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IPCC Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability - headlines

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Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Press Release, IPCC
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. 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...

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,” 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.”...

Link to Summary for Policymakers
Link to full report
(31 March 2014)

5-minute redux of key findings from the IPCC report on climate change impacts

Energydesk staff, Greenpeace
The world’s leading climate scientists have delivered their latest assessment on how climate change is affecting our planet and us, and what’s ahead.

In more than 2,000 pages and 30 chapters, the report by the UN climate panel (IPCC) goes into many fine details - from the impact on coffee beans and tourism to the possibility of civil war.

Here are some key quotes from the summary for policymakers:

1. Climate change is happening now - here, there and everywhere

“In recent decades changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”

“Observed impacts of climate change are widespread and substantial.”

“Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, and abundance, and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change (high confidence).”

“Based on many studies covering a broad range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts (high confidence)...
(31 March 2014)

Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come

Justin Gillis, New York Times
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported Monday, and they warned that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control...

And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said in the second of three reports that are expected to carry considerable weight next year as nations try to agree on a new global climate treaty. In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at considerable risk — a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations...

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private...
(30 March 2014)

Conservative Climate Panel Warns World Faces ‘Breakdown Of Food Systems’ And More Violent Conflict

Joe Romm, Climate Progress
As grim as the Working Group 2 report on impacts is, it explicitly has very little to say about the catastrophic impacts and vulnerability in the business as usual case where the Earth warms 4°C to 5°C [7°F-9°F] — and it has nothing to say about even higher warming, which the latest science suggests we are headed toward.

The report states:

“Relatively few studies have considered impacts on cropping systems for scenarios where global mean temperatures increase by 4°C [7°F] or more.
“… few quantitative estimates [of global annual economic losses] have been completed for additional warming around 3°C [5.4°F] or above.”

D’oh! You may wonder why hundreds of the world leading climate experts spend years and years doing climate science and climate projections, but don’t bother actually looking at the impacts of merely staying on our current carbon pollution emissions path — let alone looking at the plausible worst-case scenario (which is typically the basis for risk-reducing public policy, such as military spending). Partly it’s because, until recently, climate scientists had naively expected the world to act with a modicum of sanity and avoid at all costs catastrophic warming of 7°F let alone the unimaginable 10°F (or higher) warming we are headed toward. Partly it’s because, as a recent paper explained, “climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions.”

On top of the overly cautious nature of most climate scientists, we have the overly cautious nature of the IPCC. As the New York Times explained when the IPCC released the Working Group 1 report last fall: “The I.P.C.C. is far from alarmist — on the contrary, it is a highly conservative organization,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose papers on sea level were among those that got discarded. “That is not a problem as long as the users of the I.P.C.C. reports are well aware of this. The conservatism is built into its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree.” That’s why the latest report is full of these sorts of bombshells couched in euphemism and buried deep in the text:

By 2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including growing food or working outdoors.

Yes, “compromise.” A clearer word would be “obliterate.” And the “high-emission scenario RCP8.5″ — an atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of about 936 parts per million — is in fact where we are headed by 2100 or soon thereafter on our current do-little path.

Bottom line: We are at risk of making large parts of the planet’s currently arable and populated land virtually uninhabitable for much of the year — and irreversibly so for hundreds of years...
(30 March 2014)

Big impacts: The main messages from today’s big UN climate report

Roz Pidcock, Carbon Brief
A landmark new report on climate change came out earlier today, looking at the impact of past and future warming on ecosystems and human society. Here's our rundown of the report's main messages, on everything from fisheries to flooding.

The most visible impacts are on the natural world

Warming is causing marine and terrestrial species to alter their seasonal behaviour and to migrate into new geographical territories. As surface waters warm, fish and invertebrates are moving towards the poles or into deeper water in search of cooler temperatures.

Redistribution of fish populations will have consequences for food security and livelihoods in regions that depend on marine resources. Falling productivity, ocean acidification and overfishing will all contribute to the declining health of the oceans out to 2100.

If species can't move or adapt fast enough, this will lead to local extinctions. The SPM says:

"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".

Ecosystems under pressure may cross critical thresholds known as "tipping points", leading to abrupt and drastic changes. The precise point at which tipping points are triggered is uncertain, but there are already early warning signs of the Arctic and coral reef systems undergoing irreversible regime shifts...
(31 March 2014)

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