If you’re at all involved in climate change discussions, chances are you’ve heard of the Intergovernmental Panel or IPCC once or twice.

Why is this?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988 as a United Nation’s body, which evaluates climate change science.

This panel is the most respected groups which make assessments on climate change research and synthesizes this research into reports once every 5 to 7 years.

The reason why it takes so long for these assessment reports to be published is because of their stature and size: each assessment report is thousands of pages long, based on thousands of scientists’ research.

In this article, we will outline how the IPCC works, how they gain their reputation and their most recent scientific consensus on what climate change is.

How Are the IPCC Assessments Prepared and Reviewed?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produces assessments in three volumes, all of which are prepared by a specific working group:

  • Working Group One takes into account scientific evidence for climate change as well as the amount of human activity that caused it.
  • Working Group Two examines the impacts of climate change. More specifically, how humans, plants and animals can adapt to these changes.
  • Working Group Three takes on the subject of climate mitigation.

All of the work involved in each IPCC assessment report, the research, writing and reviewing takes many years to complete.

The scientists who agree to partake in the IPCC review process examine peer-reviewed scientific literature, however, they also take into account research material that has not yet been peer reviewed. This type of literature is called, ‘grey literature.’

However, that being said, the majority of the research and material included in these assessment reports are peer-reviewed.

How Does the IPCC Work?

As mentioned earlier, the IPCC includes hundreds of scientists who assess the work of thousands of others – most of which contribute as volunteers.

The IPCC staff are employed by the IPCC secretariat. Each working group consists of a small administrative staff.

Working Group 1 are based at the University of Bern, Working Group 2 are based at Stanford’s Carnegie Institute for Science and Working Group 3 are at the Potsdam Institiute for Climate Impact Research.

The IPCC Panel itself includes representatives from 194 governments who have reviewed all the contents of the assessment reports before publication and have all agreed on the final version.

NGOs and governments recommend specific notable academics for inclusion consideration in the working groups which write the IPCC reports.

Preparation of all IPCC publications and reports follows strict procedures which have been agreed upon by all the Panel. For more information on these procedures and what goes into each publication, visit the IPCC Procedures Page.

The Assessments and Scientific Consensus of Climate Change

The latest report, the Fifth Assessment Report was finalized in November 2014.

Within this report, the IPCC team has stated with 95% confidence that humans are the leading cause of our current state of global warming.

While the fourth IPCC report stated this with only 90% certainty, showing an increase in change, it’s actually much more significant than that.

When read closely, the IPCC states that humans have most likely caused all of climate change throughout the past 60 years.

It’s also possible that humans have caused more warming than what has been observed because natural factors possess a natural net cooling effect.

The IPCC doesn’t conduct any original research. All of this information is a summary report which precisely reflects the results of climate science research.

While there is much more included in this assessment report, this main conclusion has been eye-opening for a lot of people: Climate change is undeniably real and is caused by us.

What Does This Scientific Consensus Mean?

While it’s difficult to swallow the realization that we have been the main contributors to climate change, one comforting fact is for certain: If we caused the problem, we can fix the problem.

The first step is noticing where the problem lies – where it stems from. While CO2 has been a main target of blame in this issue, there are many other culprits that have been rising to the surface throughout years of research on climate change. One of which has been diet and lifestyle choices.

While it’s a large issue that still holds many uncertainties and keys to the puzzle, there are equally as many resources for you to choose from to start changing your lifestyle and actively participating in the fight against climate change.

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