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In contrast to its Assessment Reports, less is known about the social science processes through which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces methodologies for greenhouse gas emissions reporting. This limited attention is problematic, as these greenhouse gas inventories are critical components for identifying, justifying, and adjudicating national-level mitigation commitments. We begin to fill this gap by descriptively assessing, drawing on data triangulation that incorporates ecological and political analysis, the historical process for developing emissions guidelines. Our systematic descriptive efforts highlight processes and structures through which inventories might become disconnected from the latest peer-reviewed environmental science. To illustrate this disconnect, we describe the IPCC guideline process, outlining themes that may contribute to discrepancies, such as diverging logics and timeframes, discursive power, procedural lock-in, resource constraints, organizational interests, and complexity. The themes reflect challenges to greenhouse gas inventories themselves, as well as broader challenges to integrating climate change science and policy.