Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Essay

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations (UN) Environment Program (UNEP) to assess the growing body of scientific evidence related to human-induced climate change. The mandate of the IPCC is to assess all the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic evidence of climate change, establish what its likely impacts would be, and what options are available to the world on how to mitigate emissions and adapt to any changes.

Membership of the IPCC is open to any member country of the WMO or the UNEP. The structure of the panel consists of a plenary, bureau, and three working groups. The plenary meets yearly and has the power to make major decisions affecting the workings of the IPCC. The bureau membership consists of 30 experts in the field of climate science. The three working groups represent the IPCC’s core objectives. Members of Working Group 1 review all the scientific data, members of Working Group 2 assess all of the information related to climate change impacts and how to adapt to it, and members of Working Group 3 focus solely on mitigation.

In 1991, the IPCC formed a task force to establish National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. The aim of the task force was to develop a globally-consistent methodology for all nations that will measure and report on emission levels of climate changing gasses and how effective mitigation strategies are.

The IPCC does not produce any of its own science. It reviews and synthesizes the peer-reviewed data that is produced by the world’s scientific community. Since its formation in 1988, the IPCC has reported three times on its assessment of risks associated with human-induced climate change. The first set of assessment reports were published in 1990 and formed the basis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. These reports found that human activities were greatly increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and that they were responsible for causing (and would continue to), a warming of the Earth’s surface. Importantly for policy makers, the reports established that global emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, would have to be reduced by 60 percent to stabilize at 1990 levels.

The second set of assessment reports were published in 1996 and formed the foundation for negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol. The third report was published in 2001 and found that the evidence of warming was much stronger, confidence to predict future scenarios of climate change had increased and that global average temperatures were expected to increase by 1.4 degrees C to 5.8 degrees C by the year 2100. The IPCC is expected to release its next assessment on the state of knowledge on human-induced climate change in the first quarter of 2007.


  1. W. Easterling and M. Apps, “Assessing the Consequences of Climate Change for Food and Forest Resources: A View from the IPCC,” Climate Change (v.70, 2005);
  2. T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins, and J. Ephraums, eds., Scientific Assessment of Climate Change-Report of Working Group 1 (Cambridge University press, 1991);
  3. IPCC, First Assessment Overview and Policymaker Summaries and 1992 IPCC Supplement (IPCC, 1992);
  4. IPCC, IPCC Second Assessment-Climate Change 1995 (IPCC, 1995);
  5. IPCC, Climate Change: The IPCC 1990 and 1992 Assessments (IPCC, 1992);
  6. J. Mog et , Impact Assessment of Climate Change-Report of Working Group 2 (Australian Government Publishing Service, 1991);
  7. R. Watson and the Core Writing Team, , Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers (IPCC, 2001);
  8. R. Watson et , The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability, a Special Report of the IPCC Working Group 2 (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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