Climate extremes, or even a series of non-extreme events, in combination with social vulnerabilities and exposure to risks can produce climate-related disasters, says the IPCC, in a special reportManaging the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
“The main message from this report is that we know enough to make good decisions about managing the risks of climate-related disasters. Sometimes we take advantage of this knowledge, but many times we do not,” says Chris Field, co-chair of IPCC’s Working Group ll.
Field says the challenge for the future includes one dimension focused on improving the knowledge base and one on empowering good decisions, even for those situations where there is lots of uncertainty.
The report’s 592 pages cite thousands of scientific studies. It has been subjected to three rounds of review by experts and governments to ensure that the findings are firmly based on the underlying scientific and technical information.
A total of 220 authors from 62 countries worked on the report, for which 18,784 outside expert and government comments were received in the three rounds of formal review.
The report is the result of cross-disciplinary teamwork between scientists studying the physical aspects of climate change; scientists with expertise in impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; as well as experts in disaster risk management.
“The report integrates these three areas of expertise as an IPCC product which has a high policy relevance to countries and communities across the globe,” says Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.
EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard tells Recharge the report would be a “valuable tool” in the Rio+20 Earth Summit talks next month. “Building adaptive capacity to tackle climate change is about facing up to a future which we cannot accurately predict, ” she says.
The main findings of the report are that it is virtually certain that increases in the frequency of warm daily temperature extremes and decreases in cold extremes will occur throughout this century on a global scale.
The authors cite a medium level of confidence that droughts will intensify over the coming century in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, as well as central Europe and several other regions.
It is also likely that heavy rainfall will increase in the 21st century over many areas of the globe, including in winter in the northern mid-latitudes.
The authors say economic losses from weather and climate-related disasters vary depending on the year and location, but overall they have increased. Deaths from natural disasters also occur much more in developing countries.
The economic losses from weather and climate-related related disasters have increased in the long-term, as people and economic assets have been increasingly exposed to risks. For example, more people are living where they may be adversely affected by disasters.
The report is being presented to policymakers in half a dozen locations in Latin America, Asia and Africa, with the support of the Norwegian government.
Events are being held with UN agencies in Geneva, the policy community in Brussels and the insurance industry in London.