Climate Change – The coming impact upon us all – New report available


ipcclogoThere is a new part of the AR5 report that is now available from the UN’s international panel of experts, the IPCC, who have been charged with looking into climate change.

In fact, here below is how the actual timeline for the AR5 working groups, so as you can see from the chart below, what we are getting now is the output from Working Group II who met in Yokohama – in other words, this is not everything, there is more to come for AR5. I was earlier listing to somebody on the BBC explain that this was “the” report and the latest in five year. Actually no, it just does not work like that at all, this is just the output from one working group who were tasked with a specific focus.

So here is how it all hangs together.

The Working Group Reports and Synthesis Report will be completed in 2013/2014. The Fifth Assessment Report will be considered by the Panel according to the following timetable:

Working Group I (Stockholm, Sweden) 23-26 September 2013
Working Group II (Yokohama, Japan) 25-29 March 2014
Working Group III (Berlin, Germany) 7-11 April 2014
(IPCC will meet for other business on 12 April 2014)
Synthesis Report (Copenhagen, Denmark) 27-31 October 2014

Oh interesting, so where can I find the actual output from Working Group II?

The Summary for Policymakers is available here and the unedited accepted Final Draft Report is available here.

So what is this latest update be all about?

Well, each of the different IPCC working groups have a distinctly different focus and these breakdown as follows

  • Working Group I: The Science of Climate Change
  • Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
  • Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change
  • and a Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Inventories

So obviously this specific one will focus on the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. In other words, what are the risks and opportunities for societies, economies, and ecosystems around the world as Climate change happens?

And what does this latest report tell us?

There is lots to dig through, so much so that even the “summary” runs to 44 pages.

But the quick short sound bite is that this report says that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

So how many were involved in this?

A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

Conclusions?

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.

“We live in an era of man-made climate change, In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.” – Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II

Adaptation to reduce the risks from a changing climate is now starting to occur, but with a stronger focus on reacting to past events than on preparing for a changing future, according to Chris Field, Co-Chair of Working Group II.

“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried. Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation,” Field said. “This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.” – Chris Field

Future risks from a changing climate depend strongly on the amount of future climate change. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe and pervasive impacts that may be surprising or irreversible.

“With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits,” – Chris Field.

Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods. The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.

“The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk,” Chris Field

Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks, Barros noted. “Part of the reason adaptation is so important is that the world faces a host of risks from climate change already baked into the climate system, due to past emissions and existing infrastructure,” said Barros.

Field added: “Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond.”

One further observation

The hundreds of scientists and experts who worked on this volunteered their time to produce the report, they were not paid, but rather freely contributed. If we move forward with a clearer understanding, then we have a real chance of making a huge different to the lives of millions who will be adversely impacted – this enterprise is not a commercial one, but rather is about our survival and our future.

Links

  • IPCC
  • The WGII Summary for Policymakers is available here
  • The unedited accepted Final Draft Report from WGII is available here.
  • Guardian news story on this latest update is available here, it is worth a read and gets into some of the specific findings.

30 Sound bites extracted from the report summary

  1. Compared to past WGII reports, the WGII AR5 assesses a substantially larger knowledge base of relevant scientific, technical, and socioeconomic literature. The number of scientific publications available for assessing climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, with especially rapid increases in publications related to adaptation. Authorship of climate-change publications from developing countries has increased, although it still represents a small fraction of the total
  2. In many regions, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality
  3. Climate change is causing permafrost warming and thawing in high-latitude regions and in high-elevation regions
  4. Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances, and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change
  5. Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts
  6. Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability
  7. Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty
  8. Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change
  9. Governments at various levels are starting to develop adaptation plans and policies and to integrate climate-change considerations into broader development plans.
  10. Responding to climate-related risks involves decision-making in a changing world, with continuing uncertainty about the severity and timing of climate-change impacts and with limits to the effectiveness of adaptation
  11. Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near-term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century
  12. Uncertainties about future vulnerability, exposure, and responses of interlinked human and natural systems are large
  13. Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.
  14. The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change
  15. Climate change over the 21st century is projected to reduce renewable surface water and groundwater resources significantly in most dry subtropical regions
  16. A large fraction of both terrestrial and freshwater species faces increased extinction risk under projected climate change during and beyond the 21st century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors, such as habitat modification, over-exploitation, pollution, and invasive species
  17. Due to sea-level rise projected throughout the 21st century and beyond, coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion
  18. Due to projected climate change by the mid 21st century and beyond, global marine-species redistribution and marine-biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services
  19. For medium- to high-emission scenarios (RCP4.5, 6.0, and 8.5), ocean acidification poses substantial risks to marine ecosystems, especially polar ecosystems and coral reefs, associated with impacts on the physiology, behavior, and population dynamics of individual species from phytoplankton to animals
  20. For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production
  21. All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability
  22. Global economic impacts from climate change are difficult to estimate
  23. Until mid-century, projected climate change will impact human health mainly by exacerbating health problems that already exist
  24. Climate change over the 21st century is projected to increase displacement of people
  25. Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps
  26. Adaptation is place and context specific, with no single approach for reducing risks appropriate across all settings
  27. Adaptation planning and implementation can be enhanced through complementary actions across levels, from individuals to governments
  28. A first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability
  29. Greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits
  30. Transformations in economic, social, technological, and political decisions and actions can enable climate-resilient pathways



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