#1 Global warming is a man-made problem humans need to solve
One of the report’s key findings is that the human influence on global warming is beyond doubt.
This is something the vast majority of climate experts have agreed on for quite some time, but the facts now paint a clear picture of the situation we are in. Each of the last four decades has been warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850, and it is now extremely likely that our climate is to exceed the mutually agreed 1.5℃ temperature increase threshold set by the 2015 Paris Climate Summit at some point in the next 20 years.
As a result, we can expect the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference to ask countries to adopt ambitious emission reduction targets. The good news is that there’s plenty of scope for this. The latest technologies and an increase in renewable energies provide ample opportunity for us to reduce emissions if the requisite investment is put forward, but it has to be something we invest in immediately.
From an organisational point of view, we can draw two conclusions from the report’s findings on global warming. Firstly, businesses and government bodies can expect to see increasingly stringent emissions regulation over the coming years, so now is the time to start exploring the technologies that can lead to reductions. Secondly, it is inevitable that we will increasingly face the consequences of these rising temperatures in our immediate future, and that’s something I’ll go on to talk about in the following points.
#2 The oceans are warming and rising – and will continue to do so
One of the environments most impacted by global warming is the ocean. The global upper ocean has warmed continually since the 1970s, and global warming has caused sea levels to rise since roughly the same point in time.
These changes are accelerating, too. The average sea level rise between 1901 and 1971 was 1.3mm a year. Between 1971 and 2006 this grew to 1.9mm a year, and by 2018 that figure had reached 3.7mm.
As noted by National Geographic, the consequences of these changes to our oceans can be devastating, affecting both coastal habitats and those further inland. We can expect coastal erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination, and lost habitats for various species of wildlife, flora and fauna.
All of these things have to be taken into consideration when thinking about how to protect existing assets, where to build new structures, and how water levels may impact our ability to grow food, provide clean sources of water and sustain our environment.
# 3 Extreme weather events are set to continue
Another result of rising sea temperatures is more severe hurricanes and typhoons. In fact, extreme weather events over both water and land are increasingly becoming the norm, from wildfires and floods to cyclones and storms.
This presents a unique challenge when it comes to protecting people, buildings, assets and industries. No matter what steps we take to tackle climate change in the coming years, this situation cannot be quickly remedied – which means we need to find new ways to gain insight into what extreme weather events are most likely to happen, where and when.
Predictive modelling and simulation technologies will play an increasingly important role in helping us gain insight into these events – and will enable us to find new ways to expect the unexpected.
#4 More frequent and intense heat will impact numerous industries
Since the 1950s, extreme heat has been more frequent and intense across land areas, while cold extremes have seen the opposite trend. Again, the report indicates a high-level of confidence that this is the result of human activities – but what does it mean for our society?
We’ve already seen an increase in wildfires over the last several years. In fact, just two years ago the NCA predicted at least a 30 percent increase in the area of Southeastern United States forest burned by lightning-ignited wildfires by 2060.
In many ways though, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have recently seen the impact of extreme heat on people’s health, with some US states setting up cooling centres to help people cope with rising temperatures. Rising heat will also lead to increased droughts in some regions, making it harder to grow crops. And that in turn can decrease the availability and increase the cost of key raw materials, which will have a knock-on effect on numerous industries.
#5 When it rains, it pours
On the other end of the scale is increased rainfall – both in terms of the frequency and intensity of precipitation.
As with all the other changes highlighted by the report, increased rainfall – a trend seen since around 1950 that has accelerated rapidly since the 1980s – can lead to numerous hazards, including flooding, risk to human life, damage to structures and infrastructures, crop failures, landslides, transport disruptions, and much more.
The only way to minimise these risks, is by gaining insight into rainfall patterns – and, as with all the other hazards we’ve covered in the previous key points, this will vary dramatically by geography.
Preparing for a different kind of future
Our goal as a society has to be to tackle climate change head-on. If we don’t find some success in this area soon, it will simply be too late. But in the short-term, there’s no ignoring the damage that has already been done. Businesses, governments and other organisations need to accept the fact that the impacts of climate change are here to stay for some time yet. So, finding a way to monitor these risks and adapt to them is essential to becoming more resilient, protecting society, personal safety and business continuity.
From insurance to energy companies, fisheries to vineyards, today’s organisations must be able to identify which risks are most critical to their operations, how vulnerable they are to them, when they are likely to strike, and what they can do to minimise their impacts.
The reality though, is that few are prepared. A 2019 Deloitte report found that a thorough understanding of climate risk is rare and few companies have governance and steering mechanisms in place to help them develop and implement comprehensive climate strategies.
Mitigating climate risk at Royal HaskoningDHV
At Royal HaskoningDHV Digital, we specialise in advising customers about the risks most relevant to their operations.
Using our multi-hazard risk analytics platform, we are already helping our clients map their risk landscapes based on the results of the IPCC report, enabling them to understand what hazards they are exposed to and what they can do to alleviate their impacts.
Our platform accounts for all climate-related hazards and has a hundred trillion pre-calculated data points for climate risks all over the planet. So whatever industry you work in and wherever you’re based, we have you covered.
If you’d like to gain a complete understanding of the climate risks you currently face – and those you’re likely to face in the future – get in touch.