The IPCC and Its Reports

The IPCC and Its Reports

This blog is based on the post The IPCC and Its Reports.


Discussions to do with climate change frequently quote reports from the IPCC — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is a United Nations body that was formed in the year 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization WMO and United Nations Environment Programme. Its role is to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments on the current state of knowledge about climate change. The IPCC does not conduct its own research; instead, it compiles information from thousands of peer-reviewed published scientific papers. Teams of unpaid volunteers compile its reports. The quality and conservatism of the IPCC’s work makes it the most authoritative source of information to do with climate change.

Although the IPCC is authoritative, the organization does have its critics. For example, many environmentalists criticize the organization for being overly cautious. These critics maintain that the IPCC tends to downplay the seriousness of climate change and its impacts. If this criticism is true, then it does mean that those who use its analyses and projections cannot be accused of alarmism.

The work of the IPCC is also criticized because it focuses just on climate change — in the past it has failed to consider issues such as the depletion of oil reserves or the loss of biodiversity. The organization is, however, starting to integrate other parameters into its analyses. For example, the Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report states,

This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies (Figure SPM.1) and integrates knowledge more strongly across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments. The assessment of climate change impacts and risks as well as adaptation is set against concurrently unfolding non-climatic global trends e.g., biodiversity loss, overall unsustainable consumption of natural resources, land and ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanisation, human demographic shifts, social and economic inequalities and a pandemic.

In spite of this recognition that climate change is just part of a bigger puzzle, the IPCC does not attempt to build models such as Limits to Growth, described in the ebook An Age of Limits.

Key Reports

Over the years the IPCC has issued many reports. In this series we consider four of these reports.

  • Global Warming of 1.5°C (2018);

  • Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis;

  • Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability; and

  • Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.

We will describe some of these reports in future posts.