UArizona climate adaptation experts contribute to latest IPCC climate report

ice on the ocean

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week released a new report focused on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Two University of Arizona experts contributed to the Working Group II report, which is part of the larger IPCC Sixth Assessment Report.

Diana Liverman, an internationally renowned expert in climate vulnerability and Regents Professor in the School of Geography, Development and Environment, is a review editor for the Working Group II report's final chapter on climate resilience development.

Carolyn Enquist, an adjunct faculty member with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment and interim federal director of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, hosted at the university's Arizona Institutes for Resilience, is a lead author for the North America chapter of the report.

"This report confirms that even at the 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) global warming already observed, we are seeing dangerous impacts on lives and ecosystems, with increasing losses of life and species projected if we continue to heat the planet," Liverman said. "These impacts are exacerbated by poverty, land use change and oppressions that make many people and places more vulnerable."

Liverman has been a part of past IPCC assessment reports and was a lead author for the IPCC's Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, released in 2018.

Enquist is an ecologist with over two decades of experience working at the nexus of science and practice through her positions with nongovernmental organizations and federal agencies, and she has contributed to three National Climate Assessments.

"The scientific evidence is clear: Climate change is affecting humans and natural systems at an increasingly rapid and alarming rate," said Enquist, who has largely focused her work on translational ecological science and the natural resource management implications of climate change for biodiversity conservation, climate adaptation and decision making.

"Further delay on taking deliberate steps to slow and adapt to these effects only will exacerbate the implications for humans, ecosystems and our collective well-being," she said.

The Working Group II report assesses the impacts and risks of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities at global and regional levels. The report also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change.

Compared to previous assessment reports, the Working Group II report includes new information on different types of risks under various warming levels, such as cascading, compounding and transboundary risks, and emphasizes connections between the natural world and human communities. The new report also places a greater emphasis on cities, which are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and present opportunities for adaptation actions.

"The report also assesses a wide range of adaptations that are underway, in water management, conservation, cities, coasts and food systems, and highlights the importance of paying attention to equity, Indigenous knowledge and climate resilient development as adaptations are implemented," Liverman said.

"Increasing opportunities for authentic partnership and full collaboration with Indigenous peoples from across the Southwest and North America will enhance our ability for effective adaptation significantly," Enquist added.

The report also cites other UArizona research, including work by Ladd Keith, Andrea Gerlak, Zack Guido, David Breshears and Karletta Chief.

Every seven years, the three working groups of the IPCC – the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change – publish a new Assessment Report consisting of four parts. The Working Group I report, published in August 2021, describes "The Physical Science Basis." Jessica Tierney, a UArizona associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, was a lead author on that report and helped write sections on drought and aridity in the water cycle chapter. The Working Group III report is focused on climate mitigation and is expected to be released in early April. The fourth part is a synthesis report, which synthesizes and integrates material and is written for a nontechnical audience. The synthesis report is expected to be published in September 2022.