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UK Parliamentary Inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Report

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Energy and Climate Change Committee

The IPCC has been influential in providing the justification for national and international action to prevent dangerous climate change. It has however, come under criticism that it is overly influenced by national political agendas and that it has not satisfactorily addressed the recent pause in global warming nor the InterAcademy criticisms of AR4 and other issues.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988.

Its aim is to provide the world with a scientific view on the current state of climate change knowledge and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. It does not conduct any research or monitor climate related data or parameters. Instead in invites thousands of scientists from around the world to review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It issues its findings in Assessment Reports published every five years.

The most recent – the fifth assessment report (AR5) – has begun to be published. The first instalment of the report, Climate change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, was published on Friday 27 September. A total of 209 Lead Authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries and more than 600 Contributing Authors from 32 countries contributed to the preparation of Working Group I AR5. The report concluded that, ‘it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.’ But it reduced the lower bound for likely climate sensitivity and for the first time did not publish a best estimate of it because of lack of agreement

The IPCC has been influential in providing the justification for national and international action to prevent dangerous climate change. It has however, come under criticism that it is overly influenced by national political agendas and that it has not satisfactorily addressed the recent pause in global warming nor the InterAcademy criticisms of AR4 and other issues.

This inquiry will explore the latest conclusions of the IPCC, the extent to which the conclusions are robust, and their impact on national and international policy making.

Terms of Reference:

The Committee invites responses, by 10 December 2013, addressing some or all of the following questions:

* How robust are the conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report? Have the IPCC adequately addresses criticisms of previous reports? How much scope is there to question of the report’s conclusions?

* To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists?

* Can any of the areas of the science now be considered settled as a result of AR5’s publication, if so which?  What areas need further effort to reduce the levels of uncertainty?

* How effective is AR5 and the summary for policymakers in conveying  what is meant by uncertainty in scientific terms ? Would a focus on risk rather than uncertainty be useful?

* Does the AR5 address the reliability of climate models?

* Has AR5 sufficiently explained the reasons behind the widely reported hiatus in the global surface temperature record?

* Do the AR5 Physical Science Basis report’s conclusions strengthen or weaken the economic case for action to prevent dangerous climate change?

* What implications do the IPCC’s conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report have for policy making both nationally and internationally?

* Is the IPCC process an effective mechanism for assessing scientific knowledge? Or has it focussed on providing a justification for political commitment?

* To what extent did political intervention influence the final conclusions of the AR5 Physical Science Basis summary?

* Is the rate at which the UK Government intends to cut CO2 emissions appropriate in light of the findings of the IPCC AR5 Physical Science Basis report?

* What relevance do the IPCC’s conclusions have in respect of the review of the fourth Carbon Budget?

T he deadline for the submission of written evidence is Tuesday 10 December 2013

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