IPCC Report History
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPCC stands for the United Nations appointed InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel was established in 1988 by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), and has the mandate to collect scientific data concerning anthropological climate change, and make recommendations based on its findings.
The headquarters of the IPCC Secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland, and the current chairman is Hoesung Lee.
The IPCC has released 5 reports:
- IPCC First Assessment Report, 1990
- IPCC Second Assessment Report, 1995
- IPCC Third Assessment Report, 2001
- IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007
- IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, 2014
The IPCC has also issued 10 special reports. Among them there is the 2005 Special Report on the Capture and Storage of Carbon Dioxide, and the 2011 Special Report on Renewable Energies.
The IPCC consists of 3 Working Groups and 1 Task Force:
- Working Group I is concerned with the scientific questions related to the climate system and climate change.
- Working Group II is concerned with the vulnerability of the socio-economic and ecological systems as a result of climate change.
- Working Group III is concerned with measures to mitigate climate change.
- The Task Force is concerned with the development of methodologies and standardisation of procedures, such as for the collection of greenhouse gas emissions data from the individual countries.
These reports support the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the principal treaty for coordinating international response to the threat of climate change. The aim 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".
To support this aim, the IPCC investigates the "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." It does this by collating findings from a broad range of scientific publications, from thousands of scientifically-qualified authors. It upholds the peer-reviewed requisite for sources.
The IPCC reports also contain a "Summary for Policymakers", involving the approval of more than 120 governments.
In recognition of the outstanding quality of its work, the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Al Gore, also a high-profile climate change activist. The award of the Peace Prize was also an acknowledgement that destabilising climate is a major cause of human socio-economic distress, deprivation, displacement, and political breakdown and consequent war.
IPCC 2014 Report
In 2014, the IPCC (the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released their 5th report, which contained some disturbing findings of the latest analyses of climate data from scientists and research institutions in 60 countries around the world.
Here are the predictions made in the IPCC 2014 report:
- Further warming will continue if emissions of greenhouse gases continue.
- The global surface temperature increase by the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5 °C relative to the 1850 to 1900 period for most scenarios, and is likely to exceed 2.0 °C for many scenarios.
- The global water cycle will change, with increases in disparity between wet and dry regions, as well as wet and dry seasons, with some regional exceptions.
- The oceans will continue to warm, with heat extending to the deep ocean, affecting circulation patterns.
- Decreases are very likely in Arctic sea ice cover, Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover, and global glacier volume.
- Global mean sea level will continue to rise at a rate very likely to exceed the rate of the past four decades.
- Changes in climate will cause an increase in the rate of CO2 production. Increased uptake by the oceans will increase the acidification of the oceans.
- Future surface temperatures will be largely determined by cumulative CO2, which means climate change will continue even if CO2 emissions are stopped.
Further Summary Statements:
In other words, the world will experience climate change, even if human damage to the biosphere were to cease immediately.
Carbon Emissions Scenarios
In 1992, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, submitted a supplementary report to the first IPCC Report (1990) from Working Group 1. The findings of this report helped shape the negotiations at the Rio Summit (UNCED 1992), embodied in the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and were the reference for future IPCC reports. It is interesting to review their methodology and projections in the light of 25 years of subsequent climate study.
The report takes pains to emphasise that their findings are very sensitive to missing data, and a large number of unknowns, and should not be taken as a prediction. They point out that some effects have both positive and negative GWP (global warming potential), such as water vapour both blocks solar radiation from penetrating to lower levels of the troposphere and adds to the greenhouse trapping of infrared radiation from the surface. Deforestation and CFCs were two areas of considerable uncertainty discussed at length by the report.
CO2 emissions from energy, cement production and deforestation were projected till the year 2100, within a set of 7 scenarios: SA90, IS92a-f. Three of these scenarios used World Bank population projections, and three UN 'Low' and 'High' case population growths. Average World Economic Growth varied from 1.2% (IS92c) to 3.5% (IS92e). The mix of energy consumption levels and choice of supply (fossil or renewable) varied greatly, and involved projections in the price of solar power compared to fossil. The scenarios also integrated projections regarding the effect of international agreements, and degree of compliance to the then recent CFC emissions restrictions (Montreal Protocol 1987).
The report includes a graph of the range of CO2 emissions which resulted from the models applying the parameter settings for each scenario, as GtC (gigatonnes of carbon). Later reports used the unit of mass of CO2 equivalent. The ratio of molecular masses of carbon and carbon dioxide is 12 : 44, or 3.67.
Comparison of 1992 and 2014 Reports
Annual CO2 equivalent emissions from all anthropogenic sources
|Year||1992 report /GtCO2||2014 report /GtCO2|
|2000||26.6 - 31.2||25.0|
|2010||27.5 - 42.2||50.3|
|2020||30.2 - 49.5||52.0 - 59.0|
|2030||30.0 - 58.7||42.0 - 69.0|
The 2014 Report assumes 4 levels of commitment to the upcoming Paris Conference agenda: 'Business as Usual', 'Weaker Pledge', 'Stronger Pledge', and '2°C Path'.
Three observations can be made: the 1992 was too pessimistic for the short-term. In 2000, the actual emissions had fallen below the predicted range. This proved to be only a short-term effect, due in large to the reduction in dirty industry and vehicle emissions as Eastern Europe opened up.
In its later projections, the 1992 report was too optimistic. Actual CO2 emissions in 2010 exceeded even their worst case scenario. Strong pledge (55 GtCO2) and 2°C (42 GtCO2) in the 2014 report both fall within the upper range for 2030 in the 1992 forecast, but business as usual and weak pledge take us well above the forecast range.