GRID Polar Division News

IPCC report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

March 2014 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released the result of two decades of work on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in what will constitute the second part of its future Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

The work reveals that the effects of climate change are already felt in “natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans” with great uncertainties about future vulnerability, and evaluates how to reduce the future risks through adaptation and mitigation.

The key concerns raised by the report include:

  • Threats to human health from increased heat waves, flooding, and spreading of water-borne illnesses and disease vectors;
  • Insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water;
  • Damages to infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services, due to extreme weather events;
  • Impact on food security, including lower crop yields caused by droughts, flooding, and changes in precipitation patterns; and damage to fisheries due to ocean acidification;
  • Loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and the goods and services they provide, as well as changes in species distribution and seasonal activities, leading to disrupted livelihoods.

While effects are felt worldwide, some populations are more vulnerable than others. In the low-lying coastal areas and small islands, for instance, millions of people are facing relocation due to sea-level-rise and increased storm surges.

The Arctic is also particularly sensitive because:

  • Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts;
  • Ocean acidification poses especially substantial risks to polar marine ecosystems, and the Arctic communities that rely on fishing are to be particularly affected by the loss of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity;
  • Permafrost melt is creating infrastructure instability;
  • The Arctic-sea-ice system has limited adaptive capacity and is thus especially subject to very high risk with additional warming of 2˚C;
  • The melting of the ice-sheet loss has the potential to cause large and irreversible sea-level-rise (the Greenland ice-sheet alone could contribute 7 meters to sea level if it were to melt nearly entirely);
  • The boreal-tundra Arctic system is susceptible to lose to the atmosphere the vast amounts of carbon stored in its permafrost, with the potential for substantial impact on climate.

The report emphasizes that adaptation is key. Luckily experience is accumulating worldwide, while governments are developing adaptation plans, and climate-change is being integrated into broader development plans.



Read more related news on the blog of the International Center for Reindeer Husbandry

Tuesday 22 Apr 2014