Released today, the IPCC’s Working Group II report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, says observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods.

The report says that the striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.

Co-chair of Working Group II, Chris Field, said: “The report concludes that people, societies, and ecosystems are vulnerable around the world, but with different vulnerability in different places. Climate change often interacts with other stresses to increase risk”.

However, the report highlighted mitigation options and pointed to the key role adaptation will play in decreasing risks.

Co-chair, Vincente Barros, said: “Part of the reason adaptation is so important is that the world faces a host of risks from climate change already baked into the climate system, due to past emissions and existing infrastructure”.

Field added: “Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming.

“We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond,” said Field.

Commenting on the report, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey said: “The science has spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will have far reaching consequences for our society.

“This evidence builds the case for early action in the UK and around the world to lessen the risks posed by climate change. We cannot afford to wait,” added Davey.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: “More knowledge is always good, more action would be even better. When the alarm goes off, many just hit the snooze button. This does not work anymore when it comes to the climate. It’s time to wake up and bring action to the scale needed.

“Europe is preparing an ambitious reduction target for 2030 to be adopted later this year. I appeal to all major emitters to do the same urgently. It’s time to get serious,” added Hedegaard.

Leigh Stringer

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