The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the single most important organisation for the assessment of climate change but who are they and what do they actually do?
The IPCC is a body established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to “provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences”. Simple?
What they do is bring together experts in every single imaginable area of earth sciences and ask the question is the climate changing and if so what happens if it continues.
One of the major contributions that the IPCC has made is proving that the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases concentrations such as carbon dioxide. That is proved by the graph below which shows that without the contribution of man-made greenhouse gases the climate would be cooler than today.
The IPCC’s main contribution is through it’s assessment reports, the most recent was published in 2007 and the next one is being written currently. The fourth assessment report (AR4) was split into three main sections; The Physical Science Basis, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, and Mitigation of Climate Change along with a synthesis report.
The AR4 has widely been considered a success and the most comprehensive summary for the health of our planet available. However it has not been free from controversy as at the beginning of the 2010 it was noticed that comments made referring to melting of Himalayan glaciers were based on poorly made estimates for the date of these being lost. That has led to climate sceptics questioning the ability of the IPCC and the scientists that contribute to it. This revelation came at a time when email accounts had been hacked at the Climate Research Centre and allegations were being made that data was being doctored, although these turned out to be without foundation, further questioning the science that supported the argument for mitigating climate change.