The evolution of the world’s climate is predictable in some ways and unforeseeable in others, but there are bright spots in the form of opportunity for action, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its much-heralded latest report.
Pointing out that “the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans,” the IPCC said in Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, from the panel’s Working Group II, released on March 31.
“The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises,” the IPCC said in a statement. “The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm’s way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.”
Some of what this report did is connect the dots to illustrate how the effects of climate change could be played out on the ground. For one thing, Earth’s overall temperature increase threatens—indeed, is already threatening—the world’s agriculture, and thus food supply, the report said. Weather changes will only exacerbate that.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of Working Group II, in the statement. “In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future.”
One thing the new report does is frame climate change in terms of risk, which could speak to those in a position to fund and promote policies to help Earth’s denizens to adapt to changes as they occur—or, better yet, mitigate their effects.
“Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming,” said Chris Field, another co-chair of Working Group II, in the statement. “We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond.”
Many tribes have already begun preparing, faced as they and Indigenous Peoples the world over are with climate change’s effects.
Modern science has begun listening, as well.