The next major report on the state and progress of climate action is expected to be published on Monday (20th March) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here is all you need to know about the IPCC and what to expect from the report.
Since 2015, hundreds of scientists, forming what’s known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have produced a series of reports focusing on individual aspects of the climate crisis. These will all come together into a single overarching assessment called the Synthesis Report on Monday.
The report will provide an update on the extent greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, the efforts required to adapt, and how we’re acting to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. This is the sixth round of reports (with the first completed in 1990) and represents a crucial moment to best understand how to limit warming and avert the most significant effects of the climate crisis.
What is the IPCC and why is it so important?
The IPCC comprises 195 member countries, charged with producing comprehensive and objective assessments of the scientific evidence for climate change. The IPCC does not carry out the research itself, instead, hundreds of scientists volunteer their time to assess evidence from scientific, technical, and socio-economic publications.
Every year, tens of thousands of new peer-reviewed scientific studies on climate change are published that identify key messages across this enormous body of scientific evidence. The information is used to influence political decision-making and inform climate change policies, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The IPCC process also provides a framework for the scientific community to organise and coordinate their efforts. Each reporting cycle is matched with an international scientific effort, where standardised experiments are run to test the reliability of current climate models.
The summary of each report is negotiated and approved line by line, with consensus from all of the IPCC member governments. This process ensures the reports remain true to the underlying scientific evidence.
What can we expect from Monday’s report?
The Synthesis Report will draw on all six reports released in the current cycle. It includes three so-called “working group reports”:
- The Physical Science Basis
- Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
- Mitigation of Climate Change.
In addition, three special reports cut across these working groups and tackled focused topics, where governments requested rapid assessments to aid in their decision-making:
- Global Warming of 1.5 ℃
- Climate Change and Land
- The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.
The headline statements from this cycle of IPCC reports have made it clear that there is no disputing human-caused warming and the need for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, this decade. We can expect similarly strong and clear headlines from Monday’s report.
Plans are already underway for the next assessment cycle of the IPCC, which is to begin in July this year. It’s hoped the next round of reports will be produced in time to inform the Global Stocktake in 2028, where progress towards the Paris Agreement will be assessed.
According to the IPCC, the evidence for human-caused climate change is now unequivocal. This has prompted calls for future IPCC reports to more efficiently assess rapidly changing areas of science and cut across the working groups. This would bring together assessments of the causes, impacts, and solutions for key aspects of climate change in one report, rather than always separating them into individual working group reports.
The establishment of the IPCC signalled climate change was an important global problem. Despite this recognition and the increasingly concerning reports produced by the IPCC, global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise year-on-year.
However, there is some hope we may be nearing the peak in global emissions. By the time the next IPCC reports are released, global climate action may have finally started to move the world onto a more sustainable pathway.
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