Human Systems and Climate Change Overview
State University, Bakersfield
Systems and Climate Change
For the last decade, climate
change has been a controversial topic amongst governing nations. Determining
and agreeing upon appropriate courses of action, as well as the decided effects
on populations and ecosystems have also long been debated. With little
knowledge on the effects climate change might have on the human population, as
well as our ability (or inability) to adapt, governing bodies look towards the
IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for information regarding
possible risks and impacts from climate change.
The IPCC panel is composed of a Task Force as well as
three Working Groups. Other groups, such as further task forces and steering
groups, can be created to assist in reporting. The IPCC consists of unpaid
scientists who contribute work voluntarily. Each portion of the panel works on
addressing specific topics related to climate change. Working Group I focuses
on “The Physical Science Basis” (IPCC, 2017). Working Group II focuses on
“Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability” (IPCC, 2017). Working Group III
focuses on “Mitigation of Climate Change” (IPCC, 2017). The Task Force focuses
on “National Greenhouse Gas Inventories” (IPCC, 2017). Review of procedures is
carried out by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The IPCC also consists of an
IPCC Bureau, a Task Force Bureau, and an Executive Committee. The IPCC Bureau
consists of 34 members and guides the Panel on its work. The Task Force Bureau
consists of 12 members and 2 co-chairs, and is responsible for overseeing work
on the “National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme” (IPCC, 2017). The
Executive Committee was created by the IAC to coordinate work between the Work
Groups and Task Forces, as well as address critical issues.
The workload of the IPCC is distributed amongst the
Working Groups and Task Force. Specific work is coordinated by the Technical
Support Unit (TSU). The TSU can also assist in preparing the Synthesis Report
associated with its respective Assessment Report. Each of the three Working
groups and Task Force work to answer specific questions and provide
publications summarizing findings. All the gathered materials are composed into
the final Synthesis Report. All reports must go through two different formal
reviews prior to publication.
Published in the Fourth Assessment,
Working Group I identified notable understanding of noticeable human-induced
climate change and current Greenhouse Gas data. One of the most notable points
from this publication was the changes in temperature and sea level from 1961 to
1990. As seen in the figure below (Changes, 2007), surface temperature is
rising, average sea level is rising, and snow cover over the Northern
Hemisphere is dropping. When comparing the data with previous centuries using
the Paleoclimatic Perspective, it is noted that this change is rather unusual
and has not been observed to have occurred previously.
Working Group II published their work in the Fourth
Assessment focused on the effect of climate change on human systems, as well as
the ability of these systems to adapt to changes. More specifically, this
Working Group assesses information in relation to resources, human health,
habitats and ecosystems, and the ability of the human race to progress across
various regions of the world (IPCC, 2017). In the Fourth Assessment, Working
Group II reports that mitigation is the most useful current strategy for
combatting the impacts of climate change.
Also published in the Fourth Assessment, Working Group
III discusses policies to assist in mitigation of climate change. The most
pertinent information from this article relates to the current lack of
knowledge regarding mitigation. According to Working Group III, more research
must be conducted to identify the most efficient courses of action regarding
mitigation, and reduce current uncertainties for the decision-making processes
surrounding mitigation (IPCC, 2017).
Formed in 1988, the IPCC prepared a review of scientific
information and recommendations for climate change and climate change policies.
Since, the IPCC has also begun to review the impacts on human populations, socio-economic
factors, and various environmental impacts. Today, the function of the IPCC is
“…to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the
scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding
the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential
impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation” (IPCC, 2017). In 1990, the
IPCC released a report that stated the importance of cooperation between all
governing bodies to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. The Second
Assessment Report, delivered in 1995, lead way to the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto
Protocol was adopted by the governing nations in 1997, with the intent to
globally reduce emissions to slow and hopefully help stop human-induced climate
change. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, just after the
release of its Fourth Assessment Report. The Fourth Assessment Report “paid
greater attention to the integration of climate change with sustainable
development policies and relationships between mitigation and adaptation”
(IPCC, 2017). Participation in the panel continues to grow in number with new
authors as well as authors from different geographical locations.
Views of IPCC
Since the panel consists of information provided from
scientists from various areas around the world, the possibility of getting new,
interesting, and atypical responses and ideas is very high. This can lead to
the proposition of new questions and answers to questions previously unanswered.
With this in mind, the panel is responsible for filtering through the research
and articles submitted to coordinate answers to synthesize into Assessments.
This leads to the possibility of biased selection of articles to prove some
points over others. Since the public does not have access to the rejected
articles and claims, the public would then have to research independently to
see opposing or alternative views than those presented by the IPCC. This can
cause some issues when considering that the IPCC utilizes their Assessments to
provide ideas and criteria for the formation of governing climate related laws
in many countries.
A common complaint surrounding the IPCC relates to the
possibility of overly conservative and timid conclusions. This means that there
is a possibility that, in order to come to agreement for the submission of
Assessments, the data collected and research synthesized is portrayed to be
less extreme or to a lesser degree than what the data actually states.
Considering the anger and panic that would ensue if data was released
proclaiming the possibilities of drastic climate related tragedies, it is
understandable to instead “cushion the blow” by decreasing the severity and
ultimately attempting to receive calm, thorough responses by the public and
governing bodies. This tactic; however, does not allow for an accurate
time-frame to enact important policies by providing the governing bodies with a
false time sense.
The climate is considered to be a unique and complex
system due to its instability and ability to rapidly change. Consisting of five
components: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere,
theses components have a direct affect and are also directly affected by human
activities (Working Group I, 2017). Humans have an impact on climate change
through emissions and fossil fuels, aerosols, deforestation, increased
industrialization, and resulting urbanization (Humans, 2017). By eliminating
trees and plants to cycle through and clean air while simultaneously producing
more waste, we are negatively impacting climate change. Climate can also be
affected by geologic contributions such as volcanic eruptions and natural
Although often confused, climate models differ from
weather models. Weather models are computer predicted weather possibilities
based on previous data. Weather models are often seen in the daily forecast on
local news stations, and are usually more general and vague. Weather models
tend to only discuss a certain area and its surrounding features. Climate
models are computer predicted programs showing the interactions of various
forces and factors. Climate models are useful in predicting more accurate
possibilities of future climate. Climate models can demonstrate the interactions
between the oceans and atmosphere, for example.
The rising sea level seems to be a prominent and heated
topic amongst governing bodies and climate control today. This topic is crucial
due to the negative effects it poses for humans and the wetland ecosystems. As
the ice melts and water heats, thermal expansion occurs which increases the
volume. Coastal areas are high traffic regions for human populations and activity.
With an increased volume, the oceans would then expand to cover and erode current
coastal regions destroying ecosystems and severely disrupting human housing and
Climate change has been a controversial topic for the past
few years. The IPCC panel functions to gather and synthesize climate related data
and research for the purpose of decision making by government officials. The three
independent Working Groups and Task Force work in conjunction to prepare and release
the Assessments used for this purpose. Even with the multilevel model for data collection
and synthesis, there are still questions surrounding bias and overly conservative
conclusions. These concerns aside, the IPCC is currently the most reliable and entrusted
source for current research regarding climate change and its ultimate effects on
humans and our ecosystems.
Changes in Temperature,
Sea Level, and Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Digital image.
Retrieved 2017, from http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4- wg1-spm.pdf
IPCC International Panel
on Climate Change. (2017). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from
Humans Affect Climate.
(2017, August 24). Retrieved 2017, from
Working Group I. (2017).
The Scientific Basis. Retrieved 2017, from