IPCC First Assessment Report

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IPCC
Assessment reports:
First (1990)
1992 sup.
Second (1995)
Third (2001)
Fourth (2007)
Fifth (2014)
UNFCCC | WMO | UNEP

The First Assessment Report (FAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was completed in 1990. It served as the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The report was issued in three main sections, corresponding to the three Working Groups of scientists that the IPCC had established.

  • Working Group I: Scientific Assessment of Climate Change, edited by J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums
  • Working Group II: Impacts Assessment of Climate Change, edited by W.J. McG. Tegart, G.W. Sheldon and D.C. Griffiths
  • Working Group III:The IPCC Response Strategies

Each section included a summary for policymakers. This format was followed in subsequent Assessment Reports.

The executive summary of the policymakers' summary of the WG I report includes:

  • We are certain of the following: there is a natural greenhouse effect...; emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. The main greenhouse gas, water vapour, will increase in response to global warming and further enhance it.
  • We calculate with confidence that: ...CO2 has been responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect; long-lived gases would require immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% to stabilise their concentrations at today's levels...
  • Based on current models, we predict: under [BAU] increase of global mean temperature during the [21st] century of about 0.3 oC per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 oC per decade); this is greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years; under other ... scenarios which assume progressively increasing levels of controls, rates of increase in global mean temperature of about 0.2 oC [to] about 0.1 oC per decade.
  • There are many uncertainties in our predictions particularly with regard to the timing, magnitude and regional patterns of climate change, due to our incomplete understanding of: sources and sinks of GHGs; clouds; oceans; polar ice sheets.
  • Our judgement is that: global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6 oC over the last 100 years...; The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect is not likely for a decade or more.
  • under the IPCC business as usual emissions scenario, an average rate of global mean sea level rise of about 6 cm per decade over the next century (with an uncertainty range of 3 – 10 cm per decade), mainly due to thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of some land ice. The predicted rise is about 20 cm ... by 2030, and 65 cm by the end of the next century.

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