Assessing and managing the risks of climate change

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published this week, says that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. In many cases, it warns, the world is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. There are opportunities to respond to such risks, it says, though they will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.Cover of the IPCC report

The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks.

Responding to its publication, scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) made the following comments:

Dr Richard Harding, Senior Hydrologist: 

“The first report of the IPCC fifth assessment concluded that human activities were already having an impact on our climate. This second report assesses the considerable number of studies investigating the current and future impacts of these climate changes and possible adaption strategies. The report concludes that warming increases the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. Some ecosystems and cultures are already at risk from climate change and there is a warning of irreversible changes. In the future we will see increasing water scarcity and negative impacts on food production. Climate change is increasing the risks of extreme events (flooding, high temperatures etc) and the impacts are greatest for the most disadvantaged communities.

Drought cover

These impacts can be moderated by reducing their rate of change by mitigation, i.e. reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and planning. The impacts from recent climate extremes show a considerable vulnerability and exposure to present day variability. This vulnerability will increase as the climate changes. The impacts, however, can be moderated by adaptive planning, by all sections of society. A first step towards this adaption is reducing our exposure to current extremes - this is a double win, giving protection now and increased resilience in the future. 

This report is yet another wake-up call to take action on climate change. It illustrates that it is not too late to take action but the consequences of inaction Comma butterfly Photo: Shutterstockwill be wide-ranging and serious.”

Dr Stephen Thackeray, Lake ecologist and project lead of Shifting seasons, climate change & ecosystems consequences

“The second report of the IPCC fifth assessment capitalises upon the increasing body of evidence that climate change has already had an effect upon wild plants and animals, and the wider ecosystems within which they interact. The report makes it clear that these effects may be complex because ecosystems respond to the interactive effects of a changing climate and many other stressors, such as habitat modification and pollution. It is clear that we need to understand, and plan for, these interactive effects if we are to successfully manage the natural world under ongoing climate change.”

Additional information

CEH scientists take part in research looking at the impacts of climate change on species and the environment and have an extensive network of long-term monitoring and experimental field sites. Analysis and modelling of these data provide early warning of change and are helping to deliver management solutions for land and freshwaters across the UK and globally.

Examples of CEH climate change research 

Related CEH news on climate change research

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