What Is the IPCC?

The IPCC is past of the United Nations Environment Programme. Doug Armand/Stone/Getty

IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is a group of scientists charged by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme to assess global climate change. Its mission is to summarize the current science behind climate change, and the potential impacts climate change will have on the environment and people. The IPCC does not do any original research; instead, it relies on the work of thousands of scientists. The members of the IPCC review this original research and synthesize the findings.  

The IPCC offices are in Geneva, Switzerland, at the World Meteorological Organization’s headquarters, but it is an intergovernmental body with membership from UN countries. As of 2014, there are 195 member countries. The organization provides scientific analyses that are meant to assist with policymaking, but it does not prescribe any particular policies.

Three main working groups operate within the IPCC, each responsible for their own portion of periodic reports: Working Group I (physical science basis of climate change), Working Group II (climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability), and Working Group III (mitigation of climate change).

Assessment Reports

For each reporting period, the Working Group reports are bound as volumes part of an Assessment Report. The First Assessment Report was released in 1990. There have been reports in 1996, 2001, 2007, and 2014. The 5th Assessment Report was published in multiple phases, starting in September 2013 and ending in October 2014. The 6th was published in 2022.

Assessment Reports present an analysis based on the body of published scientific literature about climate changes and their effects. The conclusions of the IPCC are scientifically conservative, putting more weight on findings supported by multiple lines of evidence rather than on the controversial leading edge of research.

Findings from the assessment reports are featured prominently during international climate negotiations.

Since October 2015, the chair of the IPCC is Hoesung Lee. an economist from South Korea.

See more about the latest assessment report in the stories below: