All posts by Valerie Fritts

Latest IPCC Report Sharpens Focus on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema, @kellysikkema

February 28, 2022 - The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released today its Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report. This Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report attributes the more frequent and intense weather and climate events and their resulting adverse impacts to human-induced climate change. National delegates from 195 countries have approved the contents of this report, the second in a series of four reports.

This report, which details the work of over 270 scientists, explains that severe consequences of climate change are already being experienced through unprecedented heat waves, rising sea levels, record-breaking wildfires, and other extreme events, but that adaptation measures can serve to make vulnerable communities more resilient to these impacts. The report, using climate models and analysis, attributes human system and ecosystem impacts to climate change, with varying degrees of confidence depending on the impact, region, and geographic area.

Observed impacts of climate change on ecosystems and human systems worldwide

Figure SPM.2: IPCC WGII Sixth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers (SPM), p. 10

Adopting new approaches to adaptation will require cross-sector collaboration

The IPCC emphasizes the need for the transition from piecemeal adaptation measures to the adoption of carefully-planned and wide-sweeping adaptation strategies, which will require collaboration among sectors, to address climate change on a global scale.

In response to the report’s findings, BCSE President Lisa Jacobson said, “it remains more important than ever for the U.S. and international community to enact legislation that incentivizes global action on mitigation and adaptation.”

Jacobson further stated the willingness of the private sector to act, “U.S. energy efficiency, natural gas, and renewable energy businesses are working to provide the technologies that will enable the clean energy transition and a more resilient world.”

The Panel’s key findings, with high or very high confidence, include:

Additional findings, with high or very high confidence, as reported by the Panel include:

  • Climate change has already altered terrestrial, freshwater and ocean ecosystems at global scale, with multiple impacts evident at regional and local scales.
  • Climate change has already had diverse impacts on human systems, including on water security and food production, health and well-being, and cities, settlements and infrastructure.
  • Infrastructure, including transportation, water, sanitation and energy systems have been compromised by extreme and slow-onset events, with resulting economic losses, disruptions of services and impacts to wellbeing. Economic damages from climate change have been detected in climate-exposed sectors, with regional effects to agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy, and tourism. Some extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones, have reduced economic growth in the short-term.
  • Climate change impacts on health are mediated through natural and human systems, including economic and social conditions and disruptions. Climate change including increases in frequency and intensity of extremes have reduced food and water security, hindering efforts to meet Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Climate change is contributing to humanitarian crises where climate hazards interact with high vulnerability. Climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in all regions, with small island states disproportionately affected.
  • Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. The level of risk will depend on concurrent near-term trends in vulnerability, exposure, level of socioeconomic development and adaptation.
  • The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.
  • Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions.
  • There are feasible and effective adaptation options which can reduce risks to people and nature. The feasibility of implementing adaptation options in the near-term differs across sectors and regions. The effectiveness of adaptation to reduce climate risk is documented for specific contexts, sectors and regions and will decrease with increasing warming. Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequities, differentiate responses based on climate risk and cut across systems, increase the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation in multiple sectors.
  • There is increased evidence of maladaptation across many sectors and regions since the AR5. Maladaptive responses to climate change can create lock-ins of vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult and expensive to change and exacerbate existing inequalities. Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive and long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions with benefits to many sectors and systems.

The IPCC will release an additional report in March of 2022 detailing its proposed solutions and advocating for the adoption of adaptation strategies and mitigation approaches. The IPCC will also issue a final report synthesizing all findings following the release of the March 2022 report.

The full IPCC report, as well as the summary for policymakers and the technical summary can be found at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2.

About the Author: Valerie Fritts is the BCSE's 2021 Jan Schori Fellow.

6th IPCC Physical Science Basis Report Shows Narrow Window for 1.5C Future

The 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Physical Science Basis report released Monday, August 9th emphasizes the extremely narrow path currently available to limit warming global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Government officials from 195 countries have approved the contents of the report.

As compared to the fifth edition of the report released in 2013, which stated warming was “extremely likely” a result of human activities, the new sixth edition said, “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans, and land.”

The science attributing climate change to human activity is clear. The report states that since the release of the 2013 report: “human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened.”

This report details the work of thousands of scientists and represents a review of the body of scientific literature on the topics it covers. It includes modeling of possible future climates and interactive maps demonstrating how climate will vary based on geographic region, specifically showing increasing rainfall in the Eastern United States and continued increasing drought conditions in the Western United States.

In response to these findings, BCSE President Lisa Jacobson said “Congress and President Biden must enact federal policy to drive this transition on the timeline called for by the scientific community in this report – starting with the bipartisan infrastructure framework.”

“Since the last IPCC Physical Science Basis report was released in 2013, scientists have made significant progress on measuring and projecting the impacts of climate change,” Jacobson said. “The sixth edition released today shows that we have a very small window of opportunity to stop global climate change at 1.5C of warming. It reinforces that 2C or more of warming would be exponentially worse for our planet and civilization.”

Jacobson also commented on the availability of technologies to address climate change, saying, “U.S. energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy businesses are dedicated to enabling the necessary energy transition with clean energy and energy efficiency technologies that support an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system.”

The IPCC will release further reports in February and March of 2022 with information on expected impacts, vulnerabilities, adaptation strategies, and mitigation approaches due to, or in response to, climate change. The IPCC will also release a final report synthesizing all findings following the release of the February and March 2022 reports.

The New York Times and Bloomberg News published summaries of the report’s findings. Key results from the report include:

  • Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. Global surface temperature in the first two decades of the 21st century (2001-2020) was 0.99 [0.84- 1.10] °C higher than 1850-19009.
  • With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers. Changes in several climatic impact-drivers would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.
  • Human influence is attributed to several climatic impacts:
    • Human influence is very likely the main driver of the global retreat of glaciers since the 1990s and the decrease in Arctic sea ice area between 1979–1988 and 2010–2019.
    • Human influence has likely increased the chance of compound extreme events since the 1950s. This includes increases in the frequency of concurrent heatwaves and droughts on the global scale; fire weather in some regions of all inhabited continents; and compound flooding in some locations.
    • It is virtually certain that the global upper ocean (0–700 m) has warmed since the 1970s and extremely likely that human influence is the main driver.
    • It is virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of current global acidification of the surface open ocean.
  • In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years (high confidence), and concentrations of CH4 and N2O were higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years.
  • From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in methane (CH4) emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality.

 

The full IPCC report, as well as the summary for policymakers and the technical summary can be found at Sixth Assessment Report (ipcc.ch).