The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is working on its Fifth Assessment Report on climate change to be released in 2014. Interim drafts of certain portions of the report released by one of the three working groups suggest that things are not as bad as predicted in the IPCC's 2007 report. Emerging insights are good news for the environment but pose greater uncertainty for the scientific community challenged to understand overall climate change impacts.

The new IPCC draft report suggests two key findings:

  1. actual global warming measurements do not match IPCC model predictions in the IPCC 2007 report; and
  2. global temperatures overall have leveled off since the 1998-1999 timeframe.

Whether or not rising temperatures resulting in global warming have stopped altogether is unclear. What we do know is that the slowed progress of global warming, as indicated by the last ten years of global temperature data, means less immediate and perhaps more mitigated climate change-related impacts.

The 2014 IPCC report will address three key climate change areas: physical basis of climate change; impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and, mitigation of climate change impacts.

At the heart of the controversy over the draft report findings is the effectiveness of the model used in the 2007 IPCC report. Actual global temperature data analyzed over the last ten years are at the bottom of the 2007 model-related projections. Greenhouse gas is not fully understood today nor is the variances such as the influence of clouds on warming trends. Most agree that better data will result in better models. Erick Roeckner of the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology recently commented that "...no model will ever be as complex as nature." This sentiment is very true as it relates to the data emerging from the 2014 IPCC draft report.

The IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. More information about IPCC's 2014 draft report insights and climate change data is available at http://ipcc.ch/