Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Climate Change 2022
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II released its part of the sixth Assessment Report (AR6) on 27 February 2022. The report has a strong focus on the interactions among the coupled systems climate, ecosystems (including their biodiversity) and human society. The following are the essential points of the Summary for Policy-Makers (without the levels of confidence to simplify reading).

Observed Impacts from Climate Change

Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.

Vulnerability and Exposure of Ecosystems and People

Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions, driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. A high proportion of species is vulnerable to climate change. Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent. Current unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards.

Risks in the near term (2021-2040)

Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. The level of risk will depend on concurrent near-term trends in vulnerability, exposure, level of socioeconomic development and adaptation. Near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems, compared to higher warming levels, but cannot eliminate them all.

Mid to Long-term Risks (2041–2100)

Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems. For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid- and long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed. The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.

Complex, Compound and Cascading Risks

Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Some responses to climate change result in new impacts and risks.

Impacts of Temporary Overshoot

If global warming transiently exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades or later (overshoot), then many human and natural systems will face additional severe risks, compared to remaining below 1.5°C. Depending on the magnitude and duration of overshoot, some impacts will cause release of additional greenhouse gases and some will be irreversible, even if global warming is reduced.

Current Adaptation and its Benefits

Progress in adaptation planning and implementation has been observed across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits. However, adaptation progress is unevenly distributed with observed adaptation gaps. Many initiatives prioritize immediate and near-term climate risk reduction which reduces the opportunity for transformational adaptation.

Future Adaptation Options and their Feasibility

There are feasible and effective adaptation options which can reduce risks to people and nature. The feasibility of implementing adaptation options in the near-term differs across sectors and regions. The effectiveness of adaptation to reduce climate risk is documented for specific contexts, sectors and regions and will decrease with increasing warming. Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequities, differentiate responses based on climate risk and cut across systems, increase the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation in multiple sectors.

Limits to Adaptation

Soft limits to some human adaptation have been reached, but can be overcome by addressing a range of constraints, primarily financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints. Hard limits to adaptation have been reached in some ecosystems. With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.

Avoiding Maladaptation

There is increased evidence of maladaptation across many sectors and regions since the AR5. Maladaptive responses to climate change can create lock-ins of vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult and expensive to change and exacerbate existing inequalities. Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive and long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions with benefits to many sectors and systems.

Enabling Conditions

Enabling conditions are key for implementing, accelerating and sustaining adaptation in human systems and ecosystems. These include political commitment and follow-through, institutional frameworks, policies and instruments with clear goals and priorities, enhanced knowledge on impacts and solutions, mobilization of and access to adequate financial resources, monitoring and evaluation, and inclusive governance processes.

Conditions for Climate Resilient Development

Evidence of observed impacts, projected risks, levels and trends in vulnerability, and adaptation limits, demonstrate that worldwide climate resilient development action is more urgent than previously assessed in AR5. Comprehensive, effective, and innovative responses can harness synergies and reduce trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development.

Enabling Climate Resilient Development

Climate resilient development is enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors and timeframes. Climate resilient development is facilitated by international cooperation and by governments at all levels working with communities, civil society, educational bodies, scientific and other institutions, media, investors and businesses; and by developing partnerships with traditionally marginalised groups, including women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and ethnic minorities. These partnerships are most effective when supported by enabling political leadership, institutions, resources, including finance, as well as climate services, information and decision support tools.

Climate Resilient Development for Natural and Human Systems

Interactions between changing urban form, exposure and vulnerability can create climate change-induced risks and losses for cities and settlements. However, the global trend of urbanisation also offers a critical opportunity in the near-term, to advance climate resilient development. Integrated, inclusive planning and investment in everyday decision-making about urban infrastructure, including social, ecological and grey/physical infrastructures, can significantly increase the adaptive capacity of urban and rural settlements. Equitable outcomes contributes to multiple benefits for health and well-being and ecosystem services, including for Indigenous Peoples, marginalised and vulnerable communities. Climate resilient development in urban areas also supports adaptive capacity in more rural places through maintaining peri-urban supply chains of goods and services and financial flows. Coastal cities and settlements play an especially important role in advancing climate resilient development.

Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development, in light of the threats climate change poses to them and their roles in adaptation and mitigation. Recent analyses, drawing on a range of lines of evidence, suggest that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems.

Achieving Climate Resilient Development

It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. Past and current development trends (past emissions, development and climate change) have not advanced global climate resilient development. Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development. Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term. These prospects are constrained by past development, emissions and climate change, and enabled by inclusive governance, adequate and appropriate human and technological resources, information, capacities and finance.


Last updated 28 February 2022