IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report

Background - 11 April, 2014
Every six years or so, top climate scientists from around the world address world’s governments with a thick report on climate change. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will summarise what’s happening to the planet as a result of human activities. Part III of the report is released in April 2014 and looks at ways to cut emissions to prevent further warming.

Raising a Wind Turbine in Durban. 11/26/2011 © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the scientific assessment of climate change. Operating under the United Nations, it brings together the top climate scientists from all over the world to conduct assessments on the latest climate science and to inform governments in decision making. The IPCC does not conduct any research of its own, nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Instead it brings scientists together to assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information on climate change and its mitigation. Thousands of scientists and experts from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers on a voluntary basis.

The IPCC is most known for its comprehensive Assessment Reports that have been published about every six years, since 1990. The work takes place in three working groups (WG). In 2013-2014 the 5th Assessment Report will be approved in four pieces:

The first part, released in September 2013, reconfirmed that climate change is happening and it’s mainly caused by us. Atmosphere and oceans are warming, glaciers melting, sea-levels rising, water cycles changing and extreme weather increasing.

It also warned of accelerating impacts: In the years 2002-2011, the Greenland ice sheet was losing mass about six times faster on average than the preceding decade. Similarly, the Antarctic ice sheet lost mass five times faster. Since 1993 sea levels have risen twice as fast than they did in the past century on average, and sea ice extent in the Arctic diminished significantly faster than projected.

Then in March, the second report from Working Group II, dug deeper into the impacts of climate change that are already observed in natural and human systems (it’s everywhere and across the ocean), how bad things can get if we continue polluting our way into the future (very bad) and how much can adaptation help (not much, if rapid warming continues).

Finally, the third part, published on the 13th of April, will assess solutions.

More background information

The world is quickly reaching a point of no return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. But it’s not too late to change the course. The crucial period in our energy choices is the time between now and 2020.

  • Climate chaos is not inevitable, as renewable energy and energy efficiency are already providing an alternative without catastrophic side effects. Our Energy Revolution blueprint provides a consistent fundamental pathway for how to protect our climate and clean our energy system.
  • Yet, the fossil fuel industry has plans for massive new fossil fuel projects around the world, listed here, which could push us over the edge. These developments must be stopped.
  • The destruction of forests is responsible for up to a fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - more than every plane, car, truck, ship and train on the planet combined. Our forest solutions stories from around the world provide tangible solutions to global forest management issues.
  • Due to burning of fossil fuels, our oceans are becoming more acidic faster than perhaps ever before in the Earth’s history, threatening marine life that’s already under stress due to warming waters and gross overfishing. This alone should motivate us to cut CO2 emissions as fast as possible. Find out more about it here.