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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC was established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to evaluate the risk of climate change brought on by humans, based mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. The Panel is open to all members of the WMO and UNEP.

IPCC reports are widely cited in almost any debate related to climate change. National and international responses to climate change generally regard the UN climate panel as authoritative. The IPCC has three Working Groups and a Task Force. The Panel meets in plenary sessions about once a year. It accepts/approves/adopts IPCC reports, decides on the mandates and work plans of the Working Groups and the Task Force, the structure and outlines of its reports, the IPCC Principles and Procedures, and the budget.

Working Group I assesses the scientific aspects (physical basis) of the climate system and climate change.

Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it.

Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change (mitigation of climate change)

In addition, The Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories is responsible for the IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme.

The IPCC is not without its critics. Some view the whole process and project as motivated by pre-conceived political agendas which generate conclusions and warnings that are alarmist or scientifically unsound. Other critics have pointed to conservative biases and influences over the IPCC which suggest that IPCC, far from being prone to exaggerations, is actually more prone to underestimating dangers, under-stating risks, and reporting only the "lowest common denominator" findings which make it through the bureaucracy. These sorts of problems are almost inevitable with such a large organization representing such a large number of bodies with differing positions.

February 2007: The Fourth Assessment Report

The Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC is the fourth in a series of reports on climate change. So far only the Working Group 1 - Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) has been published. It concludes that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and that it is very likely (probability is more than 90%) that most of the warming observed since the mid-20th century is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Extensive studies of future evolution of climate based on different social and economic projections are modeled and compared. The reports by the three Working Groups provide a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the current state of knowledge on climate change.

Eiffel tower in Paris

Before being accepted, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report was reviewed line-by-line by representatives from 113 governments, which took place in Paris, France, between January 29th and February 1st, 2007.