Last edited 04 Dec 2015

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC


[edit] Introduction

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 1988 to provide a scientific assessment of climate change and its potential impacts.

The IPCC does not carry out research itself, but reviews and assesses existing research and other information. Thousands of scientists contribute voluntarily to the work of the IPCC in order that it can reflect a wide range of views and expertise. 195 countries are members of the IPCC, participating in the review process and the plenary sessions.

Its main activity is to provide regular Assessment Reports (AR) on the state of knowledge about climate change. It has produced reports in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007 and most recently, the fifth assessment report (AR5) published in stages between 2013 and 2014. The IPCC also produces; special reports, methodology reports, technical papers and supporting material.

The fifth assessment report (AR5) comprises three working group reports and a synthesis report:

[edit] Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis

AR5: The Physical Science Basis, suggests amongst other things that; greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing, the global temperature is increasing, the sea temperature is increasing, the ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising.

It proposes that ‘Human influence on the climate system is clear’, and that ‘Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system.’

It suggests that limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, but that even if this happens, most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries.

[edit] Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

AR5: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, suggests, with varying degrees of confidence that:

  • There is significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.
  • Changing precipitation, melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting the quantity and quality of water resources.
  • Species have changed their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and species interactions in response to climate change.
  • Negative impacts on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.
  • Differences in vulnerability are often produced by uneven development processes.
  • Climate-related hazards exacerbate other problems, especially for people living in poverty.
  • Violent conflict increases vulnerability.

It suggests that governments are starting to develop adaptation plans and highlights the fact that near-term adaptation and mitigation choices will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century.

[edit] Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

AR5: Mitigation of Climate Change, defines mitigation as ‘human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases’ and proposes that ‘Issues of equity, justice, and fairness arise with respect to mitigation and adaptation... Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently’.

It acknowledges that climate change policy is the subject of a great deal of uncertainty and a wide range of risks, with particular difficulty surrounding events that are low risk, but the consequences of which would be significant. However, it suggests that delaying mitigation strategies substantially increases the difficulty of mitigation. Not only does the need for mitigation increase, but infrastructure developments and other long-lived products are difficult to change once they have been developed.

Proposals for mitigation include:

  • Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS).
  • Widespread afforestation.
  • Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
  • Large-scale changes in the energy supply sector, including devaluation of fossil fuel assets and reduction of revenues for fossil fuel exporters.
  • Efficiency enhancements and behavioural changes in order to reduce energy demand.
  • The use of nuclear energy, although it acknowledges that there are barriers to adoption and that nuclear generation is in fact decreasing.
  • Replacing coal-fired power plants with natural gas combined-cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants.
  • Adoption of renewable energy generation.
  • Adoption of low-carbon transport.
  • Low-energy urban design.

In relation to the built environment, it points out that in 2010, the building sector accounted for around 32% of final energy use and 8.8 GtCO2 of direct and indirect emissions. This is projected to increase by 50–150% by the middle of the century.

It proposes that advances in technologies could stabilise or reduce buildings sector energy use by mid-century and that building codes and standards, have been among the most environmentally and cost-effective instruments for emission reductions. However, there are significant barriers, such as ‘...split incentives (e.g., tenants and builders), fragmented markets and inadequate access to information and financing’.

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