IPCC focus is on adaptation, can we transform?


This week the IPCC released “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”, the second of three reports that will make up the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). It follows on from last year’s report that laid out the physical science of climate change – which made clear our prospects of facing global temperature increases of more than 2°C – and up to 5°C – over this century.

This new report investigates the consequences of climate change – looking at impacts and vulnerability across the world. However, there is a fundamental shift of emphasis, with a focus now on adaptation – especially given the serious, but uncertain, impacts that we are likely to face as our climate changes.

There is an interesting graphic in the new report, showing the ‘level of additional risk due to climate change’. It is striking that considerable additional risks occur at even the low end (~ 2°C) of expected warming – and these become increasingly widespread and severe if we end up at the higher end of temperature range.


This report makes clear that future risk depends on the amount of climate change we face – so reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential. However, it is also clear that adaptation will be required no matter how successful we are at mitigation. It will also need to move on from reacting to past/recent events, to becoming resilient to diverse changes in climate. This will be a transformational change.

Transformation. A word used only 16 times in the entire 987 pages of the previous Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, and not until page 242. It is now considered a “term central for understanding the summary” and speaks of fundamental change in the attributes of natural and human systems. However, it also suggests that “transformations in economic, social, technological, and political decisions and actions can enable climate-resilient pathways” for sustainable development – and that these are most effective when they reflect a country’s own vision.

What is Scotland’s vision for a low carbon climate ready future? What is our capacity to transform? How can we make this happen?


Some interesting coverage includes:
New Scientist: World must adapt to unknown climate future, says IPCC
IPCC: Press Release and Presentation
The Guardian: IPCC report highlights the importance of carbon targets
BBC: Climate impacts ‘overwhelming’ – UN
RSPB Scotland: IPCC report highlights climate change affecting Scotland’s iconic natural heritage

On transformation and pathways:
Patrick Pringle, UKCIP: Transforming how we think about adaptation
Ioan Fazey, University of Dundee: Reconceptualising adaptation to climate change as part of pathways of change and response


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