which is widely regarded as the ultimate authority on the science.[129] However, there has generally been a steady evolution of key findings and levels of scientific confidence from one assessment report to the next.

Outdatedness of reports

According to Sheldon Ungar's comparison with global warming, the actors in the ozone depletion case had a better understanding of scientific ignorance and uncertainties.[126] The ozone case communicated to lay persons "with easy-to-understand bridging metaphors derived from the popular culture" and related to "immediate risks with everyday relevance", while the public opinion on climate change sees no imminent danger.[126] The stepwise mitigation of the ozone layer challenge was based as well on successfully reducing regional burden sharing conflicts.[123] In case of the IPCC conclusions and the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, varying regional cost-benefit analysis and burden-sharing conflicts with regard to the distribution of emission reductions remain an unsolved problem.[122] In the UK, a report for an House of Lords committee asked to urge the IPCC to involve better assessments of costs and benefits of climate change[127] but the Stern Review ordered by the UK government made a stronger argument in favor to combat human-made climate change.[128]

The IPCC process on climate change and its efficiency and success has been compared with dealings with other environmental challenges (compare Ozone depletion and global warming). In case of the Ozone depletion global regulation based on the Montreal Protocol has been successful, in case of Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol failed.[122] The Ozone case was used to assess the efficiency of the IPCC process.[123] The lockstep situation of the IPCC is having built a broad science consensus while states and governments still follow different, if not opposing goals.[124] The underlying linear model of policy-making of more knowledge we have, the better the political response will be is being doubted.[124][125]

Michael Oppenheimer, a long-time participant in the IPCC and coordinating lead author of the Fifth Assessment Report conceded in Science Magazine's State of the Planet 2008-2009 some limitations of the IPCC consensus approach and asks for concurring, smaller assessments of special problems instead of the large scale approach as in the previous IPCC assessment reports.[118] It has become more important to provide a broader exploration of uncertainties.[118] Others see as well mixed blessings of the drive for consensus within the IPCC process and ask to include dissenting or minority positions[119] or to improve statements about uncertainties.[120][121]

IPCC processes

Political influence on the IPCC has been documented by the release of a memo by ExxonMobil to the Bush administration, and its effects on the IPCC's leadership. The memo led to strong Bush administration lobbying, evidently at the behest of ExxonMobil, to oust Robert Watson, a climate scientist, from the IPCC chairmanship, and to have him replaced by Pachauri, who was seen at the time as more mild-mannered and industry-friendly.[116][117]

In his December 2006 book, Hell and High Water: Global Warming, and in an interview on Fox News on 31 January 2007, energy expert Joseph Romm noted that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is already out of date and omits recent observations and factors contributing to global warming, such as the release of greenhouse gases from thawing tundra.[115]

In reporting criticism by some scientists that IPCC's then-impending January 2007 report understates certain risks, particularly sea level rises, an AP story quoted Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of physics and oceanography at Potsdam University as saying "In a way, it is one of the strengths of the IPCC to be very conservative and cautious and not overstate any climate change risk".[114]

Another example of scientific research which suggests that previous estimates by the IPCC, far from overstating dangers and risks, have actually understated them is a study on projected rises in sea levels. When the researchers' analysis was "applied to the possible scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers found that in 2100 sea levels would be 0.5–1.4 m [50–140 cm] above 1990 levels. These values are much greater than the 9–88 cm as projected by the IPCC itself in its Third Assessment Report, published in 2001". This may have been due, in part, to the expanding human understanding of climate.[112][113]

On 1 February 2007, the eve of the publication of IPCC's major report on climate, a study was published suggesting that temperatures and sea levels have been rising at or above the maximum rates proposed during the last IPCC report in 2001.[111] The study compared IPCC 2001 projections on temperature and sea level change with observations. Over the six years studied, the actual temperature rise was near the top end of the range given by IPCC's 2001 projection, and the actual sea level rise was above the top of the range of the IPCC projection.

Some critics have contended that the IPCC reports tend to underestimate dangers, understate risks, and report only the "lowest common denominator" findings.[110]

Conservative nature of IPCC reports

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) published in 2007 featured a graph showing 12 proxy based temperature reconstructions, including the three highlighted in the 2001 Third Assessment Report (TAR); Mann, Bradley & Hughes 1999 as before, Jones et al. 1998 and Briffa 2000 had both been calibrated by newer studies. In addition, analysis of the Medieval Warm Period cited reconstructions by Crowley & Lowery 2000 (as cited in the TAR) and Osborn & Briffa 2006. Ten of these 14 reconstructions covered 1,000 years or longer. Most reconstructions shared some data series, particularly tree ring data, but newer reconstructions used additional data and covered a wider area, using a variety of statistical methods. The section discussed the divergence problem affecting certain tree ring data.[109]

On 23 June 2005, Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce wrote joint letters with Ed Whitfield, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations demanding full records on climate research, as well as personal information about their finances and careers, from Mann, Bradley and Hughes.[106] Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the House Science Committee, said this was a "misguided and illegitimate investigation" apparently aimed at intimidating scientists, and at his request the U.S. National Academy of Sciences arranged for its National Research Council to set up a special investigation.[107] The National Research Council's report agreed that there were some statistical failings, but these had little effect on the graph, which was generally correct. In a 2006 letter to Nature, Mann, Bradley, and Hughes pointed out that their original article had said that "more widespread high-resolution data are needed before more confident conclusions can be reached" and that the uncertainties were "the point of the article".[108]

These studies were widely presented as demonstrating that the current warming period is exceptional in comparison to temperatures between 1000 and 1900, and the MBH99 based graph featured in publicity. Even at the draft stage, this finding was disputed by contrarians: in May 2000 Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project held a press event on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., featuring comments on the graph Wibjörn Karlén and Singer argued against the graph at a United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on 18 July 2000. Contrarian John Lawrence Daly featured a modified version of the IPCC 1990 schematic, which he mis-identified as appearing in the IPCC 1995 report, and argued that "Overturning its own previous view in the 1995 report, the IPCC presented the 'Hockey Stick' as the new orthodoxy with hardly an apology or explanation for the abrupt U-turn since its 1995 report".[102] Criticism of the MBH99 reconstruction in a review paper, which was quickly discredited in the Soon and Baliunas controversy, was picked up by the Bush administration, and a Senate speech by US Republican senator James Inhofe alleged that "manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people". The data and methodology used to produce the "hockey stick graph" was criticized in papers by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick,[103] and in turn the criticisms in these papers were examined by other studies and comprehensively refuted by Wahl & Ammann 2007,[104] which showed errors in the methods used by McIntyre and McKitrick.[105]

The third assessment report (TAR) prominently featured[100] a graph labeled "Millennial Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction" based on a 1999 paper by Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes (MBH99), which has been referred to as the "hockey stick graph". This graph extended the similar graph in Figure 3.20 from the IPCC Second Assessment Report of 1995, and differed from a schematic in the first assessment report that lacked temperature units, but appeared to depict larger global temperature variations over the past 1000 years, and higher temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period than the mid 20th century. The schematic was not an actual plot of data, and was based on a diagram of temperatures in central England, with temperatures increased on the basis of documentary evidence of Medieval vineyards in England. Even with this increase, the maximum it showed for the Medieval Warm Period did not reach temperatures recorded in central England in 2007.[99] The MBH99 finding was supported by cited reconstructions by Jones et al. 1998, Pollack, Huang & Shen 1998, Crowley & Lowery 2000 and Briffa 2000, using differing data and methods. The Jones et al. and Briffa reconstructions were overlaid with the MBH99 reconstruction in Figure 2.21 of the IPCC report.[101]

Comparison of MBH99 40-year average from proxy records, as used in IPCC TAR 2001 (blue), with IPCC 1990 schematic Figure 7.1.c (red) [based on Lamb 1965 extrapolating from central England temperatures and other historical records]; central England temperatures to 2007 shown from Jones et al. 2009 (green dashed line).[99] Also shown, Moberg et al. 2005 low frequency signal (black).

Emphasis of the "hockey stick" graph

Former IPCC chairman Robert Watson has said "The mistakes all appear to have gone in the direction of making it seem like climate change is more serious by overstating the impact. That is worrying. The IPCC needs to look at this trend in the errors and ask why it happened".[96] Martin Parry, a climate expert[97] who had been co-chair of the IPCC working group II, said that "What began with a single unfortunate error over Himalayan glaciers has become a clamour without substance" and the IPCC had investigated the other alleged mistakes, which were "generally unfounded and also marginal to the assessment".[98]

Watson criticism

Rajendra K. Pachauri responded in an interview with Science.[95]

This projection was not included in the final summary for policymakers. The IPCC has since acknowledged that the date is incorrect, while reaffirming that the conclusion in the final summary was robust. They expressed regret for "the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance". The date of 2035 has been correctly quoted by the IPCC from the WWF report, which has misquoted its own source, an ICSI report "Variations of Snow and Ice in the past and at present on a Global and Regional Scale".

Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).

A paragraph in the 2007 Working Group II report ("Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability"), chapter 10 included a projection that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035

Projected date of melting of Himalayan glaciers

There is widespread support for the IPCC in the scientific community, which is reflected in publications by other scientific bodies[31][50][61] and experts.[93] However, criticisms of the IPCC have been made.[94]


In December 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change". The award is shared with Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore for his work on climate change and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.[92]

Nobel Peace Prize

The IPCC also often answers inquiries from the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

The IPCC concentrates its activities on the tasks allotted to it by the relevant WMO Executive Council and UNEP Governing Council resolutions and decisions as well as on actions in support of the UNFCCC process.[6] While the preparation of the assessment reports is a major IPCC function, it also supports other activities, such as the Data Distribution Centre[90] and the National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme,[91] required under the UNFCCC. This involves publishing default emission factors, which are factors used to derive emissions estimates based on the levels of fuel consumption, industrial production and so on.


The 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories is the latest version of these emission estimation methodologies, including a large number of default emission factors.[88] Although the IPCC prepared this new version of the guidelines on request of the parties to the UNFCCC, the methods have not yet been officially accepted for use in national greenhouse gas emissions reporting under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.[89]

2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

The 1996 guidelines and the two good practice reports are to be used by parties to the UNFCCC and to the Kyoto Protocol in their annual submissions of national greenhouse gas inventories.

The 1996 Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Investories provide the methodological basis for the estimation of national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.[87] Over time these guidelines have been completed with good practice reports: Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Management in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories and Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry.

Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

  • to develop and refine an internationally agreed methodology and software for the calculation and reporting of national greenhouse gas emissions and removals; and
  • to encourage the widespread use of this methodology by countries participating in the IPCC and by signatories of the UNFCCC.

Within IPCC the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program develops methodologies to estimate emissions of International Energy Agency. The objectives of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program are:

Methodology reports

More than 80 authors, 19 review editors, and more than 100 contributing authors from all over the world contributed to the preparation of SREX.[74][85]

The report assesses the effect that climate change has on the threat of natural disasters and how nations can better manage an expected change in the frequency of occurrence and intensity of severe weather patterns. It aims to become a resource for decision-makers to prepare more effectively for managing the risks of these events. A potentially important area for consideration is also the detection of trends in extreme events and the attribution of these trends to human influence.

Special Report on managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation (SREX)

More than 130 authors from all over the world contributed to the preparation of IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) on a voluntary basis – not to mention more than 100 scientists, who served as contributing authors.[74][84]

This report assesses existing literature on renewable energy commercialisation for the mitigation of climate change. It covers the six most important renewable energy technologies, as well as their integration into present and future energy systems. It also takes into consideration the environmental and social consequences associated with these technologies, the cost and strategies to overcome technical as well as non-technical obstacles to their application and diffusion.

Special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation (SRREN)

The most prominently publicized criticism of SRES focused on the fact that all but one of the participating models compared gross domestic product (GDP) across regions using market exchange rates (MER), instead of the more correct purchasing-power parity (PPP) approach.[83] This criticism is discussed in the main SRES article.

There have been a number of comments on the SRES. Parson et al. (2007)[81] stated that the SRES represented "a substantial advance from prior scenarios". At the same time, there have been criticisms of the SRES.[82]

Comments on the SRES

The SRES scenarios are "baseline" (or "reference") scenarios, which means that they do not take into account any current or future measures to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).[79] SRES emissions projections are broadly comparable in range to the baseline projections that have been developed by the scientific community.[80]

The Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) is a report by the IPCC which was published in 2000.[75] The SRES contains "scenarios" of future changes in emissions of greenhouse gases and sulfur dioxide.[76] One of the uses of the SRES scenarios is to project future changes in climate, e.g., changes in global mean temperature. The SRES scenarios were used in the IPCC's Third[77] and Fourth Assessment Reports.[78]

Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES)

In addition to climate assessment reports, the IPCC is publishing Special Reports on specific topics. The preparation and approval process for all IPCC Special Reports follows the same procedures as for IPCC Assessment Reports. In the year 2011 two IPCC Special Report were finalized, the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) and the Special Report on Managing Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). Both Special Reports were requested by governments.[74]

Special reports

Projections in AR5 are based on "Representative Concentration Pathways" (RCPs).[73] The RCPs are consistent with a wide range of possible changes in future anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Projected changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level are given in the main RCP article.

Representative Concentration Pathways

  • Without new policies to mitigate climate change, projections suggest an increase in global mean temperature in 2100 of 3.7 to 4.8 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels (median values; the range is 2.5 to 7.8 °C including climate uncertainty).[70]
  • The current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions is not consistent with limiting global warming to below 1.5 or 2 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.[71] Pledges made as part of the Cancún Agreements are broadly consistent with cost-effective scenarios that give a "likely" chance (66-100% probability) of limiting global warming (in 2100) to below 3 °C, relative to pre-industrial levels.[72]
Working Group III
  • "Increasing magnitudes of [global] warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts"[68]
  • "A first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability"[69]
  • "The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change"[68]
Working Group II
  • "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia".[64]
  • "Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years".[65]
  • Human influence on the climate system is clear.[66] It is extremely likely (95-100% probability)[67] that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951-2010.[66]
Working Group I

Conclusions of AR5 are summarized below:

The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) was completed in 2014.[63] AR5 followed the same general format as of AR4, with three Working Group reports and a Synthesis report.[63] The Working Group I report (WG1) was published in September 2013.[63]

Fifth assessment report

Some errors have been found in the IPCC AR4 Working Group II report. Two errors include the melting of Himalayan glaciers (see later section), and Dutch land area that is below sea level.[62]

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems [emphasis in original text]. [...] This conclusion is based on a substantial array of scientific evidence, including recent work, and is consistent with the conclusions of recent assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research Program [...], the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report [...], and other assessments of the state of scientific knowledge on climate change.
concludes: [61] make some recommendations to improve the IPCC process. A literature assessment by the US National Research Council (US NRC, 2010)[60] PBL (2010)[60][59] has carried out two reviews of AR4. These reviews are generally supportive of AR4's conclusions.[58] 2010)[57], 2009;et al. (PBL, Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyThe
  • Joint-statements made in 2007,[50] 2008[51] and 2009[52] by the science academies of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and the G8 nations (the "G8+5").
  • Publications by the Australian Academy of Science.[53]
  • A joint-statement made in 2007 by the Network of African Science Academies.[54]
  • A statement made in 2010 by the Inter Academy Medical Panel[55] This statement has been signed by 43 scientific academies.[56]

Several science academies have referred to and/or reiterated some of the conclusions of AR4. These include:

Response to AR4

"Likely" means greater than 66% probability of being correct, based on expert judgement.[45]

AR4 global warming projections[48]
Best estimate
"Likely" range
B1 1.8 1.1 – 2.9
A1T 2.4 1.4 – 3.8
B2 2.4 1.4 – 3.8
A1B 2.8 1.7 – 4.4
A2 3.4 2.0 – 5.4
A1FI 4.0 2.4 – 6.4

Global warming projections from AR4[48] are shown below. The projections apply to the end of the 21st century (2090–99), relative to temperatures at the end of the 20th century (1980–99). Add 0.7 °C to projections to make them relative to pre-industrial levels instead of 1980–99.[49] Descriptions of the greenhouse gas emissions scenarios can be found in Special Report on Emissions Scenarios.

  • "Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries even if GHG emissions were to be reduced sufficiently for GHG concentrations to stabilise, due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks".[46] Stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations is discussed in climate change mitigation.
  • "Some planned adaptation (of human activities) is occurring now; more extensive adaptation is required to reduce vulnerability to climate change".[47]
  • "Unmitigated climate change would, in the long term, be likely to exceed the capacity of natural, managed and human systems to adapt".[47]
  • "Many impacts [of climate change] can be reduced, delayed or avoided by mitigation".[47]
  • "Impacts [of climate change] will very likely increase due to increased frequencies and intensities of some extreme weather events".[46]
  • "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level".[44]
  • Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is "very likely" (greater than 90% probability, based on expert judgement)[45] due to human activities.[44]

"Robust findings" of the Synthesis report include:

People from over 130 countries contributed to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which took 6 years to produce.[43] Contributors to AR4 included more than 2500 scientific expert reviewers, more than 800 contributing authors, and more than 450 lead authors.[43]

  • Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis
  • Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
  • Working Group III: Mitigation
  • Synthesis Report

The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was published in 2007.[43] Like previous assessment reports, it consists of four reports:

Fourth assessment report

[...] the full [WGI] report is adequately summarized in the Technical Summary. The full WGI report and its Technical Summary are not specifically directed at policy. The Summary for Policymakers reflects less emphasis on communicating the basis for uncertainty and a stronger emphasis on areas of major concern associated with human-induced climate change. This change in emphasis appears to be the result of a summary process in which scientists work with policy makers on the document. Written responses from U.S. coordinating and lead scientific authors to the committee indicate, however, that (a) no changes were made without the consent of the convening lead authors (this group represents a fraction of the lead and contributing authors) and (b) most changes that did occur lacked significant impact.

US NRC (2001)[42] concluded that the WGI SPM and Technical Summary are "consistent" with the full WGI report. US NRC (2001)[37] stated:

IPCC author Kevin Trenberth has also commented on the WGI SPM.[41] Trenberth has stated that during the drafting of the WGI SPM, some government delegations attempted to "blunt, and perhaps obfuscate, the messages in the report".[41] However, Trenberth concludes that the SPM is a "reasonably balanced summary".[41]

IPCC author Richard Lindzen has made a number of criticisms of the TAR.[38] Among his criticisms, Lindzen has stated that the WGI Summary for Policymakers (SPM) does not faithfully summarize the full WGI report.[38] For example, Lindzen states that the SPM understates the uncertainty associated with climate models.[38] John Houghton, who was a co-chair of TAR WGI,[39] has responded to Lindzen's criticisms of the SPM.[40] Houghton has stressed that the SPM is agreed upon by delegates from many of the world's governments, and that any changes to the SPM must be supported by scientific evidence.[40]

In 2001, the US National Research Council (US NRC)[35] produced a report that assessed Working Group I's (WGI) contribution to the TAR. US NRC (2001)[36] "generally agrees" with the WGI assessment, and describes the full WGI report as an "admirable summary of research activities in climate science".[37]

In 2001, 17 national science academies issued a joint-statement on climate change,[31] in which they stated "we support the [TAR's] conclusion that it is at least 90% certain that temperatures will continue to rise, with average global surface temperature projected to increase by between 1.4 and 5.8 °C above 1990 levels by 2100". The TAR has also been endorsed by the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences,[32] Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society,[33] and European Geosciences Union[34] (refer to "Endorsements of the IPCC").

Comments on the TAR

  • "Observations show Earth's surface is warming. Globally, 1990s very likely warmest decade in instrumental record".[29] Atmospheric concentrations of anthropogenic (i.e., human-emitted) greenhouse gases have increased substantially.[29]
  • Since the mid-20th century, most of the observed warming is "likely" (greater than 66% probability, based on expert judgement)[26] due to human activities.[29]
  • Projections based on the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios suggest warming over the 21st century at a more rapid rate than that experienced for at least the last 10,000 years.[29]
  • "Projected climate change will have beneficial and adverse effects on both environmental and socio-economic systems, but the larger the changes and the rate of change in climate, the more the adverse effects predominate."[29]
  • "Ecosystems and species are vulnerable to climate change and other stresses (as illustrated by observed impacts of recent regional temperature changes) and some will be irreversibly damaged or lost."[29]
  • "Greenhouse gas emission reduction (mitigation) actions would lessen the pressures on natural and human systems from climate change."[29]
  • "Adaptation [to the effects of climate change] has the potential to reduce adverse effects of climate change and can often produce immediate ancillary benefits, but will not prevent all damages."[29] An example of adaptation to climate change is building levees in response to sea level rise.[30]

"Robust findings" of the TAR Synthesis Report include:

A number of the TAR's conclusions are given quantitative estimates of how probable it is that they are correct, e.g., greater than 66% probability of being correct.[26] These are "Bayesian" probabilities, which are based on an expert assessment of all the available evidence.[27][28]

  • Working Group I: The Scientific Basis[22]
  • Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability[23]
  • Working Group III: Mitigation[24]
  • Synthesis Report[25]

The Third Assessment Report (TAR) was completed in 2001 and consists of four reports, three of them from its working groups:

Third assessment report

  1. Greenhouse gas concentrations have continued to increase
  2. Anthropogenic aerosols tend to produce negative radiative forcings
  3. Climate has changed over the past century (air temperature has increased by between 0.3 and 0.6 °C since the late 19th century; this estimate has not significantly changed since the 1990 report).
  4. The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate (considerable progress since the 1990 report in distinguishing between natural and anthropogenic influences on climate, because of: including aerosols; coupled models; pattern-based studies)
  5. Climate is expected to continue to change in the future (increasing realism of simulations increases confidence; important uncertainties remain but are taken into account in the range of model projections)
  6. There are still many uncertainties (estimates of future emissions and biogeochemical cycling; models; instrument data for model testing, assessment of variability, and detection studies)

Each of the last three parts was completed by a separate working group, and each has a Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that represents a consensus of national representatives. The SPM of the WG I report contains headings:

  • A synthesis to help interpret UNFCCC article 2.
  • The Science of Climate Change (WG I)
  • Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change (WG II)
  • Economic and Social Dimensions of Climate Change (WG III)

Climate Change 1995, the IPCC Second Assessment Report (SAR), was finished in 1996. It is split into four parts:

Second assessment report

The major conclusion was that research since 1990 did "not affect our fundamental understanding of the science of the greenhouse effect and either confirm or do not justify alteration of the major conclusions of the first IPCC scientific assessment". It noted that transient (time-dependent) simulations, which had been very preliminary in the FAR, were now improved, but did not include aerosol or ozone changes.

The 1992 supplementary report was an update, requested in the context of the negotiations on the UNFCCC at the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Supplementary report of 1992

The executive summary of the WG I Summary for Policymakers report says they are certain that emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. They calculate with confidence that CO2 has been responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect. They predict that under a "business as usual" (BAU) scenario, global mean temperature will increase by about 0.3 °C per decade during the [21st] century. They judge that global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 °C over the last 100 years, broadly consistent with prediction of climate models, but also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.

The IPCC first assessment report was completed in 1990, and served as the basis of the UNFCCC.

First assessment report

Authors for the IPCC reports are chosen from a list of researchers prepared by governments and participating organisations, and by the Working Group/Task Force Bureaux, as well as other experts known through their published work. The choice of authors aims for a range of views, expertise and geographical representation, ensuring representation of experts from developing and developed countries and countries with economies in transition.

Each chapter has a number of authors who are responsible for writing and editing the material. A chapter typically has two "coordinating lead authors", ten to fifteen "lead authors", and a somewhat larger number of "contributing authors". The coordinating lead authors are responsible for assembling the contributions of the other authors, ensuring that they meet stylistic and formatting requirements, and reporting to the Working Group chairs. Lead authors are responsible for writing sections of chapters. Contributing authors prepare text, graphs or data for inclusion by the lead authors.


There have been a range of commentaries on the IPCC's procedures, examples of which are discussed later in the article (see also IPCC Summary for Policymakers). Some of these comments have been supportive,[19] while others have been critical.[20] Some commentators have suggested changes to the IPCC's procedures.[21]

The Panel is responsible for the IPCC and its endorsement of Reports allows it to ensure they meet IPCC standards.

  • Approval. Material has been subjected to detailed, line by line discussion and agreement.
    • Working Group Summaries for Policymakers are approved by their Working Groups.
    • Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers is approved by Panel.
  • Adoption. Endorsed section by section (and not line by line).
    • Panel adopts Overview Chapters of Methodology Reports.
    • Panel adopts IPCC Synthesis Report.
  • Acceptance. Not been subject to line by line discussion and agreement, but presents a comprehensive, objective, and balanced view of the subject matter.
    • Working Groups accept their reports.
    • Task Force Reports are accepted by the Panel.
    • Working Group Summaries for Policymakers are accepted by the Panel after group approval.

There are several types of endorsement which documents receive:

Review comments are in an open archive for at least five years.

  • Expert review (6–8 weeks)
  • Government/expert review
  • Government review of:
    • Summaries for Policymakers
    • Overview Chapters
    • Synthesis Report

There are generally three stages in the review process:[18]

The IPCC does not carry out research nor does it monitor climate related data. Lead authors of IPCC reports assess the available information about climate change based on published sources.[16][17] According to IPCC guidelines, authors should give priority to peer-reviewed sources.[16] Authors may refer to non-peer-reviewed sources (the "grey literature"), provided that they are of sufficient quality.[16] Examples of non-peer-reviewed sources include model results, reports from government agencies and non-governmental organizations, and industry journals.[7] Each subsequent IPCC report notes areas where the science has improved since the previous report and also notes areas where further research is required.

Scope and preparation of the reports

Each assessment report is in three volumes, corresponding to Working Groups I, II, and III. Unqualified, "the IPCC report" is often used to mean the Working Group I report, which covers the basic science of climate change.

The IPCC published its first assessment report in 1990, a supplementary report in 1992, a second assessment report (SAR) in 1995, a third assessment report (TAR) in 2001, a fourth assessment report (AR4) in 2007 and a fifth assessment report (AR5) in 2014.

The IPCC has published five comprehensive assessment reports reviewing the latest climate science, as well as a number of special reports on particular topics. These reports are prepared by teams of relevant researchers selected by the Bureau from government nominations. Drafts of these reports are made available for comment in open review processes to which anyone may contribute.

Assessment reports

The IPCC receives funding from UNEP, WMO, and its own Trust Fund for which it solicits contributions from governments. Its secretariat is hosted by the WMO, in Geneva.

  • IPCC Panel: Meets in plenary session about once a year and controls the organization's structure, procedures, and work programme. The Panel is the IPCC corporate entity.
  • Chair: Elected by the Panel.
  • Secretariat: Oversees and manages all activities. Supported by UNEP and WMO.
  • Bureau: Elected by the Panel. Chaired by the Chair. 30 members include IPCC Vice-Chairs, Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Working Groups and Task Force.
  • Working Groups: Each has two Co-Chairs, one from the developed and one from developing world, and a technical support unit.
    • Working Group I: Assesses scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Co-Chairs: Thomas Stocker, Dahe Qin
    • Working Group II: Assesses vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, consequences, and adaptation options. Co-Chairs: Chris Field and Vicente Barros
    • Working Group III: Assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change. Co-Chairs: Ottmar Edenhofer, Youba Sokona and Ramon Pichs-Madruga
  • Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

There are several major groups:


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