On March 28th, governments from across the world will endorse the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) regarding the impacts of climate change (a.k.a. Working Group II (WG II) of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)). What appears alphabet spaghetti is actually a profound reality check on the global political – and actual – temperatures.
The leaked versions of the draft report makes for a compelling read. There are mounds of evidence to support the conclusions; however, what really matters is how individuals, companies, cities, governments and other actors respond to it. Outlined below are some core messages from WG II that must inform our response.
Greater certainty and scale of impacts
- A key outcome from WG II is that scientists’ understanding of future risk has become strengthened. Their certainty over both the magnitude and the extent of climate impacts is greater than the previous Fourth Assessment Report in 2006/07 – climate impacts are worsening
There are limits to adaptation
- The report shows that our adaptation response to current extreme weather events remains low, highlighting an “adaptation deficit” in both developing and developed countries
- Whilst we’re not adequately prepared for the risks that climate change poses, and adaptation is unavoidable, it also concludes that our collective ability to adapt has limits. It argues that a global average temperature increase of more than 4°C could make normal activities like growing food or working outdoors impossible in many regions where people currently live – posing significant challenges to civilisation
Utilise a risk management lens
- Climate change is not currently well-managed. Uncertainty per se cannot be a barrier to action. Uncertainty doesn’t mean we know nothing, just that we do not know precisely what the future may hold. Absolutes are a rarity in decisions around national security which predominately balance various forms of risk
- Risk management endeavours to reduce both the probability of a bad outcome and the potential severity of its consequences. Good risk management requires us to account rigorously for the full range of possible outcomes and understand the deficiencies of our institutional systems in dealing with them.
- Risk management is a practical process that provides a basis for decision-makers to compare different policy choices. WG II report provides a stark choice for real-economy operatives about the levels of climate risk to which they are exposing our economies, and the subsequent consequences.
- It is now for decision-makers on every-level to stress test their corporate business models and their development vision against the futures the IPCC predicts.