IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report

Background - 20 October, 2014
Approximately every six years, the world’s leading climate scientists present world governments with a comprehensive report on climate change. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) summarises the effects human-induced climate change is having on our planet and our options for taking action.

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

The IPCC is the leading international body for the scientific assessment of climate change. Operating under the United Nations, with 195 governments as its members, the IPCC brings together top climate scientists from around the world to conduct assessments on the latest climate science and to inform governments on decision making.

The IPCC does not conduct research of its own, nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Rather, by bringing scientists together, the IPCC forms a comprehensive, joint understanding of the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information on climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. Thousands of scientists and experts contribute to the work of the IPCC as authors, contributors and reviewers on a voluntary basis.

The first IPCC Assessment Report was published in 1990. The 5th Assessment Report was be finalized during the last week of October 2014 in Copenhagen. It’s main content has already been published in three individual parts by working groups (WG I-III):

The fourth, concluding piece, the Synthesis Report (SYR), brings the story together, with highlights from each Working Group Report. It was approved at a joint meeting of scientists and government officials in Copenhagen, Denmark. The final version of SYR AR5 was published on 2nd November.

For a quick overview of the AR5 Working Group 1-3 findings, see the slide show below.

Can 100% renewable energy get us to zero emissions? Can emissions still peak in time?

The IPCC now recognizes that emissions 'management' will not suffice. To stabilise the climate, emissions will have to be brought to zero and 'unabated' fossil fuel technologies phased out. Most urgently, global emissions will need to peak before 2020. But is this impossible, in light of the record emissions growth since the 2000s, driven by the Asian coal boom?

Denmark is one of the few countries in the world to have committed politically to a complete phase – out of fossil fuels in its own energy system. Denmark is transitioning to 100% renewable energy in heat and power by 2035 and in all energy by 2050. How is Denmark planning to achieve these goals? Can other countries follow Denmark's example? Can the world?

Greenpeace, in co-operation with the World Future Council, hosted an expert briefing on these topics in Copenhagen on Friday the 31st:

  • Dr. Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Scientific Advisor of Climate Analytics, elaborated on the IPCC AR5 'zero emissions' message, its underlying assumptions, and what it ultimately means for fossil fuel phase out.
    Carbon budget limiting warming below 2°

  • Mr. Sigurd Lauge Pedersen, Senior Advisor at the Danish Energy Authority presented Denmark's 'Energy Scenarios' – 'recipes' for a fossil fuel free, 100% renewable energy system.
    100% renewables in Denmark by 2050?

  • Mr. David de Jager, Managing Consultant on Renewable Energy at Ecofys and Operating Agent for the IEA discussed whether 100% renewable energy could power other countries too.
    Renewable energy – the global perspective

  • Kaisa Kosonen, Climate policy advisor at Greenpeace Nordic concluded with a brief observer take on IPCC findings on energy, putting them into the context of some key post-AR5 developments on coal and renewable energy of October.
    IPCC findings on energy and developments since

More background information

The world is fast approaching a 'point of no return' beyond which extremely dangerous climate change impacts can become unavoidable. But it is still not too late to change course. Our 'window of opportunity' is now and up until about 2020. Within this time period, we will have to radically change our approach to energy production and consumption.

  • Climate chaos is not inevitable. Renewable energy and energy efficiency can provide the energy and emissions reductions we need without undesireable side effects. The Greenpeace Energy Revolution provides a blueprint for a reliable global energy supply, which doesn't compromise our climate.
  • The fossil fuel industry continues to plan massive new fossil fuel projects around the world (more on this here), which could push us over the edge. These developments must be stopped.
  • The destruction of the world's forests is responsible for up to a fifth of global 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.
  • The burning of fossil fuels is causing our oceans to acidify at a rate, which is likely the fastest in Earth’s history. Ocean acidification threatens marine life, which is already under stress due to warming waters, reduced levels of oxygen and overfishing. More on this here.
  • Our food system must be adapted to changing climatic conditions and increasingly limited resources. Ecological farming practices help farmers increase production whilst simultaneously protecting and enhancing soil quality, protecting water resources and biodiversity, and mitigating climate change.