Previewing the new IPCC assessment of risks of climate change impacts


Several news sources, including The Guardian, the Associated Press, and the Yomiuri Shimbun, have published articles from Japan previewing some strong conclusions to expect in the IPCC climate change assessment report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, to be released in Yokohama on March 31. It’s good to see this latest IPCC report on the impacts of global climatic disruption, drafted and reviewed by many of the leading scientists in multiple disciplines, focusing on risk assessment, risk management, and preparedness.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in Yokohama, at 9 a.m. Tokyo time on March 31 (Sunday evening in the U.S.). The release will be webcast in several languages.

Suzanne Goldenberg, on top of things as usual, has an excellent piece in The Guardian (“IPCC report: climate change felt ‘on all continents and across the oceans’“) previewing the report from leaked text. She leads with:

Climate change has already left its mark “on all continents and across the oceans“, damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers, according to the leaked text of a blockbuster UN climate science report due out on Monday.

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years. …

But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to “abrupt and irreversible changes”, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

It’s good to see this latest iteration of the series of IPCC assessment reports on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability focusing on risk assessment, risk management, and preparedness:

The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the “dominant cause” of climate change, and warned that much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.

This report will, for the first time, look at the effects of climate change as a series of risks – with those risks multiplying as temperatures warm.

The thinking behind the decision was to encourage governments to prepare for the full range of potential consequences under climate change.

“It’s much more about what are the smart things to do then what do we know with absolute certainty,” said Chris Field, one of the co-chairs overseeing the report. …

Researchers said … they hoped the reframing of the issue as a series of risks would help governments respond more rapidly to climate change.

Also see:

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan News): Irreversible damage done, IPCC report will say

Seth Borenstein and Kaori Hitomi at Associated Press: UN Panel: 8 Reasons to Worry About Global Warming

A post at National Geographic also emphasizes the preparedness problem: World Not Ready for Climate Change, New Report Says — Upcoming IPCC report outlines the risks of climate change—and the lack of readiness.

Needless to say, climate change denialists and disinformers, impacts skeptics, action delayers, the ‘IPCC is political’ contingent, and others who choose to elevate a ‘scientific uncertainty’ framing of the report, will find ways either to attack the report or to play down its stronger conclusions, seeking to diffuse any sense of urgency about dealing with them. Hopefully, good communication about this leading, essential scientifically based assessment, framed in terms of risk assessment and risk management, will lead the public discourse about the report and its implications.

And risk management must, of necessity, include both emissions mitigation (stay tuned for the soon-forthcoming IPCC Working Group III report on those issues), and adaptive preparedness to limit and respond to disruptive climate change impacts (to the extent that is possible).

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Earlier post: Matt Ridley op-ed is a laundry list of IPCC misrepresentations (March 28)

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