IPCC Report on Climate: What is it, Do I Care?


Muir Woods: Photo Credit H.Shugarman

Seeing the “forest through the trees” isn’t often as easy as it looks. And getting to the facts on climate change, it’s causes, current and future scenarios are too often obscured and hidden, particularly in the USA, through a barrage of “denier noise.” Sadly this noise comes at us from many directions: neighbors, family, friends and also from those elected officials who are suppose to look at the facts and have our best interests at heart, but too often these days seem to move in the opposite direction….

You may have heard mention in the past, and more frequently recently about the work of the IPCC – the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. We wanted to give our Climate Mamas and Papas the facts on what this panel is all about and why the “denier machinery” is working full speed – even before the IPCC’s 2013 reports are released – to discredit and downplay it’s information and it’s sources. This is the first in a series of posts we will do to help you and the kids in your life understand what the IPCC report is, and why you should and must care about what it says. Equally important is that we also make sure that others, including our politicians, care about what is in it as well, and that we take actions based on the facts that are presented.

What is the IPCC and What Does it Do?

• In 1988 the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and tasked it with creating a comprehensive review of the state of the knowledge on climate change.

• The production of Assessment Reports (AR) is the primary function of the IPCC. They are not original research, but rather a comprehensive overview and aggregation of the state of knowledge on climate change.

• The first AR was produced in 1990, second in 1995, third in 2001, fourth in 2007, and The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being released in four parts between September 2013 and ending in November 2014. It will be the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change since 2007 when the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was released. AR5 is made up of the full reports prepared by the Working Groups (I, II and III) and their Summaries for Policymakers as well as the Synthesis Report. The three Working Groups are: 1) Physical science; 2) Impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation; and 3) Mitigation options/scenarios. The synthesis report compiles the sections produced by these Working Groups.

• The report of Working Group I, Physical Science, as well as it’s Summary for Policy Makers, is being released at the end of September 2013.

• This year, the writing team is composed of more than 830 authors, chosen to represent the highest scientific merit, a range of institutional and disciplinary perspectives, and a regional, gender, and age balance.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

It is important to note, and to let others in your circles know, that these reports while these reports ARE the most comprehensive overview of the state of climate knowledge to date, the reports are in fact “out of date” as soon as they are released. They don’t include the most recent data. In fact, for the Working Group 1 report the cut off date for submissions was July 31, 2012, with final agreement on all papers accepted as of March 15, 2013. These reports look at peer reviewed data and studies from around the world, and then agree on and produce summaries of these findings. Rather then being at the “cutting edge” or pushing the boundaries of the research, these reports are considered to be very conservative in their conclusions, given the vast amount of research they include and the vast number of scientists they’re accountable to. Looking at past reports, the evidence shows us that the IPCC actually UNDERESTIMATES climate trends.

So why is the “denial machinery around the world, and IN PARTICULAR in the US, already trying to discredit and downplay the IPCC’s findings?

Tune in next week for more info on what we can expect to see in AR5…For more information on the process, check out the IPCC FACT Sheets.

Whether it was Voltaire, Spiderman, Spiderman’s Uncle Ben or Stan Lee, remind the kids in your life that: “With great power, comes great responsibility;” and that knowledge is power. You are now “in the know” and you are armed with the facts. Don’t let others distort reality. Speak up for our children, our future, and our now. The time to act on climate change was yesterday, but we still must have hope for tomorrow, if we begin today!


Climate Mama

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