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SCAR provides objective and independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and other organisations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  SCAR identifies issues emerging from greater scientific understanding of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region and brings them to the attention of policy makers.

SCAR's interest in climate change science has increased considerably in the last decade or so, in part as a consequence of growing concern that anthropogenic influence on the carbon cycle is becoming evident from monitoring climate, ice and ocean in the Antarctic region. In addition, it is now clear that a knowledge of the history of the region on time scales from millennia to millions of years is becoming increasingly relevant in assessing future ice and climate behaviour.

SCAR is an official Observer to the UNFCCC and sometimes uses the Observer status of its parent organisation, the International Science Council (ISC), to attend relevant working group or other meetings of the IPCC