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New IPCC Climate report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability released

February 28, 2022
News item image The report examines the impacts of climate change on nature and people around the globe.

The latest climate report of the IPCC ‘IPCC Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’ has been released, highlighting the risk of climate change to human wellbeing & the health of the planet.

The report reflects our increased knowledge of the interdependence of climate, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human societies, and creates a more cohesive narrative across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments. Climate change impacts, risks and adaptation are assessed alongside non-climatic global trends such as biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, unsustainable natural resource consumption, rapid urbanisation, human demographic shifts, and social and economic inequalities. The report also highlights what can be done to avoid the worst of these impacts, and explores and assesses a range of actions, including Nature-based Solutions, that can strengthen nature’s and society’s resilience to these impacts. The NbSI team contributed to the report’s ‘Chapter 2: Terrestrial and Freshwater Ecosystems and their Services’.

Some of the headline findings of the report, which takes different levels of warming to explore the resulting future impacts and risks, include:

  • We are already seeing widespread impacts, with some that are now irreversible. Even if temperature rises are limited from the current ~1.1°C to 1.5°C (the best-case scenario), there will be irreparable loss of glaciers, polar ice, and of the majority of coral reefs by the end of the century. Under all scenarios, a billion more people are projected to be at risk from coastal specific climate hazards in the coming decades.
  • With each increment of additional warming, there is an increase in the incidence and severity of the resulting impacts. 2°C of warming would expose an additional 65 million people to “exceptionally” extreme heat waves every five years, and take the numbers of people exposed to water scarcity up to 3 billion.
  • Different parts of the world will be very differently affected – with Africa, Central America, South Asia and small island states expected to suffer some of the harshest consequences, despite contributing the least to climate change. This will increase global inequality with an expanding gap between rich and poor countries.
  • The natural world has limited capacity to adapt to the speed and pace of warming, with plants and animals unable to shift habitats, maintain migration patterns, or survive intense heat waves and wildfires. The report estimates that 2°C warming will put 10 percent of all plant and animal species at high risk of extinction.
  • The urgency of where we are now means that significant investments must be made in the next few years if we are to adapt to the current consequences of climate change, and to prevent the worst projected scenarios that we will otherwise face.

Actions such as NbS to address the impacts of climate change not only increase adaptation, but also fight hunger, poverty, inequality and help maintain ecosystem health and the liveability of the Earth for current and future generations. “Nature-based Solutions” are mentioned 457 times over the report’s 3675 pages, and some of the reported successes, limitations and recommendations for NbS for adaptation and resilience include:

  • NbS such as ecosystem approaches to fisheries, agricultural diversification, agroforestry and other ecological practices support long term productivity and ecosystem services such as pest control, soil health, pollination and buffering of temperature extremes, but potential and trade-offs vary by socio-economic context, ecosystem zone, species combinations and institutional support.
  • Ecosystem-based approaches support food security, nutrition and livelihoods when alongside inclusive equitable governance processes.
  • Urban infrastructure that incorporates NbS can help to integrate inclusive adaptation strategies into development. NbS for adaptation are underway in many cities and settlements in different world regions, but not all are being developed and evaluated through consultation and coproduction with diverse and marginalized urban communities.
  • Monitoring and evaluation frameworks that incorporate questions of justice, ecological health and multi-sector considerations can help effectiveness in places where the adoption of NbS is still emerging.
  • Key innovations in NbS have not been matched by innovation in adaptation, and face challenges when up-scaling.
  • NbS bring flexibility with co-benefits for climate mitigation and sustainable development, and can increase the adaptive capacity of urban settlements and cities and their contribution to Climate Resilient Development.
  • NbS reduce a variety of risks to both physical and mental health and wellbeing, such as integrated agroecological food systems that offer opportunities to improve dietary diversity while building climate-related local resilience to food insecurity, especially when combined with gender equity and social justice.
  • Under higher emissions scenarios NbS will increasingly be under threat and vulnerable to climate change impacts. For example, high rates of warming and drought may severely threaten the success of NbS such as forest expansion or peatland restoration.
  • The effectiveness of NbS are dependent on adapting their deployment and approach to suitable areas, with inclusive governance and utilising interdisciplinary information, Indigenous and local knowledge, and practical expertise. The IPCC determination of effective NbS aligns with the developed evidence-based guidelines for effective NbS. NbS can reduce risks for ecosystems and benefit people, providing they are planned and implemented in the right way and in the right place.

This latest report comes after the released Working Group I contribution to AR6, ‘Climate Change 2021, the Physical Science Basis’, released in August 2021. The Working Group III contribution to the AR6, dealing with the mitigation of climate change, is scheduled for early April 2022. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change, and was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide political leaders of its 195 member states with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Read the full IPCC WGII report or find digested information in the Press Release, Headline Statements, Summary for Policymakers, and Technical Summary.