Climate risk and response:Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

After more than 10,000 years of relative stability—the full span of human civilization—the Earth’s climate is changing. As average temperatures rise, acute hazards such as heat waves and floods grow in frequency and severity, and chronic hazards, such as drought and rising sea levels, intensify. Here we focus on understanding the nature and extent of physical risk from a changing climate over the next three decades, exploring physical risk as it is the basis of both transition and liability risks. We estimate inherent physical risk, absent adaptation and mitigation, to assess the magnitude of the challenge and highlight the case for action. Climate science makes extensive use of scenarios ranging from lower (Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6) to higher (RCP 8.5) CO2 concentrations. We have chosen to focus on RCP 8.5, because the higher-emission scenario it portrays enables us to assess physical risk in the absence of further decarbonization. We link climate models with economic projections to examine nine cases that illustrate exposure to climate change extremes and proximity to physical thresholds. A separate geospatial assessment examines six indicators to assess potential socioeconomic impact in 105 countries. The research also provides decision makers with a new framework and methodology to estimate risks in their own specific context. Key findings:

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