Climate change report: ‘The worst is yet to come’ as it happened

Threat of climate change is no longer distant, finds the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


11.16am BST

The UN’s climate science panel today published its report on what impacts climate change is having on humans and the natural world, and what effects we can expect in the decades to come. Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change, said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.

Food supplies will be affected as yields from major crops including wheat, maize and rice decrease

10.26am BST

The UK-based blog CarbonBrief has fished out this map from the report, on the different impacts to humans and the natural world across the planet:

The impacts of climate change, in three charts: (1) a pretty scary map #ipcc

10.22am BST

News coverage has been pretty divergent, reflecting the comprehensive and wide-ranging nature of the report itself.

The Times and Mail have led on the report increasing its estimate of the economic costs of climate change:

10.12am BST

The Met Office has responded to the IPCC report, and flagged up its own mini-report last week on extreme weather and climate change which warned that the UK will be become both too wet and too dry in the future.

Here’s professor Richard Betts, head of impacts at the Met Office and one of the lead authors on the IPCC report:

This report draws together multiple strands of evidence to show that climate change is already having a global impact, particularly on the natural world, and that it will have bigger impacts in the future.

9.49am BST

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has put out an FAQ on the IPCC report.

It notes that while the UK is not singled out specifically in the report, it does say that Europe will suffer:

Increased economic losses and more people affected by flooding in river basins and coasts, as urbanisation continues, sea levels rise and peak river flows increase;

Increased water restrictions. Significant reduction in water availability from river abstraction and from groundwater resources combined with increased water demand (e.g. for irrigation, energy and industry and domestic use);

Some still display “invincible ignorance” despite IPCC Report giving climate evidence & stark warning. To ignore is to betray our future.

9.38am BST

The UK-based Science Media Centre has rounded up useful reaction from climate scientists, several of whom contributed to the IPCC report.

Professor Paul Bates, member of the Royal Society Working Group on Human Resilience to Climate Change and Disasters said:

This new report makes clear that the effects of climate change over the coming decades will be far reaching and will affect almost every aspect of our lives from food production, health, the economy to the environment. At the same time a growing global population that is increasingly urbanized and interconnected is making society more vulnerable and less resilient. There is also good evidence that climate-related hazards hit those living in poverty the hardest.

The report reaffirms the importance of coastal zones as a hotspot for climate impacts. Climate adaptation for coasts has grown significantly over the last few years, and these efforts need to further developed in the coming decades.”

Global temperatures have already risen by 0.8C. If we do not take action to reduce carbon emissions, global temperatures could rise by 3-6C by the end of the century.

WGII [the group behind today’s report] shows that the 0.8C rise we have already experienced has impacted agriculture and ecosystems.

The report documents how countries are already making themselves more resilient to the impacts of climate change, but much more needs to be done. In the UK and the rest of northern Europe, we will need to cope with increasing risks from coastal and inland flooding, heat waves and droughts. The UK and all rich countries must also provide significant support to help poor countries, which are particularly vulnerable, to cope with the impacts of climate change.

9.33am BST

Here’s a wrap of reaction from green groups.

Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF Global Climate & Energy Initiative:

This report tells us that we have two clear choices: cut emissions now and invest in adaption – and have a world that has challenging and just barely manageable risks; or do nothing and face a world of devastating and unmanageable risks and impacts.

The report makes it clear that we still have time to act. We can limit climate instability and adapt to some of the changes we see now. But without immediate and specific action, we are in danger of going far beyond the limits of adaptation. With this risk posed so clearly, we have to hope that the next IPCC report which is being released in Berlin in April, will provide us with strong statements on the solutions that we know exist.

Were walking a tightrope, but if we act boldly and cut climate pollution faster major threats to human security can still be avoided and vital ocean systems, forests and species protected. Our actions will define how history will judge us and we question world leaders: will you stand with us?

Scientists have rung the last alarm bell with this report – rich industrialized countries can no longer protect the interests of corporations who pollute whilst refusing to face up to the costs of that pollution to people’s lives and to the planet.

9.11am BST

Here’s some more of our coverage of the report:

In a pointed dig at Conservative chancellor, George Osborne, who has said he doesn’t want the UK out ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, Liberal Democrat energy secretary, Ed Davey, told The Observer that:

Climate change is hugely threatening to our way of life, in the UK, Europe and the world. Not to lead is deeply irresponsible. If you don’t lead, you will not bring others with you.

Every city and every sector of our country and society is at risk. The IPCC tells us it will probably get 4C warmer. That means everything will be compromised, from food and energy to settlements. We are not ready. The challenge is too huge. I cannot imagine what would happen if a typhoon the strength of Yolanda hit Manila or the second city, Cebu. It would be a global disaster. It will take us 20 years to recover from Yolanda as it is. We lost 1m homes then. We are very vulnerable.

I was a little too certain in that book. You just cant tell whats going to happen. It [the impact from climate change] could be terrible within a few years, though thats very unlikely, or it could be hundreds of years before the climate becomes unbearable.

8.56am BST

The full report is up on the IPCC site now, along with this 12-minute film on the impacts of climate change.

8.52am BST

Jonathon Porritt, the former head of the Sustainable Development Commission, the UK green watchdog which was axed by the government in its ‘bonfire of the quangoes’, echoes the point Field made in his BBC interview:

Just to get IPCC’s message straight:adaptation to climate change meaningless unless we dramatically reduce emissions. Starting now!

While people in all countries will need to make themselves more resilient to those impacts that cannot now be avoided over the next few decades, the potential risks from unmitigated climate change towards the end of this century and into the next will be very severe, particularly if global warming exceeds 2 centigrade degrees. The report warns that, during this century, climate change will increase the risk of human populations being displaced to escape shifts in extreme weather, such as floods and droughts, as well as relatively slow-onset impacts, such as desertification and sea level rise.

This report presents a stark case for sharply reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts, such as the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the resultant rise in sea level, to which we will not be able to make ourselves fully resilient and which lie outside the evolutionary experience of modern Homo sapiens.

8.43am BST

A little more from that Field interview on Today. He had a nice metaphor for how he saw the difference between the IPCC and organisations that campaign on climate change, such as WWF, Greenpeace and other groups:

The role of the IPCC is not to motivate action. The IPCC is charged with providing a scientific, balanced assessment about what’s known and what’s known about climate change

There are lots of organisations ringing bells

8.41am BST

Al Gore, the former US vice-president and winner of the Nobel peace prize for his work on climate change, has responded to the IPCC report by saying it shows the need for a switch to low carbon sources of energy (note his emphasis is on mitigation, i.e. cutting emissions, rather than adaptation, i.e. learning to live with higher temperatures). He says the report:

represents even more definitive evidence of the growing urgency to immediately reduce the spewing of global warming pollution. The atmosphere can no longer be used as an open sewer. The costs of carbon pollution are clear: decreasing crop yields, more destructive storms, the spreading of tropical diseases to temperate latitudes, rising seas, more climate refugees, failures of governance, increasing floods, deepening droughts, more destructive fires and heat waves — all contributing to the new reality of the global climate crisis. Put together, these factors are already affecting the lives of millions around the world by driving them from their homes, disrupting their livelihoods, and in some cases, further straining destabilized regions.

The consensus is clear. We need an immediate and determined shift to a clean, renewable economy. The continued mass burning of fossil fuels is inconsistent with a healthy, prosperous future for our civilization.

8.36am BST

Listening to Webb’s line of questioning ‘the big story is not gloom and doom, the message in this report could be read as… if we spend money we can survive and prosper’ it’s perhaps easy to see why campaigners were protesting outside Broadcasting House in London last week at what they saw as unbalanced coverage of climate change on the BBC.

The drafts of the summary struck a very balanced tone. It sort of turned into a positive message about how these risk are manageable, to a story about just the risks [suggesting] climate change is a terrible thing and the only solution is to reduce greenhouse gases as soon as possible

8.25am BST

Chris Field, one of the co-chairs of working group II behind today’s report, has been speaking to the Today programme.

He said:

There is an element of the report that capitalises on the opportunities for investments in adaptation. An equally strong message is that the risk of severe and pervasive impacts goes up dramatically in a world that doesn’t pay attention to high emissions

If there’s one message that comes through more clearly there any other [in the report], it’s that we’ll face consequential impacts from climate change

There are examples of where benefits might accrue from climate change, especially small benefits with a small amount of climate change, but the report is full of impacts that are severe and pervasive…

Climate change impacts have already occurred with real impacts around the world

Moving forward, risks with climate change are really pervasive especially with a high [greenhouse gas] emissions trajectory

8.10am BST

Adam Vaughan here. I’m going to open the liveblog to wrap up the reaction to the report, which is beginning to flood in. In a few minutes, we should hear from Chris Field, one of the co-chairs of the IPCC group behind today’s report, on the BBC Today programme.

In the meantime, Suzanne Goldenberg has been speaking to Rajenda Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, about the report. He says:

I hope these facts will, for want of a better word, jolt people into action. It’s a sort of breakthrough over the knowledge that already exists in this field.

6.04am BST

That’s where we’ll leave the Guardian’s blog on the IPCC report on climate change effects on people and the planet.

You can read Suzanne Goldenberg’s full report here.

5.58am BST

5.48am BST

The secretary of state for energy and climate change, Edward Davey has released a statement in response to the IPCC report. Davey said “the science has clearly spoken” and cited Britain’s recent floods as “testament to the devastation climate change could bring.”

The UK is leading from the front and working with our European partners. Weve adopted some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world,” he said.

5.37am BST

US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned that failing to act immediately and decisively on climate change will have “catastrophic” and wide-ranging consequences, reports AFP.

“Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy,” said Kerry.

5.33am BST

The Australian environment minister, Greg Hunt, has told the Guardian the IPCC report “reinforces the government’s support for the science and the need to take action to combat climate change.”

“Australia is committed to addressing the challenges through direct and practical policy measures. This includes reducing emissions by five percent from 2000 levels by 2020. Central to achieving this is the creation of the Emissions Reduction Fund,” said Hunt.

5.06am BST

I’ll wrap up this blog shortly, but first, here is a comprehensive write up on today from the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg in Yokohama, Japan.

The report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.

And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.

4.53am BST

The ocean has absorbed the equivalent of two atomic bombs every second in energy, says one of the coordinating lead authors, and the early effects of climate change are likely to impact key industries.

“This report identifies tourism and maritime shipping as industries likely to feel some of the earliest and most significant climate change impacts, said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, an IPCC coordinating lead author and director of the University of Queensland global change institute.

4.29am BST

Climate change has already delivered severe economic damage and things will only get worse without more action,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the environmental research organisation, the World Resources Institute.

“The report makes it clear that deep and rapid cuts in emissions can greatly reduce the costs of these impacts. Taking action now will undoubtedly be less expensive than waiting.

4.08am BST

Suzanne Goldenberg has filed the five key points from the IPCC, after it revealed the world faces threats to food supply, conflicts over water rights and growing inequality.

1. Food threat

2. Human security

3.52am BST

Emma Bryce writes on what the report means for the world’s “agricultural road map”. The IPCC report yields clues about our future food scenario, and in the meantime two studies have exposed the scene at global and local scales.

“Just recently, two studies emerged that each offered a unique look at the force of these impactsthe first, a globe-scale evaluation, and the second a study that zooms in to consider effects closer to the ground. Both paint a picture of a planet in even greater flux by mid-century,” she writes.

3.37am BST

If rising sea levels, reduced crops and dying reefs aren’t enough to get you worried about the content in the IPCC’s report, perhaps the fate of your morning coffee will do it.

My Guardian colleague Damian Carrington writes:

Global warming is leading to bad, expensive coffee. Almost 2bn cups of coffee perk up its drinkers every day, but a perfect storm of rising heat, extreme weather and ferocious pests mean the highland bean is running out of cool mountainsides on which it flourishes.

3.29am BST

From AP:

The problems have gotten so bad that the panel had to add a new and dangerous level of risks. In 2007, the biggest risk level in one key summary graphic was “high” and colored blazing red. The latest report adds a new level, “very high,” and colors it deep purple.

You might as well call it a “horrible” risk level, said report co-author Maarten van Aalst, a top official at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

3.21am BST

Dana Nuccitelli writes for the Guardian, looking at the arguments made against mitigation and risk management.

Contrarians have tried to spin the conclusions of the report to incorrectly argue that it would be cheaper to try and adapt to climate change and pay the costs of climate damages. In reality the report says no such thing. The IPCC simply tells us that even if we manage to prevent the highest risk scenarios, climate change costs will still be high, and we can’t even grasp how high climate damage costs will be in the highest risk scenarios.

3.11am BST

Part of the report examines the impact of sea level rises, and takes a specific look at Australia and New Zealand. I mentioned some of the facts and figures earlier, but the IPCC summary also looks at the impact of government bureaucracy and litigation has on effectively mitigating future problems.

“..experience in Australia has shown high litigation potential and opposing priorities at different levels of government, [are] undermining retreat policies,” it reads.

3.02am BST

The exact wording of the report only agreed yesterday afternoon after days of debate, and a number of all-nighters wrangling over language. The Bolivians wants to stick in a line about Mother Earth. The Saudi delegation was pushing for the scientists to talk about the dangers of dust. Both efforts failed. – Suzanne Goldenberg

2.54am BST

More on that last quote from the IPCC, framing climate change action as “a challenge in managing risk.”

For those who like word clouds, the Red Cross has done a quick count and found that in the 26-page summary of the report the word “risk” is used more than 230 times. The last time the IPCC released this report seven years ago, risk was only mentioned 40 times.

2.48am BST

Some background on why the panel is really hammering just how comprehensive this report is, particularly in regards to adaption and mitigation.

The number of scientific publications available for assessing climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, with especially rapid increases in publications related to adaptation, according to the IPCC.

2.32am BST

“The pause” – I’ve been waiting for someone to ask about it

The panel was just asked about the pause – which is a favourite new meme of climate change deniers, says Suzanne Goldenberg.

2.27am BST

Back in Yokohama, Suzanne Goldenberg is keeping an eye on the IPCC press conference.

The IPCC is drilling down into how climate change will affect food security. It’s complicated stuff. Crop yields are still continuing to increase, but at a much slower rate than they were at the beginning of the Green Revolution 40 years ago, and not fast enough to keep up with population growth.

But the WMO’s Michel Jarraud just raised another risk – food price shocks. Big food spike prices in 2008 pushed 44 million into poverty, and led to food riots and unrest in 14 countries in the Middle East and Africa.

2.26am BST

More from Kathleen McInnes:
Torres Strait communities are vulnerable to even the small amounts of sea level rise. Within Australia, over $226bn in assets are under threat if sea levels rises 1.1m, including 274,000 residential homes.

On ocean warming impacts:

2.22am BST

The report looked at extreme Australian events, highlight risks posed by flooding, heatwaves, fires, and coral bleaching, Australian scientists have told media.

Adaptation is occurring in Australia but mostly at a planning/conceptual level, according to climatologist Penelope Whetton.

2.10am BST

A question from the floor: was this a struggle between alarmists and non-alarmists when deciding on the language?

The question is referring to one of the 70 authors, Professor Richard Tol, who last week said he had pulled out of the writing team because it was “alarmist” about the threat of climate change.

2.05am BST

From Suzanne Goldenberg:

We just got to one of the really tricky sections of the report – how much will climate change hurt the bottom line? This is one area where there really isn’t much hard data, because of a lack of reliability in economic models.

One number that is out in the report is that climate change will shave between .2 and 2% of global income, if warming remains at about 2C.

2.03am BST

For those who want to read the summary of the report for themselves, it has now been published online here. The full report will be released at a later date.

2.00am BST

Some assistance from my colleague Suzanne Goldenberg who is at the press conference in Yokohama.

For the uninitiated, there are two buzz words that you are going to hear a lot of just now – mitigation and adaptation.

Mitigation are the actions that governments take to reduce the emissions that cause climate change.

1.58am BST

WWF Australia has called the report a “wake up call” to prime minister Tony Abbott.

“This latest IPCC report ramps up the urgency for the Government to put in place a credible plan to protect Australia from climate change impacts.

1.57am BST

Climate change is going to intensify the impact of poverty, said Opondo.

People are already marginalised. “In the urban areas the poor are going to be harder hit. Africa has lots of slums, and in the slum areas there are not the proper facilities.”

1.51am BST

We’ll have a full report on the press conference for you later today. In the meantime governments, environmental groups, and charities are already weighing in.

Science advisor to the White House John Holdren has released a statement in response to the IPCC report. Below is a snippet:

The IPCCs new report underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. It reflects scientists increased confidence that the kinds of harm already being experienced as a result of climate change are likely to worsen as the world continues to warm.

The report highlights the widespread and substantial observed impacts of climate change, and its growing adverse effects on livelihoods, ecosystems, economies, and human health. Importantly, it also concludes that effective adaptation measures can help build a more resilient global society in the near term and beyond.

1.42am BST

The press conference has now ended, but there will be an hour of questions for the panel. In the meantime here are some comprehensive reports from my Guardian colleagues:

The poor will suffer most, writes Suzanne Goldenberg.
Pensioners left on their own during a heatwave in industrialised countries. Single mothers in rural areas. Workers who spend most of their days outdoors. Slum dwellers in the megacities of the developing world. These are some of the vulnerable groups who will feel the brunt of climate change as its effects become more pronounced in the coming decades.

1.36am BST

IPCC press conference: “There is no question that risks of climate change increase with further emissions” Chris Field

1.31am BST

“The report has a lot of bad news in it… but it also shows that people societies and governments are already taking steps,” said Field.

Another key finding here – adaption is already occurring.

1.30am BST

The average yield changes as a consequence of climate change have already been “significant,” Field outlines.

“All crops are at risk of future warming,” said Field. It’s not yet seen in soy and rice, but the impact is visible in other agricultural crops.

Chris Field is getting to one of the key takeaways of the report climate change is already affecting food supply. This is the first time that the IPCC has taken a direct look at food supply and security and the results really got the attention of government officials this last week.

Staples like wheat and maize have already shown declines in crop yields in recent decades, the report found. Projections for the years ahead are generating even more concern. Some scenarios see a big drop in yields at a time when they need to be increasing to feed a growing population.

1.27am BST

The IPCC report is “the top of a gigantic pyramid of scientific knowledge that’s been developed around the world over many decades,” said co-chair Christopher Field. He is now going through the key findings.

The first of which is the observed impacts of climate change are “widespread and consequential.”

@ipcc_news Chris Field – we are no longer living in a world where climate change is hypothetical

1.22am BST

Dr Maggie Opondo, a coordinating lead author on the chapter on livelihoods and poverty, said the report is giving scientist an opportunity to “come out of their ivory towers.”

“This is a genuine opportunity to give to the world and share our knowledge with the world to make it a better place,” said Opondo.

1.20am BST

Mici el Jarraud of the World Meteorological Organisation is now speaking. “We can no longer plead ignorance,” he said, noting the breadth, detail and strength of the science in the IPCC report.

There may still be a few question marks but this is not an excuse to not act, he said.

1.18am BST

Climate change impacts include food security issues and extreme events, said Pachauri, as well as severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts on species, and a risk of crossing environmental tipping points.

1.14am BST

Serious implications on food security and livelihoods will be a “severe challenge” for the poorest of the world, said Pachauri.

“The one thing that we have come up with is the importance of adaptation and mitigation choices. This is the only way that we might be able to reduce the risk of climate change.”

1.12am BST

The press conference has now begun, with the opening statement from chairman of the IPCC, Dr Rajendra K Pachauri.

“Why should the world pay attention to this report?” asked Pachauri.

1.06am BST

From the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg in Yokohama, where the press conference is about to begin.

People are only just now beginning to filter into the cavernous conference room where the IPCC scientists have been holding their deliberations, and where the release is about to be held.

The lead authors Chris Field of the US and Vicente Barros of Argentina began this exercise under a bit of a cloud. The last big report on climate effects, in 2007, contained the erroneous statement that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

12.56am BST

“Human-driven climate change poses a great threat, unprecedented in type and scale, to well-being, health and perhaps even to human survival,” write three of the contributors to the IPCC report’s health chapter.

Writing for Australia’s the Conversation, professors Colin Butler and Helen Louise Berry, and Emeritus professor Anthony McMichael say the focus has been largely on “spurious debate about the basic science and on the risks to property, iconic species and ecosystems, jobs, the GDP and the economics of taking action versus taking our chances.”

Missing from the discussion is the threat climate change poses to Earths life-support system from declines in regional food yields, freshwater shortage, damage to settlements from extreme weather events and loss of habitable, especially coastal, land. The list goes on: changes in infectious disease patterns and the mental health consequences of trauma, loss, displacement and resource conflict.

12.36am BST

Before the press conference begins at 9am local time (about 25 minutes from now), we can take a look at what we already know.

There have been several drafts of the report leaked already, giving fair indication of the warnings to come from the IPCC.

12.22am BST

Hello, and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the release of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate impacts. It’s the first update to the report for seven years, and is expected to reveal some dire news about the effect of climate change on the world.

Nearly 500 people have signed off on the wording of the report, including 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

The United Nations science panel is about to release an exhaustive new report on climate change at a press conference in Yokohama.

The report is the first update from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change in seven years, and is seen as the definitive account on the state of the science.

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