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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (http://www.ipcc.ch/) (IPCC) was established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its aims are threefold:
  • assess scientific information on climate change
  • assess the impacts of climate change
  • formulate response strategies

It is led by government scientists, but also involves several hundred academic scientists and researchers. The IPCC synthesises the available information about climate change and global warming and has published four major reports reviewing the latest climate science.

The current head of IPCC is Rajendra K. Pachauri; previously Robert Watson headed the IPCC until being voted out in May 2002.

The IPCC organisation is shown here (http://www.ipcc.ch/about/bureau.htm).

Table of contents


The most recent (http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/reports.htm) IPCC report is Climate Change 2001, the third assessment report (TAR).

The IPCC first assessment report was completed in 1990, and served as the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Climate Change 1995

Climate Change 1995 was finished in 1996, and is the second assessment of the IPCC. It is split into four parts:

  • A synthesis to help interpret UNFCCC article 2.
  • The Science of Climate Change
  • Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change
  • Economic and Social Dimensions of Climate Change.

Each of the last three parts was completed by a separate working party, and each has a Policymakers' Summary that represents a consensus of national representatives. Read the Full Report (http://www.ipcc.ch/pub/sa(E).pdf)

The policymakers' summary of the report on the science of climate change stated:

  1. Greenhouse gas concentrations have continued to increase
  2. Anthropogenic aerosols tend to produce negative radiative forcings
  3. Climate has changed over the past century
  4. The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate
  5. Climate is expected to continue to change in the future
  6. There are still many uncertainties

Debate over Climate Change 1995

Most scientists involved in climate research have accepted that the IPCC reports accurately summarise the state of knowledge and have felt no need to comment publicly. Those few who have objected, however, have made a considerable amount of noise.

Politicians such as Bill Clinton and Al Gore have endorsed the report, saying that "the science is settled". The report formed the basis of negotiations over the Kyoto Protocol.

Dr. Frederick Seitz, president emeritus of Rockefeller University and past president of the National Academy of Sciences, has publicly denounced the IPCC report, writing "I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report."

A December 20, 1995, Reuters report quoted British scientist Keith Shine, one of IPCC's lead authors, discussing the Policymakers' Summary. He said: "We produce a draft, and then the policymakers go through it line by line and change the way it is presented.... It's peculiar that they have the final say in what goes into a scientists' report."

"The Science and Environmental Policy Project conducted a survey of IPCC scientific contributors and reviewers; we found that about half did not support the Policymakers' Summary." [1] (http://www.sepp.org/glwarm/hotair). SEPP, however, is not an impartial organisation and without details as to the exact nature of the survey this statement should be viewed with caution. For example, a 1992 survey by Greenpeace International is sometimes cited in support of this position; however the Greenpeace survey was about a runaway greenhouse effect and is not relevant here.

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