What do we know about our vulnerability and ways of adaptating to climate change?

The next major assessment report about the impacts of climate change on the environment and society is scheduled to be released by Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on March 29, 2014.

Highlights from the IPCC Working Group II, Summary for Policymakers, Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

“Some adaptation is occurring now, to observed and projected future climate change, but on a limited basis.”

“Adaptation will be necessary to address impacts resulting from the warming which is already unavoidable due to past emissions.”

“However, adaptation alone is not expected to cope with all the projected effects of climate change, and especially not over the long run as most impacts increase in magnitude.”

“A wide array of adaptation options is available, but more extensive adaptation than is currently occurring is required to reduce vulnerability to future climate change. There are barriers, limits and costs, but these are not fully understood.”

“Vulnerability to climate change can be exacerbated by the presence of other stresses.”

“. . .[T]he projected impacts of climate change can vary greatly due to the development pathway assumed. For example, there may be large differences in regional population, income and technological development under alternative scenarios, which are often a strong determinant of the level of vulnerability to climate change.”

“Sustainable development can reduce vulnerability to climate change by enhancing adaptive capacity and increasing resilience. At present, however, few plans for promoting sustainability have explicitly included either adapting to climate change impacts, or promoting adaptive capacity.”

“A portfolio of adaptation and mitigation measures can further diminish the risks associated with climate change.”

“This Assessment makes it clear that the impacts of future climate change will be mixed across regions. For increases in global mean temperature of less than 1 to 3°C [1.8 to 5.4°F] above 1990 levels, some impacts are projected to produce benefits in some places and some sectors, and produce costs in other places and other sectors. It is, however, projected that some low latitude and polar regions will experience net costs even for small increases in temperature. It is very likely that all regions will experience either declines in net benefits or increases in net costs for increases in temperature greater than about 2 to 3°C [3.6 to 5.4°F].”