Quantcast
Climate

Five Takeaways from Report on Climate Change

World Resources Institute

By James Bradbury and Kelly Levin

The world must brace for more extreme weather. That is the clear message from a new report that finds climate change is likely to bring more record-breaking temperatures, heat waves and heavy downpours. The much anticipated Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)—the summary of which was released Nov. 18 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—provides new evidence that links extreme weather events and climate change.

According to the Summary for Policymakers, the SREX report concludes that climate change will likely lead to global increases in extreme weather along with heightened risks to livelihoods, human health and infrastructure, both today and in the future. It also describes the costs—in terms of lives lost and economic damages—that have already occurred, plus those that will likely result from this phenomenon and the societal implications of a warmer world, in which yesterday’s extreme conditions become the new norm.

Below we provide five key takeaways from the report summary:

1. Extreme weather is on the rise around the world.

The report concludes that several types of extreme weather have become more intense or more frequent during the past half century.1 Specifically, the SREX finds that:

  • In the case of temperatures, warm days and nights have become more frequent, and cold days and nights less so.2
  • Areas of the world with a significant increase in the number of heavy downpours exceeded the areas of the world where the opposite is true.3
  • With “medium confidence,” some areas of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts.
  • The global trend of rising sea levels has led to an increase in the occurrence of extreme coastal high water,4 from tidal or other high water events.

2. Extreme weather and climate disasters are deadly and expensive, and losses are increasing.

Given the recent flooding in Thailand, the drought in the Horn of Africa and the flooding of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, it should come as no surprise to learn that such events are costly—both in terms of lives lost and economic damages. The SREX finds that losses from weather and climate disasters are indeed rising, with the increase largely due to increased exposure, with more people and infrastructure in harm’s way. Developing countries are particularly affected, with the greatest fatality rates—according to the report, during the period from 1970 to 2008, more than 95 percent of deaths from natural disasters occurred in developing countries—and economic losses as a proportion of gross domestic product.

3. A warming world will likely be a more extreme world.

The extreme weather events unfolding around the world in recent years are only a harbinger of what is to come. For example, the report finds it is virtually certain5 that the frequency and magnitude of extreme high temperatures will increase, with warm spells, including heat waves, very likely6 increasing in length, frequency and/or intensity over most land areas. And it is not just temperature extremes that will change. Heavy precipitation events will likely7 increase in frequency, climate projections imply possible changes in floods, and there is medium confidence that droughts will intensify in some seasons and areas.

4. Greenhouse gas pollution is likely driving some of these trends.

Not only is extreme weather on the rise, but humans are likely driving some of these trends. The report finds it likely that rising greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere has led to the observed rise in extreme high temperatures and to the rise in extreme coastal high water.8 Additionally, report authors attached “medium confidence” to the conclusion that humans have contributed to a global intensification of extreme precipitation. Though remarkable, these findings are not surprising, because they are consistent with what scientists have considered to be likely outcomes in a warmer world.9

5. Adaptation and disaster risk management can enhance resilience in a changing climate; differences in vulnerability and exposure must be considered in the design of such initiatives.

Despite its very troubling conclusions, the report also details measures that can be taken to manage risks associated with extreme events. These include risk sharing and transfer mechanisms (e.g., insurance and reinsurance) and “low regret” measures that have co-benefits beyond addressing climate change (e.g., ecosystem restoration, building code enforcement, improved education). While incremental action can help reduce risks, more transformative changes to governance, values and technological systems will also be required. In designing such interventions, differences in vulnerability and exposure must be considered, as impacts will not play out on a level playing field. A cyclone hitting Australia will not have the same impacts as a cyclone of similar magnitude hitting Bangladesh.

Tomorrow’s world will be a different one. Governments around the world must get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions—both quickly and steeply—if we are to have a fighting chance for maintaining a more stable climate. The upcoming U.N. climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa provide a critical opportunity for leadership on increasing the ambition of mitigation and finance commitments. Changes in extremes also place a premium on disaster risk management and adaptation initiatives that increase the resilience of those affected. Governments around the world are already acting to move from disaster relief to disaster preparedness, providing innovative examples that can be scaled up.

We have introduced five specific takeaways, but the most important message is this—We can no longer ignore the link between climate change and extreme weather events. The time for decisive action to reduce emissions, advance adaptation and move toward a better future climate is now.

For more information, click here.

—————

  1. It should be noted that available weather and climate data are almost always more limited than research scientists would want them to be, both in terms of their coverage over time and spatial areas across the globe. This is particularly true for studies that focus on extreme weather events, which are very rare occurrences, by definition. This helps to explain why the science has heretofore been somewhat inconclusive on the issues of extreme weather addressed in the SREX, making the findings of this report all the more remarkable.
  2. The report determines that available evidence supports this conclusion at the 90-100 percent probability level.
  3. The report determines that available evidence supports this conclusion at the 66-100 percent probability level.
  4. The report determines that available evidence supports this conclusion at the 66-100 percent probability level.
  5. 99-100 percent probability assigned to the likelihood of the outcome.
  6. 90-100 percent probability assigned to the likelihood of the outcome.
  7. 66-100 percent probability assigned to the likelihood of the outcome.
  8. The report determines that available evidence supports this conclusion at the 66-100 percent probability level.
  9. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007 Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, U.S.
Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Neil Young. Takahiro Kyono / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

‘Unfit Leader’: Neil Young Loses Home to Fire, Rips Trump for Insensitive Tweet

Musician Neil Young, who lost his Malibu home to the devastating Woolsey fire, is urging the world to come together to fight climate change—especially since the president of the U.S. seems "unfit" to take care of the problem, as the icon said.

On Sunday, the legendary rocker posted a letter on his website, the Neil Young Archives, blasting Donald Trump's infamous denial of climate science and his Saturday tweet that blamed California's wildfires on "gross mismanagement of the forests" even though most of the fires are burning on federal land.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Pexels

Fight Climate Change in Your Own Garden

By Deonna Anderson

During World War I, Americans were encouraged to do their part in the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables. The food would go to allies in Europe, where there was a food crisis. These so-called "victory gardens" declined when WWI ended but resurged during World War II. By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens produced about 8 million tons of food.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Jean-Paul Gaultier talks to French model Cindy Bruna in his workshop in Paris on July 1. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP / Getty Images

Jean Paul Gaultier Drops Fur, Calls Industry 'Absolutely Deplorable'

Another top fashion designer has pledged to ditch animal fur.

During a live appearance on the French television channel Bonsoir!, Jean Paul Gaultier said will no longer use the material in his collections.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
The battlefield of Verdun is part of France's Zone Rouge, cordoned off since the end of WWI. Oeuvre personnelle / Wikimedia Commons

This World War I Battlefield Is a Haunting Reminder of the Environmental Costs of War

World War I ended 100 years ago on Sunday, but 42,000 acres in northeast France serve as a living memorial to the human and environmental costs of war.

The battle of Verdun was the longest continuous conflict in the Great War, and it so devastated the land it took place on that, after the war, the government cordoned it off-limits to human habitation. What was once farmland became the Zone Rouge, or Red Zone, as National Geographic reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Waves from the Atlantic Ocean crash against a scenic beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This sandy peninsula is a popular summer vacation destination and is also known for its many Great White sharks. Velvetfish / iStock / Getty Images

Cape Cod’s Gray Seal and White Shark Problem Is Anything but Black-and-White

By Jason Bittel

On a sunny Saturday in mid-September, 26-year-old Arthur Medici was boogie-boarding in the waves off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, when a great white shark bit his leg. Despite the efforts of a friend who pulled him ashore and the paramedics who rushed him to the hospital, Medici died from his injuries. It's about as tragic a story as you can imagine: a young life cut short due to a freak run-in with a wild animal.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Max Pixel

Koch Industries Lobbies Against Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

By Dana Drugmand

Koch Industries is calling for the elimination of tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs), all while claiming that it does not oppose plug-in cars and inviting the elimination of oil and gas subsidies that the petroleum conglomerate and its industry peers receive.

Outgoing Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller introduced a bill in September that would lift the sales cap on electric vehicles eligible for a federal tax credit, and replace the cap with a deadline that would dictate when the credit would start being phased out.

Keep reading... Show less
Pexels

10 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Neonics

By Daniel Raichel

As massive numbers of bees and other pollinators keep dying across the globe, study after study continues to connect these deaths to neonicotinoid pesticides (A.K.A. "neonics"). With the science piling up, and other countries starting to take critical pollinator-saving action, here's a quick primer on all things neonics:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!