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 ()
Sponsored
Energy
Petrified Forest National Park. Andrew Kearns / National Park Service

Trump Opens Door to Dangerous Fracking in Northern Arizona

A new Trump administration plan proposes to auction off 4,200 acres of public land for oil and gas development in northern Arizona. The lands straddle the Little Colorado River, are within three miles of Petrified Forest National Park, and are near habitat for a federally threatened fish called the Little Colorado spinedace. Drilling and fracking would threaten to deplete and pollute groundwater in the Little Colorado River Basin.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Wild bumble bees provide natural pollination for blueberries in North America. John Flannery / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Beyond Honey Bees: Wild Bees Are Also Key Pollinators, and Some Species Are Disappearing

By Kelsey K. Graham

Declines in bee populations around the world have been widely reported over the past several decades. Much attention has focused on honey bees, which commercial beekeepers transport all over the U.S. to pollinate crops.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Brown bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. NPS Photo / B. Plog

Trump Admin. Wants to Reinstate 'Cruel' Hunting Tactics in Alaska, Conservation Groups Say

The Trump administration has proposed new regulations to overturn an Obama-era rule that protects iconic predators in Alaska's national preserves.

Wildlife protection organizations condemned the move, as it would allow hunters to go to den sites to shoot wolf pups and bear cubs, lure and kill bears over bait, hunt bears with dogs and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou. Such hunting methods were banned on federal lands in 2015 that are otherwise permitted by the state.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An Asian elephant eating tree bark. Yathin S Krishnappa / CC BY-SA 3.0

5 Conservation Milestones to Celebrate on This International Day for Biological Diversity

Scientists are increasingly realizing the importance of biodiversity for sustaining life on earth. The most comprehensive biodiversity study in a decade, published in March by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warned that the ongoing loss of species and habitats was as great a threat to our and our planet's wellbeing as climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Deep-sea corals may not be flashy, but they deserve a second look. Oceana

Ignoring Deep-Sea Corals Is Risky for the Oceans, and for Us

By Nathan Johnson

The deep sea might be cold and dark, but it's not barren. Down here, an incredible diversity of corals shelters young fish like grouper, snapper and rockfish. Sharks, rays and other species live and feed here their whole lives.

Brightly colored coral gardens, far beyond the reach of the sun's rays, don't just nurture deep-sea life. They also help advance medical research and understand climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

Green Groups Balk at England’s Plan to Fast Track Fracking

Government ministers published proposals Thursday that would speed the development of fracking in England, igniting opposition from environmental groups and local communities, The Independent reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

Before Royal Wedding Sermon, Rev. Curry Stood With Standing Rock Pipeline Opponents

Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered a passionate wedding sermon to royal newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, also gave a powerful message about two years ago to Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

On Sept. 24, 2016 at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the reverend offered the Episcopal Church's solidarity with the water protectors, noting that, "Water is a gift of the Creator. We must protect it. We must conserve it. We must care for it."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Coral bleaching like this (in the Great Barrier Reef) is killing the largest reef in Japan. Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0

Only 1% of Japan’s Largest Reef Still Healthy After Historic Bleaching Catastrophe

In a sobering reminder of the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, a survey by the Japanese government found that barely more than one percent of the coral in the country's largest coral reef is healthy, AFP reported Friday.

The reef, located in the Sekisei Lagoon near Okinawa, has suffered mass coral bleaching events due to rising sea temperatures in 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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