The impacts of climate change, in three charts: A visual summary of the IPCC's Working Group 2 report
- 31 Mar 2014, 10:20
- Mat Hope
The latest instalment of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s
big report on the
impacts of climate change is chock-full of
information. To help readers wade through it all, the IPCC's
scientists have condensed some of it into handy charts, graphs, and
We pick three of the most intriguing from the IPCC's Working
Summary for Policymakers.
From drought, to flooding and wildfires, the IPCC estimates
climate change will have some significant impacts. This map
illustrates where it expects them to hit.
Each symbol on the map represents a different impact. If the
symbols are filled in, it means climate change is thought to have a
major contribution to the problem.
If they're empty, it means climate change is thought to make a
minor contribution. The small dashes indicate the level of
confidence the IPCC has about the findings (with five dashes
meaning confidence is "very high", and one dash meaning it's "very
As the map shows, the IPCC expects climate change to have a
major impact on glaciers, snow and ice in all regions (excluding
It's also expected to have a major effect on rivers, lakes,
floods, and drought in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the
Arctic. Rising temperatures affect rainfall patterns and the rate
at which snow and ice melts and glaciers retreat, the IPCC
In addition to this, climate change is expected to have a minor
impact on food production. Recent food and cereal price rises
"indicate a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes",
the report says.
A range of species are at risk as climate change hits their
habitats, the report says. Many species will be "unable to track
suitable climates under mid- and high-range rates of climate
change", the IPCC suggests.
Each white bar on the chart above shows how quickly a species'
group can migrate as their natural habitats change from 2050 to
2090. The thick black bar shows the median - or average - speed at
which the IPCC estimates they can move in the absence of human
The coloured lines relate to the IPCC's emission scenarios,
known as Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP). The RCP
numbers relate to how quickly each scenario envisages the climate
changing, with higher numbers meaning faster rates of change.
If the thick black bars are below the coloured line, it means
scientists don't think the species will be able to migrate fast
enough to escape to more suitable habitats.
As the chart shows, all but split-hoofed mammals -
such as horses, deer and moose - are projected to be too slow to be
able to escape the impacts of climate change on their habitats in
flat areas under the IPCC's highest estimated rate of climate
Trees and herbs are at the most risk. It's likely they'll need
human intervention to help them adapt in all but the lowest
estimate of climate change.
Climate change is expected to significantly change crop yields
in the coming decades, putting a strain on food production, the
The IPCC estimates climate change will reduce average crop
yields by between zero and two per cent per decade for the rest of
the century, at the same time as demand increases by about 14 per
cent per decade. That could put a strain on food production in some
areas, the IPCC adds - particularly in poor regions.
One degree of warming above pre-industrial levels will mean
lower wheat, rice, and maize harvests on average in some regions,
it claims. Because conditions won't change in the same way
everywhere, some areas may experience increased yields as the
climate changes, the IPCC says.
The graph above shows when climate change might affect crops if
there is no effort to adapt to changing conditions.
The colour of the bars relates to whether or not yields will
increase (shades of blue) or decrease (the yellow blocks). Each bar
represents a 29 year period. The size of the block shows how many
of the studies reviewed in the IPCC report predict the changes.
The graph shows that crop yields are expected to decrease at a
quicker rate than they increase in other areas, over the coming
The IPCC's latest report says climate change will leave its mark
"on all continents and across the oceans".
In making policymakers aware of the impacts, the
scientists hope they can help them start to plan for the impacts of
climate change - as well as taking action to cut emissions.