The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the second installment of the fifth climate report in late March. The first installment was released in September of 2013 with the next installment planned for April, 2014. The IPCC is “the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts”.
The IPCC has since released four full climate reports and is currently releasing installments of the fifth report. The most recent installment includes climate impacts that are already being experienced around the world. The report states that current issues will only worsen, including food crises, extinctions, heat waves, floods, droughts, violent protests, and wars.
The report did provide some encouraging news. Chapter 15 states, “Adaptation to climate change is transitioning from a phase of awareness to the construction of actual strategies and plans. The combined efforts of a broad range of international organizations, scientific reports, and media coverage have raised awareness of the importance of adaptation to climate change, fostering a growing number of adaptation responses in developed and developing countries.”
The report provides an assessment on each region of the world. The North American section states with “high confidence” that there exist links between climate change and rising temperatures, ravaging downpours, and declining water supplies. Additionally, the coastal regions of North America will face growing risks of “sea-level rise, warming, ocean acidification, extratropical cyclones, altered upwelling, and hurricanes and other storms”.
Some additional highlights from the report on North America include:
- Observed climate trends in North America include an increased occurrence of severe hot weather events over much of the US, decreases in frost days, and increases in heavy precipitation over much of North America …
- Global warming of approximately 2°C (above the pre-industrial baseline) is very likely to lead to more frequent extreme heat events and daily precipitation extremes over most areas of North America, more frequent low snow years, and shifts towards earlier snowmelt runoff over much of the western US and Canada. Together with climate hazards such as higher sea levels and associated storm surges, more intense droughts, and increased precipitation variability, these changes are projected to lead to increased stresses to water, agriculture, economic activities and urban and rural settlements.
The report points out the effect finances have on consequences from climate change. “Climate change is expected to have a relatively greater impact on the poor as a consequence of their lack of financial resources, poor quality of shelter, reliance on local ecosystem services, exposure to the elements, and limited provision of basic services and their limited resources to recover from an increasing frequency of losses through climate events,” chapter 14 says. This remains true even though richer countries have caused the majority of anthropogenic climate change.
The full version of the second installment, as well as the first, can be found here.