The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this week issued its Fifth Assessment Report on the impacts of climate change around the world. The new report states that the effects of climate change are already occurring throughout the world. The panel also warns that humans may be "ill-prepared" for the risks brought on by climate change.
Last fall the IPCC issued a report stating unequivocally that humanity is at least partially responsible for the planet's warming climate. That report was a review of recent climate change research and found that throughout the past decades oceans have warmed, ice levels have fallen, and sea levels have risen.
“We live in an era of man-made climate change,” said Vicente Barros, co-chair of the IPCC's Working Group II. “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.”
In its latest assessment the IPCC does find that humans are beginning to adapt to the changing global climate. However, the organization warns that preparations may be too reactionary and that more pro-active work may be needed.
“Climate-change adaptation is not an exotic agenda that has never been tried," said Chris Field, the other co-chair of Working Group II. "Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation. This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change.”
The report did not offer specific predictions for the risks that future warming might bring. The IPCC did, however, point to already-seen climate effects on agriculture, oceans, water supplies, and human health as trends that could become more difficult or impossible to reverse as warming continues.
“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 Field. 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.”