The United Nations scientific panel on climate change today presented its latest report on the impacts of climate change, society's vulnerability to them, and the capacity and limits to adapt to the changing climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report finds clear evidence that climate change is already having substantial and widespread impacts today but says strong and urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can reduce the risk of such impacts in the future.
The report's key findings include:
- In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. People, places, assets and ecosystems in countries around the world, irrespective of their wealth, are vulnerable and exposed to climate change, in different ways.
- The impacts of recent extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires, have highlighted that ecosystems and human systems are highly vulnerable and exposed to climate variability. Extreme weather events currently have significant impacts in Europe across many economic sectors, as well as impacts on society and health. Climate change is very likely to increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves, particularly in southern Europe, with implications for health, agriculture, forestry, energy production and use, transport, tourism, labour productivity and the built environment.
- 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. Sea level rise and increases in extreme rainfall are projected to further raise coastal and river flood risk in Europe and, without adaptation to climate change, will substantially increase flood damage.
- Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. Unmitigated climate change poses great risks to human health, global food security, and economic development. Significant impacts are projected to occur throughout the 21st century that will affect freshwater resources, biodiversity, the provision of ecosystems goods and services, major crops and food security, and human health.
- The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and magnitude of climate change. Reducing climate change can also reduce the scale of adaptation that might be required.
- Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near-term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21st century. Strong and urgent action to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can substantially lower the risks of climate-change impacts in the second half of this century. We will also need to adapt to those impacts over the next few decades and beyond that can no longer be avoided.
The report by IPCC Working Group II brings together the latest knowledge on the impacts of climate change, the vulnerability and exposure of humans and the natural world to these impacts, and adaptation to climate change. The report is the second of four reports that together will form the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. The first report, on the physical science basis of climate change, was finalised last September.
The new report is the most comprehensive ever written on this subject and draws on a substantially larger body of scientific, technical and socioeconomic evidence than the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007. It provides a strengthened body of evidence on observed impacts and future risks of climate change, including expanded coverage of different regions and sectors of society.
The IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to the understanding of climate change. Its assessment reports represent the consensus among thousands of scientists worldwide and are based on peer-reviewed and published scientific and technical literature covering multiple lines of analysis and datasets. For its Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice-President Al Gore.