The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s forthcoming report on climate change will be critical for the success of the Glasgow climate conference in November.
Nearly 200 nations started online negotiations this week to validate the UN science report, the first since the IPCC’s last comprehensive overview in 2014 of global warming, past and future.
The IPCC’s latest summary of the science will be published on 9 August.
Indeed, it is expected that the short, 40-page Summary for Policymakers will play an important role in guiding global leaders who will come to Glasgow in November to deal with critical climate questions for COP26.
“The report that you are going to finalise is going to be very important worldwide,” World Meteorological Organization head Petteri Taalas told some 700 delegates by Zoom.
Record breaking heatwaves, floods and drought across three continents in recent weeks – all amplified by global warming – have highlighted the importance of the report, and the question of the role played by human-induced climate change is being asked more loudly than ever.
Formed in 1988, the IPCC’s role is to provide politicians with assessments every six or seven years on the science, the impacts and the potential options for tackling climate change.
As well as its six- or seven-year assessments, the IPCC has also produced special studies looking at specific scientific questions.
For the upcoming publication on the physical science, more than 200 researchers been working together in groups to review the existing peer-reviewed literature over the last four years.
Their initial draft reports were subject to discussions and comments from fellow researchers and from governments.
The new study attracted around 75,000 comments as it was drafted and re-written.
As in previous assessments, there will likely be a strong focus on the question of humanity’s role in creating the climate crisis.
In 2013, its assessment said that humans were the “dominant cause” of climate change.
That document helped set the scene for the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015.
This will likely be further strengthened, despite the objections of some countries.
There will also be a new focus on so-called “low-probability, high-risk” events, such as the irreversible melting of ice sheets that could lift sea levels by metres, and the decay of permafrost laded with greenhouse gases.
“Feedbacks which amplify change are stronger than we thought and we may be approaching some tipping points,” said Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.