View all news

Bristol scientists contribute to latest IPCC report on the impact of global warming on ecosystems and human systems

Image of the earth held in the palm of a hand

Press release issued: 31 March 2014

Members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II will publish their first update in seven years on the scale of impacts, adaptations and vulnerabilities to climate change at a meeting in Yokohama, Japan today.

Two researchers from the University of Bristol – Dr Daniela Schmidt, of the School of Earth Sciences and Dr Jo House of the School of Geographical Sciences – are among the world-leading researchers in the field who have contributed to the Working Group II report.

Dr Schmidt, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Bristol and a lead author of the report, said: "It is a herculean effort to summarise 30 chapters with more than 3,000 pages into a summary for policy makers which conveys the most important findings.  We received more than 50,000 reviewer comments which were addressed to make the report more succinct and with clear messages for policy makers."  

The report highlights that the observed impacts of climate change are already apparent, widespread and substantial.  

"It was a real challenge to design the chapter assessing the consequences of global change on the ocean for the first time, distilling a vast body of literature into a few dozen pages, and then again condensing the main finding for the Summary for Policy makers," said Dr Schmidt. 

"I am delighted that ocean acidification, which was one of the emerging issues in the last report, is broadly covered with a specific focus on the response in different regions of the world."

Professor Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute said: "'It is increasingly clear that the emission of greenhouse gases is doing far more to our planet than simply warming it.  Global rainfall patterns are changing, sea ice is retreating and the oceans are becoming more acidic.  It is a complex combination of factors that could have profound impacts on life, from individual species to the functioning of entire ecosystems.  Those exact biological reactions to global change remain unclear, but the uncertainty with respect to how climate change will affect our future food supplies and natural economy should not be comforting."

Dr Schmidt said: "A particularly important issue is the unprecedented rate of this environmental change.  Even the most rapid warming events in the geological record are at least ten times slower than what is occurring in the 21st century.  The combination of large, multiple and very rapid environmental changes is of great concern and a recurring theme through Working Group II's report – from the poles to the tropics and from the forests to the oceans."

Working Group II follows on from Working Group I which assessed the physical basis of climate change and presented its contribution to the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report in Stockholm in September 2013.

The Cabot Institute

The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainties in a changing environment.   It drives new research in the interconnected areas of climate change, natural hazards, water and food security, low carbon energy, and future cities.  Its research fuses rigorous statistical and numerical modelling with a deep understanding of social, environmental and engineered systems – past, present and future. It seeks to engage wider society by listening to, exploring with, and challenging its stakeholders to develop a shared response to 21st Century challenges. 

Edit this page