Food, water, health, livelihoods already hit by climate change: IPCC

The effects of human-caused climate change are already evident on all continents and waters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today in a massive report, in the panel’s most plain language yet.

GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK, Alaska. Photo by Deborah Jones © 2009
Alaskan glacier. Deborah Jones © 2009

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability warned of “pervasive risks” depending on the amount of future climate change — but said opportunities still exist for “effective responses,” albeit challenging ones.

Climate change has already hit agriculture, human health, water and land-based ecosystems, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods, said the IPCC. It said the effects are evident everywhere on earth “from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.”

The world is ill-prepared for climate risks, warned the massive report, prepared and reviewed by nearly 2500 experts from 70 countries. It identified risks to people, industries, and ecosystems, from a lack of preparedness and exposure to climate-related hazards. It also said unpredictable surprises are in store for the world.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, Photo credit: IPCC

And the report placed the blame for climate change firmly on humans. “We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of the group that produced the report, in a statement.

Adaptation to date focuses on reacting to past events rather than preparing for a different future, said group co-chair, Chris Field — but suggested the experience gained provides a starting point for more ambitious adaptations.

Field said opportunities exist to adapt economically and socially, if the challenges are understood. “Tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world.”

The IPCC was set up in 1988 to assess the science related to climate change by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. The report was released March 31 by a working group meeting in Yokohama, Japan.

— Deborah Jones

Further reading:
F&O columnist Chris Wood on climate change effects in Canada’s North, The End of the Century is Now (subscription)
F&O’s Expert Witness series republishes Tzeporah Berman’s book excerpt, The Pointy End, on finding hope in the climate campaign (public access)
The March 31, 2014 IPCC press release is here:
A draft copy of the report summary is here:
The video below, provided by the IPCC, is of the news conference announcing the report.

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