The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and the world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also asserts that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage as warming continues to increase.
“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,” said Chris Field, co-chair of Working Group II. “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.”
The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. The report was produced by 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors and review editors from 70 countries, with the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.
IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said: “The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risks of climate change. Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate challenge but the options for solutions.”
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The Working Group I report was released in September 2013, and the Working Group III report will be released in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.
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 in communities worldwide, regardless of location, climate or socioeconomic status. Organizations are beginning to take steps to address climate-related risks, but mostly on a reactive, rather than a proactive, basis, according to Field.
“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.”
The report identifies vulnerable people, industries and ecosystems around the world; finds that climate-related risks come from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends); and argues that each component provides the basis for smart actions to decrease risk.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of Working Group II. “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.”
“The IPCC’s reports are some of the most ambitious scientific undertakings in human history, and I am humbled by and grateful for the contributions of everyone who make them possible," Pachauri said.