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Global Climate Change DigestArchives of the
Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d89mar1

The three working groups established at the November 1988 meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met in late January 1989 in their respective lead countries. Organized at the request of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the IPCC is chaired by University of Stockholm professor Bert B. Bolin and involves the cooperation of about 35 countries to address the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change, and to develop possible international responses. (See Global Climate Change Digest, NEWS, Jan. 1989.) Considered by most an unprecedented example of rapid international cooperation on environmental problems, the project aims to develop a draft of its findings by December 1989, and complete its report in time for the Second World Climate Conference scheduled for Geneva in November 1990. Most participating individuals are members of governmental agencies or the academic community, but members of nongovernmental organizations have been involved as well.

Each working group has issued reports of its initial meeting specifying subgroup topics, national or individual contributors on specific topics, and deadlines for document completion. Several of their future meetings will coincide with planned international symposia to help maintain rapid progress on the work.

Working Group I, Scientific Assessment of Climate Change, met in Nuneham Park, England, under the direction of John Houghton of the U.K. Meteorological Office. Its meeting report concludes that there is insufficient time in the brief IPCC timetable to develop improved global warming scenarios--predictions of the rate, extent and regional character of changes in temperature and precipitation. Such scenarios are needed by Work Group II to assess possible impacts of climate changes. Work Group I decided its contribution to the final report will emphasize the needs of IPCC, but a section should also comment on long-term research strategies to reduce the present uncertainties. The involvement of scientists from developing countries was recognized as a continuing concern for the group.

Yuri Izrael, Chair of the USSR State Committee for Hydrometeorology, opened the first meeting of Working Group II, Impact Analysis, in Moscow. Alan Hecht of the National Climate Program Office, one of the U.S. delegates, reports that concern over the expected lack of climate scenarios from Group I was tempered by the recognition that much of the impacts work could be started without them. The final subgroup topics established were agriculture, land use and forestry; natural ecosystems; water resources; energy, industry, human settlement and health; and oceans and sea level. Izrael intends to pursue the problem of involving developing countries directly with WMO.

The meeting of Working Group III, Response Strategies, was chaired by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Frederick Bernthal in Washington. Group goals are to define policy options for national, regional and international actions; estimate consequences, costs and benefits; set priorities; and define implementation mechanisms, analyzing implications for nations in different states of development. According to observers quoted by Intl. Environ. Rptr. (p. 52, Feb. 1989), proposals on how to proceed presented by U.S. agencies were rejected by participants from foreign countries, who felt they were unworkable under the 18-month timetable imposed by IPCC. The group finally agreed on a preliminary short-term (18-month) workplan to meet the IPCC timetable, which will be specific in a few priority areas and lay out future options in broad terms. Since policy development can only happen gradually as scientific certainty increases, a longer-term workplan will provide for collection and analysis of sufficient data to evaluate possible response options and provide an information base useful as climatic changes occur.

See REPORTS, this Global Climate Change Digest issue--Mar. 1989, for accounts of the initial meetings of Working Groups I and III and from the November IPCC meeting. Information is also available from Narasimhan Sundararaman, IPCC Secretary, 41 Ave. Giusseppe-Motta, 1211 Geneva 20, Switz. (tel: 022-34-64-00). In the United States, the National Climate Program Office (NCPO) will document activities of the IPCC for federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, industry and other groups. The first issue of U.S. IPCC News, compiled in cooperation with the Department of State, summarizes in 27 pages the working group structure, participants and coordination, and gives an extensive list of contact people emphasizing U.S. agencies and other groups. Direct inquiries to Mason Charak, NCPO/NOAA, 11400 Rockville Pike, Rockville MD 20852 (301-443-8981).

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