School of GeoSciences Research

IPCC, United Nations and the Paris Agreement

Our research underpins climate change policies globally, benefiting and protecting populations across the world, particularly those most vulnerable to climate change.

Panel of world leaders at the 2015 UN Paris Climate Change Agreement Conference event standing and cheering
Image credit: UNFCCC

Our research has made crucial contributions to: 

  • estimating the human fingerprint in the climate system from observed change, and with it, the climate sensitivity (how much greenhouse gas emissions warm the climate)
  • quantifying how changes in the frequency and/or severity of extreme weather events have already resulted from the changing climate (event attribution)

Our researchers have played a significant role in determining key relationships between greenhouse gas emissions and climate warming. This has been achieved by world-leading analysis synthesising multiple sources of evidence, including observed warming in the pre- and post-industrial period paleoclimate and instrumental records and physical understanding derived from worldwide modelling approaches. 

This led to the quantification of the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS). ECS is the long-term global mean temperature increase caused by a doubling of atmospheric COconcentration from records of the observed warming and synthesised evidence from historical warming with that from analysis of global modelling and feedback processes.

Our team also produced world-leading research into the crucial task of validating the hypothesis that human-caused climate change has changed both the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.  We have led the interpretation of results that found that increases in emissions of greenhouse gasses have caused a 5% increase in extreme precipitation events across the globe.  We have also shown that human emissions have contributed to observed changes in large-scale precipitation.

These publications were used as evidence in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

In addition, we are making significant contributions to the IPCC in a wide range of research areas addressing climate change, such as:

  • our work on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and negative emissions is leading the way for nations to achieve net-zero emissions targets.
  • our geophysical measurements and numerical-modelling of ice-sheet and glacier melting is contributing to sea-level rise assessments, demonstrating the critical role climate variability plays in the ice-ocean system.
  • our work in socio-economic and natural systems is helping to support sustainable land use decision making concerning climate change adaptation and mitigation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for assessing climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a clear scientific review of the current state of knowledge on climate change.  The IPPC reports provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

IPCC assessments provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate-related policies.  They also underpin negotiations at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The IPCC Fifth Assessment Reports directly informed the international climate change negotiations, which resulted in the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement treaty on climate change.

IPCC Fifth Assessment: Climate Change

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is the latest in a series of reports from the IPCC assessing scientific, technical, and socio-economic information regarding climate change. It was the scientific foundation for the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Paris Agreement

Our research detecting the human fingerprint in observed climate change and extremes helped underpin the UN Paris Agreement on climate change and resulting policies worldwide.

IPCC Special Reports

We have also made significant contributions to Special Reports released by the IPCC, which are guiding policies around the world.

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: Climate Change

The IPCC is currently preparing its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).