wg1coverBy Claire

Hopefully you’re aware by now, that Working Group 1 of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has just released its fifth assessment report. This report pulls together and synthesises the current knowledge on the cause, attribution, effects and projections for climate change. The IPCC does not conduct research itself, but rather, simply pulls together the thousands of published, peer reviewed papers that add to our collective knowledge of climate change.

Unfortunately, the report itself is over 2000 pages, making it largely unreadable for all but the most dedicated. The report, however, is well indexed, meaning you can jump straight to content that interests you the most.

If, like me, you find 2000 pages too daunting, but you still want to find out the conclusions of the latest report, you can check out the Summary for Policymakers – which breaks down the report into a much more digestible 36 pages (note that the report is still unformatted, so all the figures are at the end and it’s not pretty yet). 

If you find even 36 pages too much, check out the Climate Council’s five page summary, which highlights the key points of the paper in a well laid out and easy to read format. (It also has a really nice section at the end, addressing a number of the much repeated climate change myths).

And, for an even more compressed version, check out the Climate Council’s infographic below:



To my mind, the most important conclusion of the latest assessment report is the level of confidence that the IPCC now has that climate change is real and caused by humans.

In each IPCC report, the IPCC makes a judgement call, based on the amount of evidence, as to the certainty that humans are causing climate change. In this latest report, the IPCC states that they are 95% certain that human greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for observed climate change. I read somewhere that this level of certainty is equal to the certainty that scientists have that smoking causes cancer. This is a pretty shocking comparison, since there is still a popular idea that scientists are still debating the cause of climate change.

Check out this great summary of the report on The Conversation, jointly written by Lisa Alexander from UNSW, one of the key authors of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.