The IPCC report – who, what and why


Publish date: March 29, 2007

Written by: Maria Fossheim

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be releasing the second volume of its 4th assessment report, which will consider the consequences of global climate change on April 6th. The panel’s first volume, presented in February, asserted that climate change is due to human activity. Who are the authors behind this report and why are its conclusions so important?

The IPCC report asserts, with more than 90- percent certainty, humans are to blame for climate change. It is uncommon that such consensus is reached among so many scientists. In point of fact, climate change sceptics are a dying breed in the scientific community. There is a reason for this. The IPCC report is solidly based on scientific practise and is reviewed by leading scientists within all fields included in the report.

What is the IPCC?
The IPCC was established because human activities have started to interfere with natural systems like the global climate. Climate change is a complex and challenging issue, and policymakers therefore need an objective source of information concerning causes, consequences and responses to climate change.

The IPCC was founded by the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988. The IPCC is open to all members of the UNEP and WMO, and meets once a year to discuss the structure, principles, procedures and work program of the IPCC.

The IPCC has organized its main tasks in three working groups: Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of the climate and climate change; Working Group II addresses the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change; and Working Group III assesses possible measures to mitigate climate change.

bodytextimage_body1.jpeg Photo: IPCC

Why is the report so important?
The report – and especially the summaries – are important channels for conveying facts and information from the scientific community to policymakers and the general public. By enlightening society about the scientific consensus and what scientists actually agree upon, general awareness among policymakers increases.

The report dissects and reflects on what issues are relevant and debateable and what possible options exist for alternative solutions to problems contributing to climate change. The report objectively presents consequences to be expected from the ongoing climate change and what will be the consequences of the coming climate change, and makes predictions about what will happen with and without possible responses to climate change.

The report gives the policymakers a tool that is useful for making and justifying their choices of policy. Because climate change is a global problem that cannot be handled solely by individual nations, global consensus and international agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions are necessary.

The report and global warming
The IPCC report is important to the debate on global warming because it is a document created by scientists serving as representatives of every participating country’s scientific community. The report is therefore the most definitive standpoint on global warming.

One of the most important things that this report tells us is that we are now certain that the observed global warming is due to human activities. This is essential for the debate concerning global warming because it moves the focus from the scientific community to policymakers -who are then expected to take action on human activities that effect the global climate.

The IPCC’s ultimate agenda should perhaps be to make itself unnecessary. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen in this century.