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Last edited 17 Nov 2020
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC
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.
- Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.
- Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.
- Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change.
- The Synthesis Report will be considered in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 27-31 October.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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’.
In October 2018, the IPCC released a report warning that there are only 12 years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5ºC. Beyond this, they warn, the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and mass poverty will be significantly worsened.
Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts, said; “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now... This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”
In response, Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC said; "This report from the IPCC is a wake-up call for governments and businesses across the globe. The construction and property industry in the UK is an economic juggernaut, and our buildings account for approximately 30% of carbon emissions. It is also the industry with the most cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions so it will be a vital catalyst for change in the wider economy."
Colin Goodwin, Technical Director at BSRIA, said; "As an industry, we collectively need to, not only take action on climate change and stabilize the climate to avoid its worst impacts, but get on track to meet the UK’s climate change obligations. The UK's net carbon emissions should be reduced by 60 per cent by 2030 – and to zero by 2050 or at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050."
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Climate change science.
- COP21 Paris 2015.
- CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
- Earth overshoot day.
- Energy Act.
- Energy Related Products Regulations.
- Environmental consultant.
- Environmental impact assessment.
- Environmental legislation.
- ICE launches engineering route map to deliver UN SDGs.
- Mean lean green.
- Smart cities.
- Sustainable development.
- Sustainable materials.
- The future of UK power generation.
- Zero carbon homes.
- Zero carbon non-domestic buildings.
 External references
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