What is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, to assess the state of scientific knowledge about the human role in climate change.

To accomplish its mission, the IPCC coordinates the efforts of thousands of scientists from around the world. Together, they represent a vast array of climate specialties, from physics, to chemistry, to interactions with Earth's surface, to the role of human behavior. Their reports take years of critical assessment and review before they are issued to the public. The scientists who participate volunteer their time to IPCC activities, assisted by a small number of paid staff.

Because each chapter is subjected to more extensive review than perhaps any other scientific report, and because the authors are assessing multiple studies, many of the findings reported by the IPCC are considered more cautious or conservative than the outlooks provided by any single experiment or analysis.

Because different types of expertise are required to assess different aspects of climate change, the IPCC is divided into three working groups.

  • Working Group I reviews the physical science, including observations and computer modeling of the past, present, and future
  • Working Group II examines the likely impacts on people and the environment.
  • Working Group III explores policy options for lessening the likelihood of climate change.

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