Skip to main content

U.N. climate change panel to release summary of latest science Friday

By Brandon Miller, CNN
September 25, 2013 -- Updated 2321 GMT (0721 HKT)
A recent study published in the science journal "Nature" has concluded that many more trees are vulnerable to drought stress than previously thought. A majority of trees studied operate very close to their hydraulic threashold, taking on just enough water to survive. A recent study published in the science journal "Nature" has concluded that many more trees are vulnerable to drought stress than previously thought. A majority of trees studied operate very close to their hydraulic threashold, taking on just enough water to survive.
HIDE CAPTION
Is climate change moving too fast for trees?
Drought and disease
Amazon fires threaten vital carbon sink
Forests ravaged by beetles
Hot spells spark forest fires
Endgame for old trees?
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report every five or six years
  • The first section of the report is aimed at assisting policymakers
  • A draft that leaked in August said there is more certainty that humans are playing a role
  • The report will lay out projections for climate change through the end of the century

(CNN) -- Think of it as a giant barometer for climate science.

With a new groundbreaking study on climate change seemingly coming out every other week, it can be hard to keep up with the latest findings. Fortunately, every five to six years, the United Nations sums it up in a comprehensive report.

That's what's going on this week in the Swedish capital Stockholm, where the latest Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is set for release on Friday. The document will bring together the latest research from top scientists around the field.

The IPCC is recognized as the leading authority on the subject of global climate change. The first section of its new report -- the fifth since the organization was formed in 1988 by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization -- contains a "Summary for Policymakers," aimed at guiding politicians and lawmakers worldwide on decisions regarding the environment over the next several years.

The amount of research that goes into each section of the report is staggering. Friday's report is the culmination of work by over 250 authors from 39 countries and was subject to an extensive review process involving more than 1,000 experts.

What will be in climate change report?

In addition to the rigorous scientific review, representatives of 195 governments are meeting in Stockholm to approve, line-by-line, each section of the Summary for Policymakers before its release.

More than 850 expert authors from 85 countries contributed research for the full report, which will be released in three stages through April. The first, on the physical science behind climate change, will accompany the Summary for Policymakers on Friday. The second, expected in March, will cover "impacts and vulnerabilities" of climate change; the third, on mitigation efforts, is set to go out in April.

Bloomberg: Why Sandy forced cities to take lead on climate change

What is expected in the report

Friday's report is expected to contain language that further identifies the role human activity is playing in increasing global temperatures through burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.

The last report, in 2007, indicated that it was "very likely" that humans were responsible for most of the observed warming -- a judgment that corresponds to a confidence level greater than 90%. A draft that leaked in August raised that confidence level to "extremely likely," or greater than 95% confidence that humans are responsible for the majority of global warming through carbon pollution.

The impacts of this warming are already being seen through increases in extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, and extreme flooding events, which the assessment will highlight.

The report will lay out projections for climate change through the end of the century, based upon four different carbon emission scenarios. Those range from a low end which would require significant cutbacks in emissions, to a worst-case scenario in which carbon emissions would continue to climb unabated. The projections will provide more details about sea-level rise, for which observations show rates increasing, and should give a more precise estimate of the levels we will see at the end of the century.

Loss of sea ice will also be addressed, and the report will discuss the accelerating loss of sea ice in the Arctic and the slight increase of ice seen in the Antarctic.

Climate change may increase violence, study shows

Critics of the report

Despite the overall breadth of the scientific expertise involved, and the extensive review and approval process, the IPCC Assessment Reports spark quite a few criticisms, from both climate change believers and skeptics.

Skeptics claim the IPCC exists only to produce further evidence supporting the idea of man-made climate change while ignoring opposing research. But climate change activists, and many climate scientists, believe that the IPCC's consensus-seeking policy produces conclusions and estimates that are too conservative.

Another often-cited critique of the report is that, due to its size and lengthy approval process, it is already outdated by the time it is released. Several important studies already have been published in the past year in the constantly evolving science of climate change that will not be included in this assessment.

Despite the critics, this week's document will serve as a major measuring stick for the current state of the world's climate and what type of change is in store.

The Summary for Policymakers will be available Friday at http://www.climatechange2013.org.

Climate sticker shock: Arctic thaw could cost $60 trillion

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range, according to Arizona authorities.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
The mother of a hostage freed after two years captivity says it's not time to party.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
"I just love it when I get milk-to-dark converts," says Kerrin Rousset, before she leads a small cocoa-hungry crowd through Zurich's Old Town.
ADVERTISEMENT