GEOG 430
Human Use of the Environment

IPCC 2014 Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Cover of the IPCC - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability report
Credit: IPCC

The 10th Session of Working Group II (WGII-10) was held from 25 to 29
March 2014 in Yokohama, Japan.

Penn State was represented in the negotiations over this report by Petra Tschakert, who now is a Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Western Australia. 

The Working Group II contribution considers the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. The chapters of the report assess risks and opportunities for societies, economies, and ecosystems around the world.

Click for a transcript of "IPCC - Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" video.

PRESENTER: Climate change is the challenge of managing risks, risks for people and infrastructure, risks for ecosystems, risk for fresh-water resources and food production. Step to build resilient societies can reduce these risks. Adapting to climate change can benefit communities, economies, and the environment.

CHRIS FIELD: The role of working group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is to assess what's known and what's not known in the scientific body of literature about impacts of climate change-- what are the physical changes that have occurred and will occur in the future-- what's the vulnerability, who's susceptible to harm and why, and adaptation-- well, what can be done to cope as effectively as possible with the climate changes that can't be avoided.


PRESENTER: Substantial and wide-ranging impacts of climate change have occurred across the world. Climate change is already affecting ecosystems, human health, fresh water resources, and agriculture. Over the past few decades, yields of major agricultural crops have not increased as much as they would have without climate change. Climate change poses risks for food security in the future. Ongoing warming and acidification of coastal waters have impacts on marine ecosystems.

JOY PEREIRA: Climate change has affected both the land and ocean species. You find that species changing, moving places, migrating. And in the case of trees, you find a higher rate of mortality.

CHRIS FIELD: The main message from all of these observed impacts is that many features of ecosystems and the economy are very sensitive to changes in climate. And when we look forward to the possibility of changes in climate that are much larger than the ones we've already seen, the risk of much greater impacts is also very clear.

PRESENTER: The impacts of extreme climate events tell us a lot about current vulnerability and exposure of ecosystems and societies.

ANDY REISINGER: What they're observing is a significant adaptation deficit in both developing and developed countries. Society at large is actually more vulnerable and more exposed to climatic extremes even in the current climate than one might expect. And that tells us something about the challenge of moving forward into a changing climate where be have yet to catch up with where we're at now.

PRESENTER: Poverty can intensify the impacts from climate change.

PETRA TSCHAKERT: Living at the margins of society and being highly exposed, like living in the flood plain or being homeless, makes people vulnerable to climate change-- not the floods or a drought or heat stress per se. So it's about these inequalities that exist in every society, both in the north and the south, that make people vulnerable. And often they're associated to gender, to age, well-being, health, class, race, ethnicity, and whether or not people have access to resources a stake in decision making processes.

CHRIS FIELD: Risks from climate change really emerged from the overlap between three very different kinds of factors. One factor is hazard-- how much does the climate change, what is the extreme events. The second is exposure-- what kinds of assets are at risk, property, investments, economic values. And the third is vulnerability. What's the sensitivity to harm, the potential to be harm for people in ecosystems? And if they're going to be damages from climate change, risk, they really emerge from the overlap between these three-- the overlap between the climate hazard, the exposure, and the vulnerability. That's what produces climate-related risk.

Risk-- are we prepared for the challenges we face now? Are we prepared to deal with the challenges in the future? I'd like each of you to think about, not only climate change, but also changes in governments, in finance, in national security.

PRESENTER: It's important to consider regional and local settings to understand the risks associated with climate change.

DEBRA ROBERTS: When you look at the risk aspect of climate change, it almost seems that climate change is the only thing brings risk. But if you work and live in an African city, our day to day existence is about risks. So what climate change brings is another layer of risk, and the question is, how do we look at this new risk in relation to existing risks.

LEONARD NURSE: Risk is conditioned, for example, by people's worldview, what level of damage or loss that a community or a nation is willing to accept. And risk is also important from the point of view of the choices that you make. So a key aspect of climate risk management is making choices under conditions of uncertainty.

PRESENTER: Future greenhouse gas emissions and land use change will determine the magnitude of future climate change. Risks for people, societies, economies, and the environment increase with further warming. Mitigation can reduce risks. Adaptation to climate change is also important for reducing risks.

LEONARD NURSE: One of the key messages from the working group is that adaptation and mitigation are complimentary activities.

CHRIS FIELD: One of the real challenges we face is establishing the understanding that the benefits of adaptation and the benefits of mitigation play out on different time scales.


PRESENTER: The effects of adaptation can be more near-term and immediate. But mitigation actions implemented early can make it easier to adapt more effectively in the long term.

CHRIS FIELD: Investments in mitigation in the short term really lead to an era of climate options in the long term.


PRESENTER: Adaptation to climate change is starting to occur-- flood barriers and improved drainage reduce the risks from flooding in large cities. Farmers are managing their lands differently, for example, changing their planting times or using different varieties.

New climate-smart buildings makes cities more resilient. Green roofs decrease the risk of flooding during heavy rainfall and keep buildings naturally cooler during heat waves.

So what we have here is a new technology that's being implemented. It's effective, and it's attractive.

DEBRA ROBERTS: And I agree. I think the real challenge is this is an experiment in a resource rich environment. So the question is, how do we find something similar lessons that we can scale up in places in the global south.

The global south is already dealing with so many challenges. They can't afford for climate change adaptation to be a new agenda. So what we need to do is find ways of using existing resources, existing workstreams, and existing people to tackle this new challenge.

PRESENTER: Durban's most ambitious climate adaptation project is the reforestation in the [INAUDIBLE] landfill site. The project combines carbon sequestration and restoration of ecosystem services with community upliftment. The local community is paid to grow the trees, plant the trees, and manage the future forest.

[villager 1] The project helps the community to change their livelihoods and also to improve the environment that we are living in.

[villager 2] For them it's not only to come here and work and earn money, but to learn and go out to other communities and be like the ambassadors.

DEBRA ROBERTS: It's the fact that we can draw together quite simple things-- trees and people-- in a way that creates a bit more cohesive community, a cleaner community, and a more functional city. That's the exciting thing.

[Man]: There are a range of response options, both mitigation and adaptation, at our disposal to manage the risks associated with climate change. Now regardless of which option we want to pursue, there's a common set of ingredients we need to facilitate implementation. So we need resources. That might include knowledge. It might include finance. We need governance and institutional arrangements to facilitate coordination. And we need effective leadership from the top down and the bottom up.

CHRIS FIELD: In facing a future with climate change where there's uncertainty, we need to view it as a challenge in managing risks. The way I look at it is that adaptation in response to these risks, some of which are well-known and some of which are not, is trying to find a way to build a society that's more vibrant, more secure, richer, and fundamentally more resilient.

[Woman:] So then the question is, how are we going to achieve that.

CHRIS FIELD: The how involves a wide range of future steps that need to be taken at every level in society.

Source: IPCC