IPCC Working Group II – Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

What does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report have to do with you? Plenty, if you plan to live on Earth during the 21st century.

Earth Globe over Flames Depicting Global Warming, Climate ChangeThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international organization founded in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO). IPCC prepares assessment reports to assist global policymakers in understanding climate change science, its risks, and possible response strategies. Thousands of scientific papers, reports, and publications are reviewed and distilled into a 3-part report that represents the diversity of IPCC’s 195 member countries.

To learn more about the IPCC and assessment report process, read Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central.

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Core Writing Team - Photo: IPCCAssessment reports are prepared by three IPCC Working Groups, each one focusing on a specific area. Each report is accompanied by a shorter Summary for Policymakers (SPM). After a review and revision process, the final draft reports are officially approved by the IPCC and released to the public. Subsequently, the final edited reports are published online and made available in print.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being published during 2013 and 2014.

  • Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis – by IPCC Working Group I (approved 09/30/13)
  • Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability – by IPCC Working Group II (approved 03/31/14)
  • Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change – by IPCC Working Group III (target approval April 2014)
  • Synthesis Report AR5 – additional report by IPCC Core Writing Team (target approval October 2014)

IPCC AR5 Working Group I Report

To read and watch a video about the first installment by Working Group I, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, read Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central.

IPCC AR5 Working Group II Report

IPCC Climate Change 2014 Impacts, Adaptation, Vulnerabilities Report Cover WGIIPart two of IPCC AR5, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability by Working Group II, was just approved on Monday, March 31, 2014. So far, I’ve read the 44-page Summary for Policymakers (SPM) which is divided into three sections:

  1. Section A: Observed impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in a complex and changing world
  2. Section B: Future risks and opportunities for adaption
  3. Section C: Managing future risks and building resilience

Working Group II assessed risks and potential adaptations related to freshwater resources, land and aquatic ecosystems, coastal and low-lying areas, food security and production, urban and rural areas, economic sectors and services, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty.

Interestingly, at least I thought it was interesting; the SPM reinforced what I already understand and believe about climate change from a big picture perspective.

  • Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that changes have already occurred on all continents and across all oceans; humans and natural systems are currently being impacted.
  • Poor and disadvantaged people who already face many challenges are the most vulnerable to climate change and have the least ability to cope with its impacts.
  • Recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires reveal humans have significant exposure and vulnerability to these types of events.
  • Some local, regional, and national government entities are starting to develop and implement adaptation plans and policies.
  • Responding to climate-related risks involves making decisions in a changing world, with uncertainty about the severity and timing of impacts.

The 12-minute video below gives viewers a good overview of climate change risk and our opportunity to build a more resilient human society.


IPCC AR5 Working Group III Report

Working Group III’s contribution to AR5, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change is expected to be approved during the IPCC meeting being held in Berlin, Germany April 7th through 11th. The press conference is scheduled for Sunday, April 13, 2014, at 11:00 Berlin time. That’s 2:00 a.m. in California so I think I’ll wait for the video.

What Can You Do about Climate Change?

What can you do? For starters, become educated about climate change. IPCC’s assessment reports are a good jumping off point. Are you already knowledgeable about climate change? Then share what you know with your friends, family, and coworkers.

Human society’s diversity complicates our ability to understand and assess climate change risks and determine and take adaptation and mitigation actions. Each one of us views risks and benefits through our own filter of geography, culture, values, economic status, and experience. On the other hand, I believe our diversity enables us to envision a wide variety of creative, innovative, and feasible solutions. I am hopeful.

The choices we make and actions we take now will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century and beyond. Truly we are all in this together.

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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report Central

Chances are you’ve read an article, watched a video, or seen a news clip that cited findings from an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LogoIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the not-so-catchy name of an international organization whose purpose is to inform global policy makers about climate change—causes, socio-economic effects, and possible solutions. Most of the people who do the work volunteer their time. They read thousands of articles, reports, and papers about climate change and then draft assessment reports which are reviewed, commented on, revised, reviewed, commented on, finalized, and published. Imagine working on a multi-year group project with a team consisting of hundreds of people from 85 countries, who speak many different languages, live thousands of miles apart, possess a wide range of expertise and opinions, and are awake at the same time and in the same place perhaps once a year. Let’s take a look at the IPCC and the status of the current assessment report.

IPCC Background

Back in 1988, long before climate change became the household term it is today, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) got together to form the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s mission was and still is, to review available scientific information about climate change, prepare assessments, and develop realistic response strategies. Three Working Groups were established to tackle the challenge and prepare reports on:

  • Available scientific information on climate change,
  • Environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change, and
  • Formulation of response strategies.

The first IPCC assessment report was published in 1990. New reports followed in 1995, 2001, and 2007. The next assessment report is being published in three parts during 2014.

Nobel Peace Prize

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to the IPCC and Al Gore “…for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. A scholarship program for young scientists residing in developing countries highly vulnerable to climate change was funded with the IPCC prize money.

How Does the IPCC Work?

The IPCC is open to member countries of its two sponsors, the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization. Currently, 195 countries participate in the IPCC.

IPCC Organizational Structure

Each government designates a person called the IPCC focal point to coordinate information and activities, maintain national expert lists, and represent his or her country. Government representatives usually meet once a year in a plenary session, meaning they all get together at the same time in the same place, to elect people for leadership positions, make decisions about organizational and procedural matters, and determine assessment report scope.

Working Groups

A Task Force has been added to the original three Working Groups which each focus on a specific area of climate change as noted below.

  • IPCC Delegates Meeting in Stockholm, SwedenWorking Group I – The Physical Science Basis
  • Working Group II – Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
  • Working Group III – Mitigation of Climate Change
  • Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories – Climate Change Modeling

Groups are supported by Technical Support Units (TSUs), each hosted by a different country. Current TSU host countries are Working Group I (Switzerland), Working Group II (USA), Working Group III (Germany), and Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (Japan).

Assessment Reports

An IPCC assessment report is published in segments, one by each Working Group. In addition to its thousand plus page report, each Working Group prepares a companion Summary for Policymakers (SPM), the short version. To ensure quality reports filled with comprehensive and valid information, the IPCC follows a documented procedure during all phases of report generation from inception through publication. The Working Groups select people called authors to lead major sections of each report. Other roles include contributing authors, editors, expert reviewers, government reviewers, and approvers. Initial report drafts undergo expert review, revision, additional expert review, and review by government representatives. After the final draft and SPM are reviewed and approved by the IPCC, they are released to the public.

Fifth Assessment Report

IPCC Climate Change 2013 The Physical Science Basis Report Cover WGIIPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is in the process of publication. The first installment by Working Group I, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, was released online to the public January 30, 2014. To help you get an idea of what a huge undertaking an IPCC assessment report is, I’ve noted a few facts for the Working Group I report below:

  • 259 lead authors and review editors from 39 countries
  • 1089 expert reviewers from 55 countries
  • 54,677 written comments received and reviewed
  • 14 chapters, 1500 pages of text, 600 diagrams, 6 annexes
  • 9200 scientific publications cited

The 9-minute video below provides an overview of what readers will find in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis which deals with observed changes in Earth’s climate system, what’s driving climate change, evaluating climate models, and future global and regional climate change.

My attempts to download the Working Group I report failed multiple times so I will need to download it in parts. In the meantime, I contented myself with reading the 29-page Summary for Policymakers. It’s worth reading. Perhaps IPCC’s most important function is sifting through, analyzing, distilling, organizing, and packaging a huge amount of information and data in a format government officials can understand and hopefully use to make policy decisions to ensure a habitable Earth for all.

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