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Climate impacts and adaptation

The second part of the most recent IPCC report, ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’, assesses the impacts of climate change and whether the natural world and human societies can adapt to it.

This part of the report, written by the IPCC Working Group II, was released in February 2022. It looks at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels, tracking and assessing diverse impacts of climate change and vulnerabilities. We have covered some examples of what those impacts look like in another explainer.

The report concludes it is now unequivocal that “climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health” and “any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

What was new in this report?

The IPCC reports summarise the available research on the topic of climate change (more on how the process works here). So we can see how the field has changed since the last report (AR5) which came out in 2014, and identify new developments. For instance, according to Zero Carbon Analytics, this report integrated more data from economics and the social sciences, and highlighted the important role of social justice in adapting to climate change. You can read the full briefing on the Zero Carbon Analytics website.

Other important new findings include a deeper knowledge of how and which extreme weather events are fuelled by climate change, thanks to ‘attribution science’ becoming better understood by academics. Also this report showed how there are hard limits to adaptation – some ecosystems and communities can only change so much before they are unrecognisable, and impossible to thrive in as once before. It also deeply explored the concept of maladaptation; the idea that if adaptation to impacts of a warming world aren’t done thoughtfully and collaboratively, they risk entrenching societal inequalities and lock us in to existing poor choices that currently drive both the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. 

IPCC Explainer: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability by John Lang/eciu