What is the IPCC and its reports about climate change?

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The IPCC is an intergovernmental group of experts whose mission it is to objectively review the periodic evolution of global warming. Their reports are fundamental to alert decision-makers and to raise awareness in society.

What is the IPCC?

What does IPCC stand for?IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC was created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The aim of the group is to investigate climate change and report to governments across the world about steps that should be taken to combat it and suggest policy implementation.

Who are the members of the IPCC?

The IPCC is made up of all the member-states of UNEP and the WMO. It is currently made up of 195 countries, i.e. most of the countries in the world.

  • The IPCC is made up of several organisations:
  • Thousands of scientists from all over the world;
  • The President;
  • The members of the Board;
  • The Central Secretariat;
  • The three Working Groups;
  • The Special Group regarding the National Inventories of Greenhouse Gases;
  • Other special groups and executive groups of limited or long duration to examine an issue or certain specific matter, such as the Special Group on Data Supporting Climate Change Evaluations.

The IPCC gathers at least once a year in a full session with government representatives where important decisions are made with regards to the work program of the IPCC and where the members of the Board are elected, including the President.

Who finances the IPCC?

The IPCC’s annual budget is approximately £5.1 million, depending on the activity during an evaluation cycle. Funding is through voluntary contributions from member-states as well as donations from other organisations such as the European Union, UN Environment and others. The IPCC publishes its budget every year which shows where the contributions come from. Regular contributors include the UK, US, Australia, France, Denmark, Finland and Germany.

Finance crisisIn 2017, the IPCC faced a financing crisis after then US-President, Donald Trump, announced the nation would stop its annual funding of around £1.5 million. That figure was around 45% of the budget for 2016.

The IPCC reports

The IPCC’s objective is to observe climate change, identify its causes and find solutions for its impact. The main mission of the IPCC is to elaborate reports evaluating climate change. Five reports have already been published in 1990 (AR1), 1995 (AR2), 2001 (AR3), 2007 (AR4) and 2014 (AR5), and the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) will be published in 2022.

As well as the evaluation reports, special reports are also published regularly looking more in-depth at specific topics. This is the case, for example, of the last three special reports of the IPCC, all drafted during the current sixth evaluation cycle (2016-2022):

  1. The IPCC report from 2018 regarding the impact of global warming of 1.5°C;
  2. The IPCC report from September 2019 regarding the oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate;
  3. The IPCC report from August 2019 regarding climate change, desertification, soil degradation, sustainable management of soils, food safety and greenhouse gas flows in soil ecosystems.
ipcc reports

The drafting of a report is completed in several stages:

  • The preliminary phase;
  • Approval of the blueprint;
  • Author decisions;
  • Selection of authors;
  • First draft of the report examined by experts;
  • Second draft of the report examined by governments and experts;
  • Definitive draft of the report and summary for policy-makers;
  • Approval and acceptance of the report.

The validation process of a report takes approximately two years.

The report is between 2.000 and 3.000 pages, based on several thousand studies, and takes into account thousands of comments. In general, a report is made up of:

  • Various chapters including scientific, technical and methodology evaluation and assessment;
  • A summary for policy-makers;
  • A technical summary (optional).

The IPCC, by raising awareness in society with its reports, is a key actor in the fight against climate change.

The IPCC climate change report 2021

In August 2021, the IPCC published its much anticipated report on the impact of climate change. Acording to the findings by the scientists involved, climate change has reached a point where it is widespread across the world, rapidly changing, and intensifying. In fact, the report said some of the climate changes to have already taken place are 'irreversible' for the next few centuries, or even millennia. Some of the key points highlighted in the report included:

  • CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere were at their highest levels in 2019 than in the past two million years;
  • Since 1900, sea levels have risn faster than at any time over the past 3,000 years;
  • Toe 50-year period between 1970 and 2020 saw the Earth's surface temperature rise more quickly than any other 50-year period in the past 2,000 years.

Code red for humanityUN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said the IPCC report for a 'code red for humanity'. And he added that alarm bells should be ringing around the world, with urgent action needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The IPCC and climate change

The IPCC, as a climate change expert, is in charge of analysing the impact on the environment through its research work. Its aim is also to identify ways in which to limit the extent of climate change.

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What is climate change?

Human activities have provoked an increase of world temperatures of approximately 1°C compared with pre-Industrial Revolution figures. In fact, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the main cause of global warming, has never been so high. This is known as the greenhouse effect.

In its special report on global warming of 1.5°C, the IPCC warns of the possibly irreversible consequences of a global warming of 2°C, such as:

global warming
  • Rising sea levels;
  • Oceans becoming increasingly acidic;
  • Melting ice caps;
  • Erosion of biodiversity and ecosystems;
  • Increased poverty, etc.

Greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activities depend on each person’s lifestyle (transport, energy consumption, food, etc.). Therefore, the only solution to limit global warming is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance towards a more sustainable society. That is why governments and businesses across the world are moving away from a linear economy model - in which consumption and profit is the core and little thought is given to the world’s finite resources or the production of waste - to a circular economy - one in which there is more focus on reuse, recycling, and reducing waste.

Taking action against climate change

To challenge climate change, the following three steps are necessary:

  1. Measuring your carbon footprint;
  2. Minimising your carbon impact;
  3. Off-setting inevitable CO2 emissions through the financing of carbon offset programs.

Depending on each person’s lifestyle, a person may emit more or less CO2 into the atmosphere. Calculating your carbon footprint allows you to realise the impact your daily activities have on the planet and therefore to adopt a more environmentally mindful lifestyle (optimising energy consumption, favouring environmentally-friendly methods of transport, recycling waste, etc.).

Off-setting carbon emissions only makes sense once actions to reduce CO2 emissions have been put in place.

Some simple steps that we can all take to do our part in reducing our own carbon emissions include:

Waste management

  • Reuse shopping bags and refuse plastic bags;
  • Select products in stores and supermarkets with little or no packaging;
  • Reduce what you need, reuse items, repurpose them when you are not using them, and recycle them when they reach the end of their life-cycle.


  • If you have a short journey to make, think about either walking or biking rather than using the car;
  • If your car journey is longer, such as commuting to work, can you use public transport instead? If not, think about the possibility of ride-sharing;
  • For long trips, rather than the airplane, opt for other alternatives such as boat or train.

Food and drink

  • Where possible, try to buy locally produced and sourced food to cut down on emissions due to logistics and travel;
  • Reduce your consumption of meat products;
  • Recycle or compost organic waste.

Energy use

  • Turn lights off when not using them and switch to energy efficient LED bulbs;
  • Unplug phone chargers and other electronic items when not in use;
  • Switch off the television rather than leave it on standby;
  • Check the settings on your appliances - does your fridge and freezer need to be set at the coolest temperature?;
  • Be mindful of how much you heat your home. Heating it just 1ºC less than you currently do can reduce emissions - and your electricity bills too.

Water use

  • Don’t run the washing machine or dishwasher until they are full;
  • Use any runoff from the shower, or used bath water, to water plants in the garden;
  • Only boil enough water for your needs, not more.