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For many years, IPCC is generally known for its role of providing reports that serve as internationally accepted authority due to them having the agreement of leading climate scientists and the consensus of the concerned governments (Ravindranath, 2010). To this effect, the IPCC has successfully produced more than four reports alongside a number of special reports and greenhouse gas inventory guideline. Specifically, the Copenhagen Climate Convention of 2007 was preceded by the IPCC assessment report 4 which was most influential in changing global opinion about climate change (Barker and IPCC, 2007). However, the panel has recently been subjected to controversies due to its reports considered as being sourced from reports outside the scientific journals (such as report from World Wildlife Fund). This report analyses IPCC with the aim of determining whether the organisation can be regarded as being important as a leading international body for assessing climate change. The report adopts the hypothesis that the IPCC is an important body in presenting reports that help in assessing the climate change, though the reports are faced with some controversies. The report begins by analysing the establishment of IPCC, its role in the assessment of climate change, the accomplishments of IPCC in contributing to climate change assessment, and the areas under which IPCC has not been effective. Besides, the report will define assessment and climate change as the key words in the discussion.
Climate change is one of the most significant global environmental challenges that is facing humanity and thus has deservedly received a collective attention from non-governmental organisations, industries, policy makers, mass media, citizens and of course the scientific community. The significance has been accorded to climate change due to its irreversible and long-term consequences to human and natural ecosystems, therefore, warranting a global response (McLean et al., 2012). It was in 1988 whereby while developing responses to this need of addressing climate, the United Nations, at the request of member governments, pioneered the setting up of intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Consequently, this scientific intergovernmental body (IPCC) was established under the auspices of the two United Nations organisations; United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) (Tol, 2011). IPCC assess technical, scientific and socio-economic information that is relevant for understanding the risks of climate change, especially the change, which is as a result of human activity. Assessment in this sense is the process by which experts, who are independent, engage in reviewing and synthesizing available technical and scientific knowledge that is needed by policy makers to help make decisions relevant to climate change (Moss et al., 2010). According to Pachuri et al. (2014), it is the reports from IPCC that form the basis for support of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC), which is the principal international treaty on climate change. In party, this makes ICPC important aspect to analyse with regard to its relevance on climate change policy implementation.
The context under which IPCC is involved
IPCC works to prepare the reports of assessing the impacts of and vulnerability and adaptation to climate change (IPCC, 2014). As Solomon (2009) had indicated, climate change is as a result of rising fossil fuel burning and land use changes that have emitted and are continuing to emit large quantities of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere. These gases have caused global warming (Increases in average global temperature, increases in oceanic temperature and oceanic acidity and changes in cloud cover and precipitation). This will lead to wide-ranging effects on the environment and socio-economic and related sectors, agriculture and food security, human health, and terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. Due to such consequences, the worldwide local climate variability influences people’s decisions on political, social and economic and personal conditions besides affecting on their lives and livelihoods (O’Flaherty, 2015). Despite human beings having adapted to variables around them for centuries, the local climate variability is changing at a relatively high speed than people have previously experienced (Tol, 2011). Consequently, there is need for sensitizing people on how climate change can be reduced and the need for adapting to future changes. Majorly, adaptation has been the mostly needed as the climate change is prevalent over the years.
As defined by Ravindranath (2010), adaptation is the process through which societies can make themselves better prepared to cope with an uncertain future. Based on this definition, getting adapted to climate change involves making appropriate adjustments and changes as a way of taking the right measures to reduce its effects. Societies have a variety of opportunities and options to adapt; behavioural change at the individual level such as reducing water use in times of drought, technological mechanisms such as increased sea defenses or flood-proof houses, better water management, various insurance options, improved risk management, and biodiversity conservation (Budescu, Por and Broomell, 2012).
Basically, the speed at which change is happening is urgent which requires that the vulnerability of communities to such change is reduced and the capacity to adapt is increased besides national adaptation plans being implemented. For countries to understand their local climate better and be able to predict the local climate change, they need to have access to data available from other regional and global networks in addition to having adequate operational systematic observing networks (Hulme et al., 2010). Thus, the participation of the global scientific community, which can best happen at the systems based in the United Nations, is essential for a comprehensive assessment of science and literature of climate change. This is the rationale behind the need for institutional response from an international panel, and in this case IPCC which provides the basis for concerted international action to mitigate climate change and to adapt to its impacts.
The accomplishments of IPCC
The assessment of climate change involves synthesis of knowledge on the past and current global, regional and national level greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and projections including; the role of GHG in the projected climate change, modeling ocean-earth-atmosphere and attributing causes, the impacts of climate change on natural and socio-economic systems along with an assessment of mitigation opportunities and adaptation strategies, their costs and benefits and the related technologies and policies (Ravindranath, 2010). In respect of this, IPCC has working groups (WGs) that focus of a number of aspects as detailed by Assessment (2007): There is the first working group (WGI) that deals with the projections, physical science and attributions of climate change. The second working group, (WGII) assesses the impact of climate change on socio-economic systems, natural ecosystems as well as the vulnerability of the systems and potential adaptation strategies. The third group (WGIII) deals with examining technology and policy options of mitigating climate change along with assessing the related costs and benefits. Finally, there is GHG inventory task force that prepares the GHG inventory guidelines for easy estimating and reporting of GHG emissions by countries. To this end, the panel has released four assessments reports; the first assessment report in 1990, the supplementary report of 1992, the second assessment report (SAR) of 1995, third assessment report (TAR) of 2001, fourth assessment report (AR4) of 2007 and the fifth assessment report (AR5) of 2014.
To begin with, the first and the second assessment report was prepared by WGI and in summary it indicated that the substantial increase in greenhouse gases is as a result of emissions resulting from human activities and this leads to additional warming of the earth’s surface. The balance of evidence provided in the reports suggests human influence on global climate. In their calculation, the WGI exhibited confidence that, for more than half of the enhanced greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide has been responsible. This report further predicted that global mean temperature will rise by 0.3 Celsius degrees per decade during the 21st century in a business as usual scenario (Assessment, 2007). As such, they predicted that global mean temperature will increase as a result which is consistent with climate models which projected global warming as a result of Green House Effect. Besides the information and predictions, this report contributed significantly to the formation of UNFCCC (Vasileiadou et al., 2011).
Then, the third report indicates significant information on vulnerability and adaptation. Firstly, the report informed that the species and ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change and other stresses. As mitigation, the report suggests a reduction of green house gas emissions especially from the perspective of human action, which will then lessen the pressure on human and natural systems. As adaptation to climate change, the report suggest reducing adverse effects through things such as building levees in response to the rise in the sea level (Stocker, 2014). Essentially, the information in the third report addresses mitigation opportunities and vulnerability that has been cited in literature as part of the main responsibilities addressed by climate change assessment panel. Further, the fourth report, AR4, has received enormous attention from policy makers, industrialists, citizens and the media. Besides indicating that there is increased global warming and likely increase of impacts of climate change, the report directs industrialised countries to reduce emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020, the need for reducing warming to below 2 Celsius degrees, the need for early peaking of GHG emissions globally (Change, 2014). In essence, the reports address mostly of the theoretical requirements of such assessment needs that were the subject of forming the IPCC panel.
Areas where the IPCC reports were less than effective
To begin with, there was unsubstantiated finding in the AR4 report that crop yields in Africa will decline by about 50 percent by 2020 which then formed the basis for demanding for adaptation funding by African delegates at the Copenhagen Convention. This finding can be said as not based on adequate robust scientific literature but was solely based on the study published by International Institute for Sustainable development. This finding is criticised mainly because the predicted rate of decrease is considered highly abnormal considering it is such a dramatic change in such short period (Pachauri et al., 2014). While IPCC had, in the early part of the chapter, indicated climate variability and climate change as the causes of the decrease, the issue got oversimplified later and climate change was them indicated as the only cause for such decrease. This cast doubts over the report of the IPCC and the capacity of the institutions to foster international coordination in mitigating climate change.
Further, the WGII chapter on the Asian Continent mentions that the Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than in any other part of the world and that there is the likelihood of it disappearing by 2035 if the present rate of the earth’s warming continues. When the climate skeptics took over this issue, they seemed discrediting IPCC as well as the science itself (Tol, 2011). On this aspect, IPCC agreed that the finding was not based on the science evidence that is substantiated as it was sourced to WWF report that was in turn based on the interview published on the British Science Magazine (O’Flaherty, 2015).
From these cases of decline in Africa yield and Himalayan glaciers and some other inconsistencies, climate skeptic and other quarters can discredit IPCC as an important leading body for assessment of climate change. However, the reports that have been produced by IPCC shows that most of the body’s assessments have been proven right therefore being instrumental in informing national and international climate policy options. For instance, it has been found that there is continuous increase in global worming much of which is contributed by human activity. Further, the suggestions that industrialised countries should contribute to reducing global worming by reducing GHG by 25-40 percent by 2020 is realistic. Moreover, the reports, especially the fourth report was largely adopted in the 2007 global climate convention at the Copenhagen showing the agreements of governments on the significant of the body. As such, the IPCC is still important as an international body for assessing climate change despite some of the controversies that have faced it.
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