latest global evidence of the impact of climate change :: IPCC

Here’s my synthesis of the IPCC’s latest report, which came out 3 weeks ago. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is a group of scientists from around the world who have been analyzing climate change, its current and future impacts on our planet, and solutions.

And btw, with life as a business consultant…seems like |> SNAP <| and several weeks can pass me by, away from this blog. Onwards with better posting patterns! Especially with the next report due out May 4th in Bangkok, I’ll try to be ON IT! -A

Overall argument: More evidence continues to show that global warming is real and the impacts will be large and negative if solutions are not started soon.

Sub-points – I’ll focus on summarizing the points about future impact, and leave the solutions for future posts.

The evidence for humans’ role in global warming continues to accumulate. Of 75 studies that met basic criteria for relevance, 89% concluded that global warming is occurring. And the areas of temperature increase overlap strongly with areas where scientists have observed changes in physical and biological systems (See picture 1 below. This shows how increases in temperature (the redder regions) overlap with evidence of change in biological systems (green dots) and physical systems (blue dots)).



There are large impacts projected across 7 categories of life: fresh water, ecosystems, food / fiber / forest products, coastal systems, industry and society, and health. Picture 2 shows an overview of these impacts. The more left-ward an entry, the sooner it is likely to start with rising temperatures.


For instance:

Up to 1 billion people will be affected by a decreasing supply of fresh water from glaciers and snow.

Carbon-absorbing ecosytems (such as the ocean) will likely become saturated or less able to absorb carbon.

As many as 20-30% of plant and animal species could become extinct if temperatures rise more than 1.5 to 2.5 degrees C.

The global potential for food production will likely increase with temperature increases of 1-3 degrees C, but any warmer than this, and yields are predicted to decrease. Some food sources will suffer from the outset, especially lower-latitude crops, acquacultures, and fisheries.

Millions of people living near water are in danger of frequent floods and storms because of sea level rises and large swings in weather patterns.

Industries, settlements and societies nearest to coasts or flood plains are most exposed to changes from global warming. Particularly at risk are poor communities, who will have limited ability to adapt.

The major risks to health increase increased likelihood of death from disasters, from malnutrition, diarrheal disease, and from cardio-respiratory disease. I’m not quite sure why this last point – does anyone know? I should dig into this further…

Likely impacts by region:

Africa. People exposed to increased water stress by 2020: 75 to 250 million. Most likely types of stressors: decreased agricultural productivity and decreaseing access to food. Estimated cost of adaptation by 2100: 5 to 10% of GDP.

Asia. Glacier melts will cause flooding and increase avalanches in the short term, with longer-term decreases on river levels as they recede. Decreased access to freshwater could affect all but Northern Asia, approximately 1 billion people, by 2050. Increased risk of flooding in coastal areas. Risk of hunger projected to remain high, with an overall decrease in crop yields, while population growth continues to occur.

Australia and New Zealand. Risks of water shortage due to a lack of freshwater sources. Coastal development and risk of storms and floods by 2050s.

Europe. Already experiencing changes, including melting glaciers, heat waves and resulting deaths, longer growing seasons, etc… Likely to face negative affects across many dimensions.

Latin America. Key risks include decreased agricultural productivity, decreased forest surface areas, increased floods, decreased water availability. Ability to adapt = low-to-medium.

North America. Yields of some crops will increase in the short-term. Warming expected to decrease summer river flows due to increased snow melting.


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