What is the IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 jointly by the United Nations Environmental Panel and World Meteorological Organization because of worries about the possibility of global warming. The purpose of the IPCC is the continued assessment of the state of knowledge on the various aspects of climate change, including scientific, environmental, and socio-economic impacts and response strategies. The IPCC is recognized as the most authoritative scientific and technical voice on climate change, and its assessments have had a profound influence on the negotiators of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. The meetings in The Hague in November 2000 and in Bonn in July 2001 were the second and third attempts to ratify (i.e. to make legal) the Protocols laid out in Kyoto in 1998. Unfortunately, President Bush pulled the USA out of the negotiations in March 2001. However, 186 other countries made history in July 2001 by agreeing the most far-reaching and comprehensive environmental treaty the world has ever seen. But the Kyoto Protocol has yet to be ratified. What is required for this to happen is discussed in Chapter 8.

The IPCC is organized into three working groups plus a task force to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases produced by each og country. Each of these four bodies has two co-chairmen (one from a | developed and one from a developing country) and a technical j| support unit. Working Group I assesses the scientific aspects of the 3 climate system and climate change; Working Group II addresses the vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change, the negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to them; and Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change, as well as economic issues. Hence the IPCC also provides governments with scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant to evaluating the risks and to developing a response to global climate change. The latest reports from these three working groups were published in 2001 and approximately 400 experts from some 120 countries were directly involved in drafting, revising, and finalizing the IPCC reports and another 2,500 experts participated in the review process. The IPCC authors are always nominated by governments and by international organizations including Non-Governmental Organizations. These reports are essential reading for anyone interested in global warming and are listed in the Further Reading section.

The IPCC also compiles research on the main greenhouse gases: where they come from, and the current consensus concerning their warming potential (see below). The warming potential is calculated in comparison with carbon dioxide, which is allocated a warming potential of one. This way the different greenhouse gases can be compared with each other relatively instead of in absolute terms. The Global Warming potential is calculated over a 20- and 100-year period. This is because different greenhouse gases have different residence times in the atmosphere because of how long they take to break down in the atmosphere or be absorbed in the ocean or terrestrial biosphere. Most other greenhouse gases are more effective at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but are still in very low concentrations in the atmosphere. As you can see from Table 1 there are other greenhouse gases which are much more dangerous mass for mass than carbon dioxide but these exist in very low concentrations in the atmosphere, and therefore most of the a debate concerning global warming still centres on the role and g control of atmospheric carbon dioxide. a

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Negotiating Essentials

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