Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers - IPCC Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5)

The most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on global climate change to date, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014. The AR5 contains contributions from three Working Groups. Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change, Working Group II assesses impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, while Working Group III assesses the mitigation of climate change.

The objective of Working Group II’s report (WGII AR5), ‘Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,’ is to consider the vulnerability and exposure of human and natural systems, the observed impacts and future risks of climate change, and the potential for and limits to adaptation. The WGII report consists of two volumes. The first contains a Summary for Policymakers (SPM), Technical Summary, and 20 chapters assessing risks by sector and opportunities for response. The sectors described include: freshwater resources, terrestrial and ocean ecosystems, coasts, food, urban and rural areas, energy and industry, human health and security, and livelihoods and poverty.

The report concludes with very high confidence that differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation responses. This  heightened vulnerability is rarely due to a single cause. Rather, it is the product of intersecting social processes that result in inequalities in socioeconomic status and income, as well as in exposure. Such social processes include, for example, discrimination on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, age, and (dis)ability.

Moreover, climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty. Climate-related hazards affect poor people’s lives a) directly through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, or destruction of homes and b) indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity. Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps, particularly in urban areas, developing countries, countries with increasing inequality, and emerging hotspots of hunger.

Human development is therefore listed as an approach to manage the risks of climate change. Examples include reducing gender inequality and marginalization, as well as improving access to education, nutrition, health facilities, energy, safe housing, and social support structures. Insurance programs, social protection measures, and disaster risk management may enhance long-term livelihood resilience among poor and marginalized people, if policies address poverty and multidimensional inequalities.

Volume I offers adaptation strategies based on definitive risks. The “Future risks and opportunities for adaptation” section in the SPM first presents the key risks which apply across sectors and regions. Adaptation recommendations are then given for climate risks by sector and separately by region.

The “Adaptation Experience” section describes that overall adaptation is becoming embedded in some planning processes, although with less implementation of responses or adaptive action. Progress is being seen in that adaptation “experience” is accumulating across regions in the public and private sector and within communities. Governments at various levels are starting to develop adaptation plans and policies, and to integrate climate change considerations into broader development plans.

Volume II has 10 chapters assessing the risks and opportunities for response by region - including Africa, Europe, Asia, Australasia, North America, Central and South America, Polar Regions, Small Islands, and the Ocean.

The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with varying degrees of vulnerability. Responding to climate change involves making choices about simultaneous risks, and these risks can be multiplied by other stressors outside of climate change. Differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors. Significant co-benefits, synergies, and tradeoffs exist between mitigation and adaptation and among different adaptation responses. While the impacts of climate change are increasingly clear, climate change will also continue to be unpredictable.

The 243 Lead Authors and 66 Review Editors involved in the WGII AR5 are experts from around the world in disciplines including natural and physical sciences, engineering, social sciences, public policy, and development and management sciences. 436 additional experts were invited by the Lead Authors of the report to be Contributing Authors and to provide specific knowledge or expertise in particular areas.

The Working Group I report was released in September 2013, and the Working Group III report in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.

The IPCC is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.


Publication Date: March 31, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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