Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo
Photo: DisobeyArt / Getty Images
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), The Working Group II, recently contributed to the Sixth Assessment Report which “assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change”. This contribution is critical in helping us understand the current state of the environment and what urgent work is needed to prevent devastating impacts on people and the planet.
In addition to a summary for policymakers, the IPCC created fact sheets which provide snapshots of key findings for the seven regions across the globe. Here is an overview of the fact sheets which showcase how the climate crisis affects different parts of the world in different ways. This blog post will only cover information in the fact sheets that focus on ecosystems, food, and water, but we encourage you to read the full fact sheets as well as the summary for policymakers to gain a thorough understanding of how climate change impacts various countries and the barriers that exist for adaptation, specifically for our most vulnerable communities.
- African biodiversity loss is projected to be widespread and escalating with every 0.5°C increase above present-day global warming
- Above 1.5°C, half of assessed species are projected to lose over 30% of their population or area of suitable habitat. At 2°C, 7–18% of species assessed are at risk of extinction, and over 90% of East African coral reefs are projected to be severely degraded by bleaching.
- In Africa, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region. Future warming will negatively affect food systems in Africa by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress
- Global warming above 2°C will result in yield reductions for staple crops across most of Africa compared to 2005 yields.
- Climate change poses a significant threat to African marine and freshwater fisheries. Under 1.7°C global warming, reduced fish harvests could leave 1.2–70 million people in Africa vulnerable to iron deficiencies, up to 188 million for vitamin A deficiencies, and 285 million for vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids by mid-century.
- Recent extreme variability in rainfall and river discharge across Africa have had largely negative and multi-sector impacts across water-dependent sectors.
- Projected changes present heightened cross-cutting risks to water-dependent sectors and require planning under deep uncertainty for the wide range of extremes expected in future.
- Observed biodiversity loss of animals and plants was linked to climate change in some parts of Asia.
- Future climate change would cause biodiversity and habitat loss in many parts of Asia and would reduce suitable habitat of protected plants.
- The risk of irreversible loss of coral reefs, tidal marshes, seagrass meadows, plankton community and other marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C temperature rise or more.
- Increased floods and droughts, together with heat stress, will have adverse impact on food availability and prices of food resulting in increased undernourishment in South and Southeast Asia.
- By mid-21st Century, the international transboundary river basins of Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges could face severe water scarcity challenges due to climatic variability and changes acting as stress multipliers.
- Due to global warming, Asian countries could experience increase of drought conditions (5-20%) by the end of this century.
- Climate trends and extreme events have combined with exposure and vulnerabilities to cause major impacts for many natural systems, with some experiencing or at risk of irreversible change in Australia and in New Zealand.
- The Bramble Cay melomys, an endemic mammal species, became extinct due to loss of habitat associated with sea level rise and storm surges in the Torres Strait.
- Extensive coral bleaching events and loss of temperate kelp forests have occurred, due to ocean warming and marine heatwaves.
- Climate trends and extreme events have combined with exposure and vulnerabilities to cause major impacts for some human systems.
- Extreme heat has led to excess deaths and increased rates of many illnesses.
- Droughts have caused financial and emotional stress in farm households and rural communities.
- Nuisance and extreme coastal flooding have increased due to sea-level rise superimposed upon high tides and storm surges.
Central and South America
- Ocean and coastal ecosystems in the region such as coral reefs, estuaries, salt marshes, mangroves and sandy beaches are highly sensitive and negatively impacted by climate change and derivedhazards.
- Coral reefs are projected to lose their habitat, change their distribution range and suffer more bleaching events driven by ocean warming.
- Up to 85% of natural systems (plant and animal species, habitats and communities) evaluated in the literature for biodiversity-rich spots in the region are projected to be negatively impacted by climate change.
- The Amazon Forest, one of the world’s largest biodiversity and carbon repositories, is highly vulnerable to drought and was highly impacted by the unprecedented droughts and higher temperatures observed in 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015/2016, attributed partly to climate change.
- The combined effect of anthropogenic land use change and climate change increases the vulnerabilities of terrestrial ecosystems to extreme climate events and fires.
- Glacier retreat, temperature increase and precipitation variability, together with land-use change, have affected ecosystems, water resources, and livelihoods through landslides and flood disasters.
- Increasing water scarcity and competition over water are projected.
- Disruption in water flows will significantly degrade ecosystems such as high-elevation wetlands and affect farming communities, public health and energy production.
- Extremely long dry spells have become more frequent affecting the economies of large cities in southeast Brazil.
- Impacts on rural livelihoods and food security, particularly for small and medium-sized farmers and Indigenous Peoples in the mountains, are projected to worsen, including the overall reduction of agricultural production, suitable farming area and water availability.
- Our current 1.1°C warmer world is already affecting natural and human systems in Europe.
- Impacts of compound heatwaves and droughts have become more frequent and largely negative impacts are projected for southern regions.
- Substantive agricultural production losses are projected for most European areas over the 21st century, which will not be offset by gains in Northern Europe.
- While irrigation is an effective adaptation option for agriculture, the ability to adapt using irrigation will be increasingly limited by water availability, especially in response to warming above 3°C.
- In Southern Europe, more than a third of the population will be exposed to water scarcity at 2°C warming and significant economic losses in water and energy dependent sectors may arise.
- Coastal flood damage is projected to increase at least 10-fold by the end of the 21st century, and even more or earlier with current adaptation and mitigation.
- Sea level rise represents an existential threat for coastal communities and their cultural heritage, particularly beyond.
- Rising air, water, ocean, and ground temperatures have restructured ecosystems and contributed to documented redistribution and mortality of plant, fish, bird, mammal and other faunal species.
- Escalating climate change impacts on marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems will alter ecological processes and amplify other anthropogenic threats to protected and iconic species and habitats.
- Climate-induced redistribution and declines in North American food production are a risk to food and nutritional security.
- Climate change will continue to shift North American agricultural and fishery suitability ranges and intensify production losses of key crops, livestock, fisheries, and aquaculture products.
- Heavy exploitation of limited water supplies, especially in the western US and northern Mexico, and deteriorating freshwater management infrastructure, have heightened water security impacts and risks.
- Intensified droughts and earlier runoff from diminished snowpack will increase water scarcity during the summer peak water demand period especially in regions with extensive irrigated agriculture, leading to economic losses and increased pressures on limited groundwater as a substitute for diminished surface water supplies.
- The continued degradation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems of small islands due to negative human impacts will amplify the vulnerability of island peoples to climate change impacts.
- New studies highlight large population reductions with an extinction risk of 100% for endemic species within insular biodiversity hotspots including within the Caribbean, Pacific and Sundaland regions by 2100 for less than 3°C warming.
- Ecosystem degradation is likely to decrease the provision of resources to the millions of people inhabiting small islands, resulting in impacts upon settlements and infrastructure, food and water security, health, economies, culture, and migration.
- It is estimated that with a warming of 1.5°C or less, freshwater stress on small islands would be 25% less as compared to 2.0°C.
- Drought risk projections for Caribbean Small Island Development States (SIDS) indicate that a 1°C increase in temperature could result in a 60% increase in the number of people projected to experience severe water resources stress from 2043–2071.
- On small islands, coastal land loss attributable to higher sea level, increased extreme precipitation and wave impacts, and increased aridity have contributed to food and water insecurities that are likely to become more acute in many places.
It is evident that globally, climate change has severe impacts on the health of our ecosystems and the natural resources needed to sustain all life. Policymakers, organizations, government bodies, and every individual must take urgent action to adapt, mitigate risks, and reduce the rate that climate change is occurring.
We know this information may be overwhelming, but it is necessary to fully understand the current state of the environment so we can work toward finding sustainable solutions. If you’re struggling to deal with the reality of climate change, read our blog post about eco-anxiety and how to manage it here.