Executive Summary: Climate Change Assessments Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC
Climate change is a long-term challenge that will require every nation to make decisions about how to respond. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to help inform such decisions by producing comprehensive assessments of what is known about the physical climate system, its global and regional impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation. Sitting at the interface between science and politics, the IPCC assessment process has sustained a working dialog between the world’s governments and scientists since its inception in 1988.
Representatives of 194 participating governments agree on the scope of the assessment, elect the scientific leaders of the assessment, nominate authors, review the results, and approve the summaries written for policymakers. More than a thousand volunteer scientists evaluate the available scientific, technological, and socioeconomic information on climate change, and draft and review the assessment reports. The thousands of scientists and government representatives who work on behalf of the IPCC in this nontraditional partnership are the major strength of the organization.
Through its assessment reports, the IPCC has gained enormous respect and even shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for informing climate policy and raising public awareness worldwide. However, amid an increasingly intense public debate over the science, impacts, and cost of climate change, the IPCC has come under heightened scrutiny about its impartiality with respect to climate policy and about the accuracy and balance of its reports. In response, the United Nations and the IPCC commissioned the InterAcademy Council to convene a Committee to review the processes and procedures of the IPCC.
The Committee found that the IPCC assessment process has been successful overall. However, the world has changed considerably since the creation of the IPCC, with major advances in climate science, heated controversy on some climate-related issues, and an increased focus of governments on the impacts and potential responses to changing climate. A wide variety of interests have entered the climate discussion, leading to greater overall scrutiny and demands from stakeholders.
The IPCC must continue to adapt to these changing conditions in order to continue serving society well in the future. The Committee’s key recommendations for improving IPCC’s assessment process are given below.
(Click link below for a PDF of the executive summary.)