Each year, new reports emerge from across the globe about the impacts of climate change. Very (very) broadly, changes can be split into short and long term onset changes. Changes can also be divide across sectors, from impacts on health, productivity of agriculture, income, extreme weather related disasters, impacts on cities and city living, building infrastructure. And that’s just the ones we can anticipate.
The problem with climate change is that it brings with it a large measure of risk and uncertainty. Scientists have an idea of how the climate is going to change, an even how certain regions might benefit, but given the interlinked nature of global ecosystems and the people that live in them, we just don’t know how nature or people will react. That means there are plenty of unexpected natural and socio economic impacts that are quite frankly unpredictable.
For example, take water. By 2050, due to increasing demand for water coupled with a warming climate, over 50% of the worlds population are likely to be living in countries with water scarcity. Some of those countries include Pakistan, India, China, Syria or Jordan. Water is a fundamental need – its not just what comes out the tap, it’s also for agriculture, feeding animals, cooling cars and power generator. When fundamental needs become scare, the tendency of some is to do anything to protect them – this leads to potential for insecurity, as individuals, communities or even countries seek to defend their vital interests. It’s not that insecurity is necessarily going to result, its just that the risk for it is, and that makes planning difficult.
A good guide to the latest science on expected climate change impacts is the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – from its second working group on Impacts, Vulnerability.