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Item #d90oct64

Representatives of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did approve its First Assessment Report, but the task was not easy. The document consists of an Overview, the Policymaker Summaries of the three IPCC working groups and of the Special Committee on the Participation of Developing Countries, and the full reports of the working groups. Agreement came on August 31, 1990, at a meeting in Sundsvall, Sweden, after long bargaining sessions which many participants feared would be fruitless. A summary drafted by Swedish meteorologist Bert Bolin (IPCC chairman) was abandoned; the final overview was assembled from portions of the working group reports.

There was little disagreement on the topics of the first two working groups, Scientific Assessment and Impacts. Several individuals quoted in the articles listed below consider the most significant outcome of the IPCC report to be a scientific consensus that global warming is a problem. Most contentious were negotiations on the Response Policy working group report, involving such topics as a timetable for greenhouse gas reductions, and technology transfer and related financing. According to Intl. Environ. Rptr. (p. 365, Sep. 12), the meeting became so difficult at one point that Bolin considered adjournment. But UNEP director Mostafa Tolba insisted by phone from Geneva that the process be completed so the IPCC report would be ready for consideration at the Second World Climate Conference in November.

The response strategies section of the final overview discusses policy options and criteria for establishing their priorities, but makes no recommendations for specific options or a timetable for their implementation, desired by some during the negotiations. Instead, it calls for international negotiations to start as quickly as possible after presentation of the assessment at the November climate conference. Key issues for those negotiations will include the criteria, timing, legal form and incidence of any obligations to control net emissions of greenhouse gases; how to equitably address the consequences for all; required institutional mechanisms including research and monitoring; and the requests of the developing countries for financial aid for technology transfer.

The product of the Sundsvall meeting, IPCC First Assessment Report Overview (20 pp.), is available from the UNEP North American Office (Rm. DC-2-0803, United Nations, New York NY 10017; 212-963-8093) for $5. The policy maker summaries of the three working groups (roughly 40 pages each) are $7.95 each or $20 for all three. These documents are also available from the Geneva IPCC Secretariat (41 Ave. Giuseppe-Motta, 1211 Geneva 20, Switz.; tel: 41-22-7308-235). Cambridge University Press has just published the complete Working Group 1 report, Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment (364 pages). The Spring 1990 issue of Climate Alert, the quarterly newsletter of the Climate Institute (316 Penn. Ave. SE, S. 403, Washington DC 20003; 202-547-0104), contains articles on the evolution of two of the working group reports ("Firm Consensus Eludes IPCC Response Strategies Group," p. 11; "Moscow IPCC Impacts Meeting Adopts Strong Report," p. 12). See also:

"Big Step Taken Toward Global Emissions Treaty," D. O'Sullivan, Chem. Eng. News, p. 6, Sep. 10, 1990.

"Model-Makers Defend Consensus on Climate," D. MacKenzie, J. Kerwin, New Scientist, p. 29, Sep. 8. At Sundsvall, Japanese delegates said plans will be announced soon to stabilize Japan's greenhouse gas emissions at 10 percent above current levels by the year 2000. New Zealand will cut emissions by 20 percent by 2005.

"New Greenhouse Report Puts Down Dissenters," R.A. Kerr, Science, pp. 481-482, Aug. 3. Explains how the IPCC scientific assessment working group report rebuts arguments against the likelihood of greenhouse warming espoused recently by atmospheric scientist Richard Lindzen and the Marshall Institute report.

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