Greenpeace Summary of IPCC WGII Impacts Report Summary for Policy Makers Bill Hare and Kitsy McMullen, Greenpeace International 18th February Climate change is already having an impact IPCC Working Group II has found that warming in the last few decades is already having an effect on natural systems: “Thus, from the collective evidence there is high confidence that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems". This finding follows from the recent findings of the IPCC Working Group I on the Science of Climate Change that: “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” Potential for Large Scale and Irreversible Impacts The report finds that that greenhouse gas increases over the next century could trigger large scale and irreversible impacts. These events may not be likely to occur in the next century but there is a significant likelihood that they could be triggered by human activities in the next 100 years. Amongst these risks are: The slowing down or stopping of the ocean’s thermohaline circulation. Melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, which could lead to up to 3 metres of sea level rise each over the next 1000 years and “submerge many small islands and inundate extensive coastal areas.” The melting of the ice sheets couldbe triggered by human induced warming within the next century. In relation to the Greenland Ice Sheet, IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policy Makers found that: “Climate models indicate that the local warming over Greenland is likely to be 1 to 3 times the global average. Ice sheet models project that a local warming of larger than 3ºC, if sustained for millennia, would lead to virtually a complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet with a resulting sea level rise of about 7 metres. A local warming of 5.5ºC, if sustained for 1000 years, would be likely to result in a contribution from Greenland of about 3 metres to sea level rise. On the West Antarctic Ice Sheet the WGI report found that: “Current ice dynamic models suggest that the West Antarctic ice sheet could contribute up to 3 metres to sea level rise over the next 1000 years, but such results are strongly dependent on model assumptions regarding climate change scenarios, ice dynamics and other factors.” Acceleration of global warming caused by releases of carbon to the atmosphere from forest disturbance which is itself caused by climate change. Releases of terrestrial carbon caused by the melting permafrost and releases of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the decomposition of hydrates under coastal sediments on the sea bed “would further increase greenhouse gas concentrations and amplify climate change”. The timing of the triggering of these events are uncertain but their likelihood increases with the rate, magnitude and duration of climate change. Developing Countries most at risk The report finds that developing countries are most at risk from climate change. Global increases in temperature would produce net economic losses in many developing countries for all magnitudes of warming and these losses would be greater the higher the warming. "The effects of climate change are expected to be greatest in developing countries in terms of loss of life and relative effects on investment and the economy. For example, the relative percentage damages to GDP from climate extremes have been substantially greater in developing countries than in developed countries.” Another finding is that: “The projected distribution of economic impacts is such that it would increase the disparity in well-being between developed countries and developing countries, with disparity growing for higher projected temperature increases (medium confidence).” There was a long discussion at the Plenary on Paragraph 17 of the Draft SPM over the issue of whether or not it could be said that developed countries could benefit from a small amount of warming. Paragraph 17 of the Draft SPM stated: (I 7) Nevertheless, the published estimates indicate that increases in global mean temperature would produce economic losses in many developing countries for all magnitudes of warming studied, and that the losses would be greater in magnitude the higher the level of warming (medium confidence). In many developed countries, economic gains are projected for global mean temperature increases up to roughly 2oC (medium confidence). Mixed or neutral net effects are projected in developed countries for temperature increases in the approximate range of 2 to 3oC, and losses for larger temperature increases (medium confidence). The projected distribution of economic impacts is such that it would increase the disparity in well being between developed countries and developing countries, with the disparity growing with higher temperatures (see Figure SPM-1). The more damaging impacts estimated for developing countries reflects, in part, their lesser adaptive capacity relative to developed countries, exposure to more adverse water runoff changes for many of these countries, and present day temperatures in the tropics and subtropics that are already near the maximum tolerances of some crops. [7.2.4] After substantial discussion and cross-checking with the literature reported in the underlying Chapters this finding was significantly re-cast both in its conclusions and in the level of confidence attached to this: “Not with standing the limitations expressed above, based on a few published estimates, increases in global mean temperatures would produce net economic losses in many developing countries for all magnitudes of warming studied (low confidence 6 ), and losses would be greater in magnitude the higher the level of warming (medium confidence'). In contrast an increase in global mean temperature of up to a few degrees C would produce a mixture of economic gains and losses in developed countries (low confidence 6), with economic losses for larger temperature increases (medium confidence 6). The projected distribution of economic impacts is such that it would increase the disparity in well-being between developed countries and developing countries, with disparity growing for higher projected temperature increases (medium confidence'). The more damaging impacts estimated for developing countries reflects, in part their lesser adaptive capacity relative to developed countries. [7.2.3]” The final emphasis on the mixture of economic losses and gains reflected a feeling that presenting net aggregate figures was misleading as it did not say who would benefit and who would lose. From the studies cited it was clear than even for low levels of warming there were developed countries that would suffer net losses and within countries significant sectors would lose whilst others gained. Similarly the level of confidence was downgraded after review of the studies underlying the draft SPM statements. More people projected to be harmed than benefited even for small warming "More people are projected to be harmed than benefited by climate change, even for global mean temperature increases of less than a few degrees." Ecosystems and species at risk The report finds that many natural systems are at risk. These include glaciers, polar and alpine ecosystems, boreal and tropical forests, coral reefs and atolls, mangrove and “biodiversity hot spots”. Extensive Regional Impacts Identified Africa The impacts of climate change threaten large populations of Africa already struggling for sustainable development. “Grain yields are projected to decrease for many scenarios, diminishing food security, particularly in small food-importing countries (medium-high confidence).” In a region already facing the effects of AIDS and malnutrition, climate change will foster the expansion of a host of infectious diseases. “Extension of ranges of infectious disease vectors would adversely affect human health in Africa (medium confidence).” Floods, famine, and refugee migrations are very likely as climate change tips the balance in overburdened regions of the African continent. “Increases in droughts, floods, and other extreme events would add to stresses on water resources, food security, human health, and infrastructures, and would constrain development in Africa (high confidence).” As climate change grips Africa and vital ecosystems wither, some of the richest biodiversity on Earth is likely to disappear. “Significant extinctions of plant and animal species are projected and would impact rural livelihoods, tourism, and genetic resources (medium confidence).” Asia Climate change is already being experienced across the Asian continent “Extreme events have increased in temperate and tropical Asia, including floods, droughts, forest fires, and tropical cyclones (high confidence).” Climate change is likely to bring disruption and instability to millions of people in Asia. “Decreases in agricultural productivity and aquaculture due to thermal and water stress, sea level-rise, floods and droughts, and tropical cyclones would diminish food security in many countries of arid, tropical, and temperate Asia; agriculture would expand and increase in productivity in northern areas (medium confidence). In the most densely populated regions of the world, climate change is likely to intensify threats from infectious disease. “Human health would be threatened by possible increased exposure to vector- borne infectious diseases and heat stress in parts of Asia (medium confidence).” Mega-cities and densely populated areas along the Pacific and Indian Ocean coastlines are caught between the threats of sea level rise and river flooding from increased upstream precipitation. “Sea level rise and an increase in intensity of tropical cyclones would displace tens of millions of people in low- lying coastal areas of temperate and tropical Asia; increased intensity of rainfall would increase flood risks in temperate and tropical Asia (high confidence)”. The combined effects of accelerating climate change and land-use pressures are fragmenting and likely to significantly damage Asian ecosystems that comprise some of the richest biodiversity on Earth. “Climate change would exacerbate threats to biodiversity due to land-use and land-cover change and population pressure in Asia (medium confidence). Sea level rise would put ecological security at risk, including mangroves and coral reefs (high confidence).” The Executive Summary of the Chapter on Asia reports that “Many species of mammals and birds could be exterminated as a result of the synergistic effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation.” Australia and New Zealand Despite the hopes that climate change will be a help for some crops in Australia and New Zealand, any short-term gains for some crops in some regions are likely to be overwhelmed by other regional losses and long term damages. “The net impact on some temperate crops of climate and CO2 changes may initially be beneficial, but this balance is expected to become negative for some areas and crops with further climate change (medium confidence).” Droughts and fires will be even more common and water more valuable as great portions of Australia dry up. “Water is likely to be a key issue (high confidence) due to projected drying trends over much of the region and change to a more El Nino-like average state.” Threats from extreme events are likely to change the lives of many Australians. “Increases in the intensity of heavy rains and tropical cyclones (medium confidence), and region-specific changes in the frequency of tropical cyclones, would alter the risks to life, property, and ecosystems from flooding, storm surges, and wind damage.” The unique biological evolutionary line that has evolved in Australia and New Zealand over millions of years, as well as some of the richest biodiversity on Earth could be devastated by climate change. “Some species with restricted climatic niches and which are unable to migrate due to fragmentation of the landscape, soil differences, or topography could become endangered or extinct (high confidence). Australian ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to climate change include coral reefs, arid and semi- arid habitats in southwest and inland Australia and Australian alpine systems. Freshwater wetlands in coastal zones in both Australia and New Zealand are vulnerable, and some New Zealand ecosystems are vulnerable to accelerated invasion by weeds.” Europe Glaciers and distribution of permafrost are sensitive indicators of climate change. In Europe they are both shrinking at na unprecedented rate. “Half of alpine glaciers and large permafrost areas could disappear by the end of the 21st century (medium confidence).” Expected flood patterns will place large portions of Europe at high risk. “River flood hazard will increase across much of Europe (medium-high confidence); in coastal areas, the risk of flooding, erosion, and wetland loss will increase substantially with implications for human settlement, industry, tourism, agriculture, and coastal natural habitats.” Many Alpine ecosystems are very likely to disappear, along with vast tracts of precious wildlife habitat. “Upward and northward shift of biotic zones will take place. Loss of important habitats (wetlands, tundra, isolated habitats) would threaten some species (high confidence).” Latin America Glaciers are shrinking in Latin America also, where they supply the water necessary for agriculture and energy production as well as residential and industrial use. “Loss and retreat of glaciers would adversely impact runoff and water supply in areas where glacier melt is an important water source (high confidence).” In parts of Latin America, there will be increasing frequency of damaging extreme events. “Floods and droughts would become more frequent (high confidence) with floods increasing sediment loads and degrade water supply in some areas.” In Central and equatorial America, the devastation of tropical cyclones could get worse. “Increases in intensity of tropical cyclones would alter the risks to life, property, and ecosystems from heavy rain, flooding, storm surges, and wind damages. “ Food security could become a serious problem for many countries in Latin America. “Yields of important crops are projected to decrease in many locations in Latin America even when the effects of CO2 are taken into account; subsistence farming in some regions of Latin America could be threatened (high confidence).” Latin American problems with infectious diseases that thrive in a warming world could be exacerbated. “The geographical distribution of vector-borne infectious diseases would expand poleward and to higher elevations, and exposures to diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera will increase (medium confidence).” In Latin America, valuable ecosystem resources will disappear, as already threatened biodiversity hotspots get hotter. “The rate of biodiversity loss would increase (high confidence).” North America Climate change is likely to destroy ecosystems that define the North American wilderness. “Unique natural ecosystems such as prairie wetlands, alpine tundra, and cold water ecosystems will be at risk and effective adaptation is unlikely (medium confidence).” Large expanses of the North American Atlantic coastal regions are very likely to be threatened. “Sea-level rise would result in enhanced coastal erosion, coastal flooding, loss of coastal wetlands, and increased risk from storm surges, particularly in Florida and much of the US Atlantic coast (high confidence).” Insurance companies and government disaster relief agencies in North America are faced with increasing demands from victims of weather events and are unprepared for projected threats. “Weather-related insured losses and public sector disaster relief payments in North America have been increasing; insurance sector planning has not yet systematically included climate change information, so there is potential for surprise (high confidence).” As North America copes with threats from unusual weather, risk from climate change induced health problems is likely to increase. “Vector-borne diseases—including malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease— may expand their ranges in North America; exacerbated air quality and heat stress morbidity and mortality would occur (medium confidence); socioeconomic factors and public health measures would play a large role in determining the incidence and extent of health effects.” Polar Regions Rising temperatures in polar regions are already causing problems for traditional communities and priceless ecosystems. “Natural systems in polar regions are highly vulnerable to climate change and current ecosystems have low adaptive capacity; technologically developed communities are likely to adapt readily to climate change but some indigenous communities, in which traditional lifestyles are followed, have little capacity and few options for adaptation.” Polar regions are already warming at alarming rates and many of their ecosystems cannot survive the expected rates of further warming. “Climate change in polar regions is expected to be among the largest and most rapid of any region on the Earth, and will cause major physical, ecological, sociological, and economic impacts especially in the Arctic, Antarctic Peninsula, and Southern Ocean (high confidence).” “Changes in climate that have already taken place are manifested in the decrease in extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice, permafrost thawing, coastal erosion, changes in ice sheets and ice shelves, and altered distribution and abundance of species in the Polar regions (high confidence).” Small Island States The effects of sea level rise will be influencing, if not dominating, the socioeconomic reality in many small island states from now on. “The projected sea level rise of 5mm per year for the next 100 years will cause enhanced coastal erosion, loss of land and property, dislocation of people, increased risk from storm surges, reduced resilience of coastal ecosystems, saltwater intrusions into freshwater resources, and high resource costs to respond to and adapt to these changes (high confidence)”. Fresh water will become even more crucial to small islands with climate change. “Islands with very limited water supplies are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on the water balance (high confidence). Current threats to the rich and unique coastal ecosystems of small islands are exacerbated by the increasing rates of climate change. “Coral reefs will be negatively affected by bleaching and by reduced calcification rates due to higher carbon dioxide levels (medium confidence), mangrove, sea grass beds, other coastal ecosystems and the associated biodiversity would be adversely affected by rising temperatures and accelerated sea level rise (medium confidence)”. The reef fisheries that support populations on small island states are severely threatened by expected weakening and damage to coastal ecosystems. “Declines in coastal ecosystems would negatively impact reef fish and threaten reef fisheries, those who earn their livelihoods from reef fisheries, and those who rely on the fisheries as a significant food source (medium confidence)”. Agricultural limitations on small islands will be worsened by the precipitation variability and sea level rise resulting from climate change. “Limited arable land and soil salinization makes agriculture of Small Island States, both for domestic food production and cash crop exports, highly vulnerable to climate change (high confidence).” The socioeconomic repercussions of climate change threaten small islands’ hopes of ecotourism and sustainable development. “Tourism, an important source of income and foreign exchange for many islands, will face severe disruption from climate change and sea level rise (high confidence).” BACKGROUND TO IPCC WORKING GROUP II REPORT ON IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE Introduction Representatives met in Geneva to negotiate and approve the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Third Assessment Report Working Group II on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. The mandate of Working Group II is to: “…assess the scientific, technical, environmental, economic and social aspects of the vulnerability (sensitivity and adaptability) to climate change of, and the negative and positive (impacts) for, ecological systems, socio-economic sectors and human health, with an emphasis on sectoral and cross-sectoral issues.” The report builds upon past assessment reports of the IPCC, including the conclusions from the Second Assessment Report in 1995 with a strong emphasis on regional impacts. Human activities are projected to cause average global temperatures to warm 1.4 to 5.8ºC by 2100 relative to the 1990 temperature average. This warming will vary by region and within regions the effects will be accompanied by changes in precipitation patterns and in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events. The Working Group II assessment states that the available literature on climate impacts does not investigate the impacts associated with the upper range of increased average temperatures. Therefore impacts from the higher range of warming estimates are not represented in this report. Threats to natural and human systems The report finds that climate change presents are threat to most natural systems. Those natural systems threatened include glaciers, coral reefs, mangroves, arctic ecosystems, alpine ecosystems, prairie wetlands, native grasslands, and biodiversity “hotspots”. Climate change will increase existing risks of species extinction and biodiversity loss in ecosystems at every latitude and in each region. The level of damage will increase with the magnitude and rate of global warming. Threats to human systems, beyond the loss of natural ecosystems, derive from threats to water resources, agriculture, forestry, health, settlements, energy, industry, and financial services. Vulnerability of particular human populations is determined by degree of the nature of the threat, sensitivity and ability to adapt- - characteristics that depend on geographic location and development level of social, economic and environmental conditions. Tens of millions of people living in low lying coastal areas face the risk of having to move due to flooding. Changes already underway Observed 20th century climate changes have already affected physical systems. Examples include shrinkage of glaciers, thawing of permafrost, later freezing and earlier breakup of ice on rivers and lakes. Biological systems also appear to be responding through the lengthening of growing seasons, animal range shifts to higher altitudes and latitudes, declines of some animal populations, and earlier tree flowering, insect emergence, and bird egg laying. Associations between these physical and biological phenomena and changes in regional climate have been documented in aquatic, terrestrial, and marine environments on all continents. Preliminary indications that social and economic systems are affected by regional climate changes in the 20th century, such as increased damages from flooding and windstorms, are difficult to distinguish from coincident or alternative explanations (such as population increase or upstream deforestation). Threats from extremes While a change in average temperatures or precipitation can have significant impacts, the changes in extremes would likely impose the greatest dangers. The report outlines the following threats: Increased frequency of heat waves will increase crop and livestock losses, frequency of wildfires, wildlife mortality, energy demand for cooling, and human deaths and illness from heat stress and air pollution. Decreased frequency of cold waves and fewer frost days will extend the range of some pests and disease vectors while reducing losses due to cold. Increased frequency of high intensity rainfall will increase flood (and flash flood) risk, with consequent property damage, soil erosion, flushed pollutants, health threats, and deaths. More frequent drought in mid-latitude continental interiors will increase agricultural losses, threaten terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, reduce quality and availability of water with consequent health effects, and promote land subsidence. Increased intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones will threaten property, coastal stability, ecosystems, health, and life. Any increase in intensity and frequency of extreme climate events will increase demands on already overburdened public and private financial mechanisms to cover weather related losses. Potential for large scale abrupt irreversible changes The most troubling research considers the possibility of irreversible, large scale, and abrupt effects triggered by human induced climate change. Large scale possibilities include the triggering of changes in the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic which could in coming centuries n plunging Europe into the climate regime experienced by Labrador. The release of greenhouse gases from disturbed permafrost or coastal methane hydrate deposits that would accelerate climate change. Vulnerability of the poorest Those with the least resources have the least ability to adapt and will be the most damaged by climate change. Increase in global mean temperatures will produce net economic losses in many developing countries for all magnitudes of warming, and the condition is most extreme among the poorest people in these countries The accumulated body of knowledge confirms the existence of substantial vulnerabilities to the climate changes projected for this century, particularly for poor populations, populations in coastal areas, and natural systems already under stress. The SPM of Working Group II calls for further research to quantify sensitivity and vulnerability of natural and human systems; to identify thresholds of catastrophic and irreversible changes; to identify the dynamic response of systems to multiple stresses; to predict adaptability; to measure impacts; and to develop integrated assessments of climate change impacts.
Pages to are hidden for
"Greenpeace Summary of IPCC WGII Impacts Report Summary for"Please download to view full document