The IPCC or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is considered the leading international body on the assessment of climate change.
It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. The UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC in 1988.
The IPCC as an organisation, does not perform research in to climate change, but rather collects, assesses, synthesises and reports on the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change in their assessment reports, which are released periodically. The last assessment report was released in 2007.
Each assessment is broken up into three sections, called working groups.
The IPCC Working Group I (WG I) assesses the physical scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. The main topics assessed by WG I include: changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere; observed changes in air, land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, glaciers and ice sheets, oceans and sea level; historical and paleoclimatic perspective on climate change; biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, gases and aerosols; satellite data and other data; climate models; climate projections, causes and attribution of climate change.
The IPCC Working Group II (WG II) assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive impacts of climate change, and options for adapting to it. It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands).
The IPCC Working Group III (WG III) assesses options for mitigating climate change through limiting or preventing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing activities that remove them from the atmosphere. The main economic sectors are taken into account, both in a near-term and in a long-term perspective. The sectors include energy, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management. The WG analyses the costs and benefits of the different approaches to mitigation, considering also the available instruments and policy measures. The approach is more and more solution-oriented.
The IPCC releases a synthesis report and summary for policymakers as part of their assessment report, which informs government policy on climate change.