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expert reaction to AR6, Working Group 2 (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability), as published by the IPCC

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published the Working Group 2 contribution to its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

This Roundup accompanied an SMC Briefing.


Prof Wouter Buytaert, Professor in Hydrology and Water Resources at Imperial College London, said:

“It is clear now that climate change poses severe threats to global water security as a result of increasing weather variability, floods and droughts. These impacts will disproportionately affect the poor, who are least resilient and lack the resources to adapt. Climate change is now one of the biggest roadblocks to lifting people out of poverty and to building a water resilient society. We need a global concerted effort, not just to build and improve water infrastructure, but also in new approaches such as nature-based solutions, water systems analysis, and participatory knowledge production. Global climate change will require local solutions, focused on inclusion, equity, and justice.”


Dr Karen Makuch , Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law in Centre of Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said:

‘We are increasingly seeing an evidence base which is telling the international community that there is an urgent need to focus on the humanitarian and human rights-based arguments of the climate crisis. While we are being alerted by attribution science of liability-centred arguments, centred on historical GHG emissions, we have not reached collective international agreement on the assessment or financing of loss and damage, nor the means by which to support mobile and immobile climate migrant populations.  We need, in the immediate term, a more concerted effort to work collectively as an international community towards policies and actions that save lives, now and in the immediate future. The Report states authoritatively that ‘Climate change is contributing to humanitarian crises’. Children, women and indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable, with an increased risk of migration and violent conflict & food and water shortages. There is an anticipated risk of increased adverse physical and mental health.  Human rights and justice concerns now need to be at the centre of global climate policy-making. The international legal framework of human rights, enshrining, inter alia, the right to life, the right to health the right to security of persons, the right to self-determination, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the rights of women and the rights of children need to be at the centre of economic, technological, scientific, legal and policy concerns.’


Dr Bonnie Waring, Senior Lecturer, Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“This latest IPCC report highlights more clearly than ever that the climate and biodiversity crises are tightly interlinked, and can amplify one another’s effects. However, this also means we have a tremendous opportunity to tackle both challenges at once by protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, which lock carbon away from the atmosphere and provide a home for the biodiversity upon which human life depends.”


Dr Swenja Surminski, head of adaptation research at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and a contributor to the report, said:

“The new IPCC report underlines the scale of the challenge we are facing: investing in adaptation and resilience is crucial, and it needs to happen now. Every dollar invested in adaptation today will save at least five dollars’ worth of loss and damage in future. Adaptation is not a cost. It is an investment. Right now, we still have an opportunity to adapt to the coming climate impacts.

“But we still see decisions being made today by governments, businesses, investors that completely disregard current and future climate risks. We need to be smart and take climate change into account when we decide where and how we build, how we design products and infrastructure, and how to develop resilient food systems and supply chains. There are some encouraging examples but overall adaptation investment is still lagging, and climate risks are ignored, or seen as something in the distant future.  The IPCC report makes it clear that inaction is a bad strategy. And it shows that we have solid knowledge and information to inform today’s decisions.”


Bob Ward, policy and communications director at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said:

“This report presents a shocking catalogue of the already significant and growing harm to lives and livelihoods across the world from climate change impacts, such as more intense and frequent floods, droughts and heatwaves. These impacts will continue to increase for many more decades until global emissions of greenhouse gases are effectively reduced to zero.

“One disappointing aspect of the report’s Summary for Policymakers is the weakness of the paragraph on global economic costs (SPM.B.4.6). It does not offer any qualitative or quantitative estimate of the global impacts, due to the deficiencies of the underlying literature. Too many economists have been churning out unreliable estimates from models that are simply not fit for purpose and often omit the largest potential impacts of climate change. Indeed one of the leading economists has recently suggested that a warming of 3 Celsius degrees by the end of this century would be “optimal”, even though it would result in a global average  temperature that has not occurred on Earth since the Pliocene Epoch about 3 million years ago when global sea level was 5 to 25 metres higher than today.”


Prof Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science, University College London, said:

“This report was commissioned by the world’s governments, who have now signed off on the conclusions. Let’s hope they act on it, as the conclusions are shockingly grim.  

“That farmers across the tropics are reaching their limits of adaptation to current climate impacts is alarming. As is the statistic that 4 in 10 people are highly vulnerable to climate change*.  

“Investments and interlocking policies are needed to halve carbon dioxide emissions this decade and invest in adapting societies to the new reality we face of increased heatwaves, extreme rainfall events and droughts that climate change is bringing.  

“Slashing emissions and investing in making societies resilient to climate impacts could put the world on a sustainable footing. But where are the policies to show that countries at taking this existential threat to human civilisation seriously?  Countries have a record of decades of climate inaction.  Governments need to step up and act fast.”

*3.3 billion people out of today’s global population of 7.9 billion = 42% of world population.  


Prof Jeffrey Kargel, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, AZ, USA, said:

“The IPCC Working Group II report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability highlights the role that increases in global temperatures have had in disrupting the global weather system as a part of the long-term climate changes of our planet. The very first sentence of the Headline Statements for Policymakers states: 

  1. 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. 

“These adverse impacts are happening everywhere. The relationships between fossil fuel combustion, rising atmospheric greenhouse gas abundances, climate change, extreme weather, and impacts on people and nature have long been predicted. The pace of changes in our climate system have long been projected and found to be accurate as humans continue to combust fossil fuels. The kind of impacts–such as on droughts, floods, precipitation and water supplies, hurricanes, melting glaciers and ice sheets, rising sea levels, melting Arctic sea ice, and forest fires–also have been predicted for decades. However,  I admit to considerable shock and surprise at the rapidity and intensity with which the impacts are accruing. People around the world are observing it with their owns eyes in their own cities and villages and farmlands; and the world sees it also in the news of their nations and the whole world. The new IPCC report emphasizes a need to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees C beyond the pre-Industrial era. Frankly, I fear that the “overshoot” beyond that is apt to be considerable, seeing the way things are going.

“The current warfare activity in Eastern Europe, though not attributable to climate change, is a further caution about how human tensions and international relations and geopolitics could become inflamed as climate change impacts hit nations in ways that they are ill prepared to handle. The current war between Russia and Ukraine further points out a need for scientists to keep working together on climate change and its impacts, even working across contentious borders; I would say, especially working across contentious borders. Many other activities can halt, if needed, but scientific cooperation on matters of climate change and impacts are important to keep going.”


Dr Andy Russell, Lecturer in Environmental Science, Queen Mary University of London, said:

“This global report hammers home the message that climate risks are going to increase and that the time we have to prepare for those risks is running out. In the UK, our Climate Change Committee has repeatedly shown that the government is failing to plan for these climate risks properly. We have one more chance to get these plans right – the 3rd National Adaptation Programme, which should be due in 2023 – or we face a future of responding to climate disasters rather than proactively managing the risks we know are there.”


Prof Dave Reay, Director of Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, University of Edinburgh

“If you wanted some good news for a change, look away now. This latest report from the IPCC provides an even more alarming synthesis of past, current and future climate risks than previous iterations. The loss and damage already being caused by climate change is writ large, as is the cascade of intensifying impacts we can all expect to endure in the coming years, decades and centuries.

“Like taking a wrecking ball to a set of global dominoes, climate change in the 21st century threatens to destroy the foundations of food and water security, smash onwards through the fragile structures of human and ecosystem health, and ultimately to shake the very pillars of human civilisation.

“There is still time to slow down the wrecking ball, to nudge it away from the most catastrophic path, but with this, the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment of Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, it’s clear we’re already facing a whole world of hurt.”


Dr Sally Brown, coastal scientist, Bournemouth University, said:

“Like many other IPCC reports, rising sea-levels remains a key long-term threat. New generations of scientists are reiterating the message from the first reports thirty years ago.

“This latest report goes a step further in being more specific about impacts along the coast, such as in high risk global regions such as highly populated areas of south and south-east Asia, or in cities world-wide. Sustaining coastal ecosystems and tackling the ecological crisis remain important methods to adapt to emerging threats and increase the resilience for future generations in a changing climate.”


Prof Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health at UCL, said:

“Despite the overall grim reading, the new IPCC report rightly offers some glimmers of hope for actions to avoid many adverse consequences. Solid, achievable ways forward are given for averting disasters and violent conflicts, irrespective of human-caused climate change.

“Lessons from decades of disaster research are accepted by identifying standard procedures for risk management and risk sharing, along with warning systems, as climate change adaptation options. Fully implementing these techniques would save so many lives and livelihoods, regardless of different weather due to climate change. Several statements of high confidence explain that existing vulnerabilities cause disasters, rather than climate.

“With similarly high confidence, violent conflict is attributed much more to pre-existing social and political conditions than to climate. As has long been known, ‘advancing women’s empowerment’ supports peace irrespective of climate change’s impacts. Existing violent conflict, though, exacerbates vulnerability, augmenting disaster risk.

“Consequently, the report’s findings indicate that reducing poverty, improving equity, supporting good governance, and providing basic services are pathways for ensuring that climate change does not influence disasters or violent conflicts.”


Prof Neil Adger, Professor of Human Geography, University of Exeter, said:

“The new report from the IPCC is stark in its assessment. The impacts of climate change continue to be seen in every part of the world, from Belgium to the Philippines. And the consequences are most keenly felt by those with least ability to adapt effectively. Their health, well-being and future security are all at risk. But no place or population is immune.

“Science never sleeps: this report highlights how the appliance of this new knowledge can still avoid catastrophic consequences: by making cities more liveable and by allowing people to move away from risks in a way that focuses on the injustices of inaction.

“Securing rights for international movement of those affected by climate disasters is now on the table for progressive countries and cities.

“The report builds on the theme of ‘Code red for humanity’, by showing that moving away from fossil fuels is ever more urgent.”



The Working Group II contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report



Declared interests

Dr Sally Brown: ‘I registered and provided comments as a reviewer.’

Prof Ilan Kelman: ‘No interests to declare.’

Prof Simon Lewis: ‘No conflicts of interest to report.’

Dr Andy Russell: ‘I worked for BEIS during 2020-21 and coordinated some of the UK government’s review of the previous draft of this IPCC report, and I worked for the Climate Change Committee secretariat during 2017-20 and led their analysis of elements of the 2nd National Adaptation Programme. I have no current affiliation with either organisation.’

Prof Dave Reay: ‘No interests declared’

Prof Neil Adger: ‘Convening Lead Author on human security in previous AR5.  No conflicts to declare.’

Bob Ward: ‘was a reviewer on the new IPCC report, a co-author of work cited by the report, and attended the approval plenary session over the past two weeks as an observer.’

None others received.


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