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A breakdown of IPCC's Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report.

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is a UN body that is dedicated to assessing the science related to climate change. It was created to provide policy makers with regular scientific information regarding the implications of climate change and its future risks. The IPCC prepares reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change as well as its impacts, future risks and options for reducing the rate of climate change and how fast it is progressing. These reports are crucial for international negotiations around climate change.

The IPCC has just released their Sixth Assessment Report: ‘Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.’ This report looks at the impact of climate change and the ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels. Big reports like this one can be a lot to take in, so we are going to highlight the key points on what climate change is affecting and the implications this has on the food system.

Most governments around the world have acknowledged the existence of climate change and the devastating effects it will have, and currently has, on our planet. Two International agreements, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals will help achieve a more sustainable future and will positively impact the planet while promoting more peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive societies.

After going through this report, it is evident that climate change is affecting all areas of life on our planet. Ecosystems all around the world have been altered by climate change such as marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. Effects of this have been worse than anticipated. Many biological responses are occurring including changes in physiology, growth, abundances, geographic placement and shifting seasonal timing including flowers blooming and animals hibernating and mating. These changes are often not able to cope with recent climate change and has further caused loss of species, increases in disease and mass mortality events of plants and animals. We are also starting to see the first ever extinction of species caused by climate change. These impacts on ecosystems cause economic and livelihood losses, altered cultural practices and recreational activities around the world.

Anthropogenic climate change has exposed these precious ecosystems to conditions that were unprecedented. This has greatly impacted species both on land and in the ocean. As mentioned earlier, this has affected seasonal timing. Species across all ecosystems have now shifted their geographic ranges which has altered the timing of seasonal events. New diseases have also been introduced into places like the high Arctic and mountain ranges. This has led to emerging hybridisation, competition, temporal or spatial mismatches in predator-prey, insect-plant and host-parasite relationships, and invasion of alien plant pests or pathogens.

Species around the world are struggling to cope with the rapid change in climate. Population loss has been detected in half of studied species which are most common in tropical habitats and freshwater systems as well as marine and terrestrial habitats. A common reason for this loss is ecosystem change which has led to the loss of specialised ecosystems where warming has reduced the thermal habitat such as the poles, the tops of mountains and at the equator. The hottest of these ecosystems is becoming intolerable for many species. Species from warmer areas are starting to arrive in the Arctic as species who live there, such as the polar bear, are declining. Similar patterns of change are also starting to appear in marine environments and in the Antarctic. These include declining ranges in krill and emperor penguins. Coral reefs are also declining and deserts and tropical systems are also declining due to heat stress and extreme events.

Climate change has affected marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems all around the world as well as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture. This has impacted changing ecosystem structure, species range shifts and change in timing of the seasons. The effects of this include climate related extreme events which are followed by negative impacts on mental health, wellbeing, life satisfaction, happiness, cognitive performance and aggression in exposed populations.

As expected, climate change is putting added stress on the food system causing negative consequences for livelihoods, food security and nutrition for hundreds of millions of people. Due to this, the global food system is failing to address food insecurity and malnutrition in a sustainable way.

The productivity of all agriculture and fishery sectors have been affected by climate-related events which has caused negative consequences for food security and livelihoods. The impacts of this are severe, especially for people living in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Small Islands, Central and South America and the Arctic as well as small-scale food producers globally.

Along with this, food safety risks are also increasing in agriculture and fisheries. Higher temperatures and humidity is causing toxigenic fungi on many food crops as well as algal blooms and water-borne diseases. This is threatening food security, the economy and livelihoods of many coastal communities

These climate change impacts affect everyone. However, there are groups of people who are more vulnerable to these impacts. These include women, the elderly and children in low income households as well as Indigenous Peoples, minority groups, small scale producers and fishing communities. People in high risk regions also tend to experience malnutrition, livelihood loss, rising costs and increased competition for critical resources, such as land, energy, and water. Due to the effects of climate change, the global hydrological cycle has intensified causing several societal impacts which are all felt disproportionately by vulnerable people.

Overall, climate change has affected pretty much all areas of life on our planet. We are starting to see the impact of these effects on society and our wildlife. The effects on the ecosystem are drastic and are causing extreme natural disasters. To save our planet, we need to start putting in effort to reverse the effects of climate change.

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