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Terms of reference: IPCC 5th Assessment Review

22 October 2013

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?

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

Notes on written submissions

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted via the inquiry page - link at the top of this page
The deadline is Tuesday 10 December 2013 As a guideline submissions should state clearly who the submission is from e.g. ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxx’ and be no longer than 3000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this. If you need to send hard copy please send it to: The Clerk, Energy and Climate Change Committee, 14 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NB.

Submissions must be a self-contained memorandum in Word or Rich Text Format (not PDFs). Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Publication of evidence

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written submissions it receives, either by publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.

Further information

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