In 2007 the IPCC released its latest Assessment Report on the effects of global warming. This report helped make the scientific understanding of climate change more widely accessible to the public, and led to the IPCC being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

So, what is the IPCC and who makes it up?

The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is a coalition of 194 countries from around the world. Membership is open to all countries of the United Nations (UN) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). So, the Panel comprises governmental delegations from all the member countries.

The Panel meets approximately once a year at this level. Those meetings are attended by hundreds of officials and experts from relevant ministries, agencies, and research organizations to make major decisions regarding the work of the IPCC, such as the election of officials, outlining the structure and mandate for the Working Groups and Task Forces, and other similar procedural matters.

Presently, the IPCC is organized into three Working Groups: Working Group I deals with “The Physical Science;” Working Group II with “Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability;” and Working Group III with “Mitigation of Climate Change.” So, they basically examine the physical evidence, the potential and likely impacts, and ways to help reduce the impacts of climate change respectively.

The contributors to the Working Groups are thousands of volunteer scientists from all over the world who work as authors, contributors, and reviewers. None of the scientists are paid by the IPCC for their efforts. Lead author teams are created so that their composition reflects a range of views, expertise, and geographical representation. This helps to ensure that the reports from the IPCC represent a balanced, consensus view of scientists working in the field today.

Every IPCC report must be endorsed by the Panel during a Working Group or Plenary session. Full “approval” by the Panel means that the report has been subjected to line-by-line discussion and agreement, and is the procedure used for the Summary for Policymakers sections. “Adoption” of reports means that the Panel endorses the content of the report after having reviewed it section by section, and “acceptance” shows that the Panel agrees that the report demonstrates a comprehensive, objective, and balance view of the subject.

With thousands of scientists reviewing the work to this level of detail, the reports produced represent some of the most comprehensively peer-reviewed publications ever produced. That means that the conclusions of the reports should be the most conservative views to date on the subject of climate change. In future posts we will explore the evidence for, and what some of the expected effects of climate change will be.

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