Analysis

IPCC report: Climate change and the things people care about

  • 07 Apr 2014, 12:00
  • Professor Neil Adger

No place is immune to the impacts of climate change. This is the principal message from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The impacts of climate change will be felt in individual places such as in back gardens, homes, fields and cities and will likely make us feel less safe and secure. 

For the first time the IPCC examines in detail the impacts of climate change on well-being across the report, with a cluster of chapters on the topics of  health, human  security, and  poverty

Human security encapsulates the notion of the vital core of human lives and the ability of people to have freedom and the capacity to live with dignity. Human security has direct material elements, such as life and livelihood, but also elements of cultural expression and identity.

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IPCC says adapt and mitigate to tackle climate risks

  • 03 Apr 2014, 16:55
  • Roz Pidcock

The  front page article of today's Spectator claims the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has "updated" its position on climate change, to accept that "climate change is now a question of adaptation".

Author Matt Ridley suggests that this is such a departure from the UN climate panel's previous findings that its conclusions are now in line with those of climate skeptic lobbyist Lord Lawson.

Lawson stresses "the need to adapt to climate change, rather than throw public money at futile attempts to prevent it", according to Ridley, a fellow skeptic campaigner.

It's worth taking this with a pinch of salt. If the IPCC has said more about adaptation in the last week, it's because its most recent report is specifically about adaptation. That doesn't mean mitigation has been abandoned as Lord Lawson would like it to be - indeed, in a week's time the IPCC will publish another report dedicated to the mitigation he so scorns.

Heavy on adaptation

The crux of Ridley's argument is that adapting to climate change is given more prominence in the latest IPCC report than in past ones.

He says:

"[T]he document itself … emphasised, again and again, the need to adapt to climate change … Whereas the last report had two pages on adaptation, this one has four chapters."

In fact, there are six chapters which specifically mention adaptation in their titles in the new report, not four. The previous report in 2007 had two chapters, not two pages.

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Risk, resilience and honeybees: Scientists' views on the new IPCC report

  • 02 Apr 2014, 14:55
  • Roz Pidcock

Hundreds of scientists from more than 70 countries helped pull together the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Now it's published, here's what a few of them have to say about the report's messages, and what should happen now.

"No question" the risks are real ...

The IPCC report defines what the research community knows and doesn't know about climate change. Chris Field, co-chair of the group that produced the report, told journalists on Sunday:

"Our job is to represent the full range of scientific and technical views on this critically important issues. When the IPCC does a report, what you get is the community's position."

And the report is unequivocal on the fact that human interference with the climate system is already occurring. Field adds:

"We see impacts from the equator to the poles and from the coast to the mountains. There's no question we already live in a world that altered by climate change"

We're already seeing more frequent extreme weather, food and water shortages, shrinking glaciers and species migrations, the report says. And as climate economist, professor Nicholas Stern, points out:

"These are all happening after less than one degree centigrade of global warming."

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How much flooding is in the UK’s future? A look at the IPCC report

  • 02 Apr 2014, 13:00
  • Roz Pidcock

From posing a threat to natural ecosystems to damaging business, property and livelihoods, a report out this week from the UN's official climate body reviews the wide-ranging damages extreme flooding can cause.

With the UK currently dealing with the impact of widespread flooding, we look at what the report has to say about how serious a risk it could be in the future as the climate changes further.

Getting wetter

Last September, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a bumper assessment of how and why the climate is changing, including projections for how everything from rainfall to arctic sea ice is likely to change in the coming decades.

Scientists expect a warming world to lead to more extreme rainfall. The image below shows the UK receiving about 10 per cent more rainfall on average per year by 2100 (right) compared to 1986-2005 (left).

AR5_rainfall

The UK is set to see about a 10 per cent rise in annual average rainfall by 2100 (right) compared to the period 1985-2005 (left). Source: IPCC 5th Assessment Report  Sumary for Policymakers (p20).

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Calculating damages: How much will climate change cost?

  • 01 Apr 2014, 16:30
  • Roz Pidcock & Mat Hope

Today's Financial Times features professor Richard Tol's take on what a new UN report says about how much climate change could cost the world. But examining the report's summary reveals a list of reasons why the IPCC believes the costs are likely to be a lot higher.

With the launch of the latest IPCC report, a fair amount of attention has focused on what it says about how much climate change could cost in terms of GDP as temperatures rise.

In part, that's because a lead author of the economics chapter became quite vocal in his opinion that the IPCC's Summary for Policymakers (SPM) is too "alarmist".

In interviews for BBC and Sky News yesterday, Richard Tol - an economics professor at Sussex University - argued the SPM takes too much of a "four horseman of the apocalypse" tone.

Today, Tol has an  opinion piece in the Financial Times, headlined "Bogus prophecies of doom will not fix the climate".

Tol's take is that while climate change requires a response, reducing emissions has been over-prioritised. To make his case, he refers to a figure from the IPCC report for the cost of two degrees warming:

"According to Monday's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a further warming of two degrees could cause losses equivalent to 0.2 to two per cent of world gross domestic product."

In other words, Tol says,

"[H]alf a century of climate change is about as bad as losing one year of economic growth."

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Trees at risk, poverty pockets and the risk of tipping: five hidden stories about the impacts of climate change

  • 01 Apr 2014, 12:00
  • Robin Webster

The UN's much anticipated landmark report into the future impacts of climate change was finally  launched yesterday - covering everything from  fisheries to flooding. We've dug out five hidden stories you may have missed. 

Hundreds of scientists have collated all the available research investigating climate change's effect on natural systems and human societies around the world and put them together in a  summary report. Food prices will rise, security risks increase and the weather will get more extreme, the report  predicts. But not all the stories have made it onto the front pages

1. Don't be a tree   

A large fraction of both land-based and freshwater species face extinction risks as a result of temperature rise this century, according to yesterday's report - especially as climate change interacts with other stresses like  habitat destruction or over-exploitation, pollution and invasive species. 

The survival of many plant and animal species is already under  threat as a result of human activity. 

Only a few species have gone extinct so far as a result of the changing climate, the IPCC says - but as temperatures rise, this could soon change. 

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‘Climate change poses risks for human and natural systems’: Key quotes from the IPCC’s Working Group 2 report

  • 01 Apr 2014, 11:55
  • Roz Pidcock & Mat Hope

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a big report on the impacts of climate change yesterday. The report looked at everything from how climate change puts species and societies at risk, to what rising emissions may mean for marine life and extreme weather events.

We pick out some key quotes from the IPCC's Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers.

Impacts of climate change

"Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems"

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

"Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial level. Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4°C or more ... and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security"

"Climate-change impacts are expected to exacerbate poverty in most developing countries and create new poverty pockets in countries with increasing inequality, in both developed and developing countries."

Food production & security

"All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food access, utilization, and price stability (high confidence)."

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

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The IPCC's report on the impacts of climate change: a summary for everyone

  • 31 Mar 2014, 13:30
  • Ros Donald

Peter Blanchard/Flickr

Today an international group of hundreds of  climate scientists released a report on how climate change will affect the world, and what might be done to adapt to it.

The story so far

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the second of three reports. It updates the panel's last bumper report, released in 2007.

Scientists know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, meaning it traps heat in the atmosphere and oceans.

Over time, scientists have come to understand more about how gases like carbon dioxide, emitted when people burn fossil fuels like oil and gas, affect the climate.  

The first instalment of the IPCC's report, released last September, says scientists are more sure than ever - 95 per cent certain - that humans are causing extra warming. And as a result, oceans, land and atmosphere are getting warmer, snow and ice is melting and sea levels are rising.

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

  • 31 Mar 2014, 12:30
  • Roz Pidcock

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.

We're already feeling the impacts of climate change

That the planet is warming is not in doubt. Global temperature has risen by  0.85 degrees  over the industrial period (1880 to date). We're already seeing the impacts of this amount of warming over much of the land and oceans.

The Summary for Policymakers ( SPM) says some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2°C above preindustrial levels and that further warming will "increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts."

Greater confidence in the extent and pace of climate change since the last assessment report comes from having more data and new ways of analysing earlier measurements.

Our weather will get more extreme

Climate change is already leading to more hot days and nights and fewer cold days and nights. Heatwaves have become more common and more intense in the last half century.

In general, wet places are set to get wetter, and dry places to get drier. Some parts of the world are already seeing more frequent and more serious drought, leading to a reduction in water availability.

In other regions, changing rainfall patterns and melting glaciers are altering river flow, causing a rise in flooding. The SPM says:

"The fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity and the fraction affected by major river floods increase with the level of warming in the 21st century."

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Carbon briefing: changing views on biofuels reflected in forthcoming climate report

  • 26 Mar 2014, 11:15
  • Robin Webster

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s new report, due to be launched next week, is likely to give a new and updated perspective on biofuels - reflecting a flood of research on their impact on natural systems in past years. 

The UN-created body launched its last major report back in 2007. At that time, the idea of using plant based crops as a replacement for fossil fuels was largely viewed as an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. 

But soon afterstudies began emerging in the scientific literature that challenged this idea. They suggested biofuels could damage the environment, drive up  food prices, or even increase  greenhouse gas emissions

Biofuels in the the IPCC's Fourth Assessment

Back in 2007, the IPCC  identified transport biofuels as a "key mitigation strategy". They "might" play an important role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector, it said. 

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