IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

TS.4.1 Sectoral impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

A summary of impacts projected for each sector is given in Box TS.5.

Box TS.5. The main projected impacts for systems and sectors[16]

Freshwater resources and their management

  • Water volumes stored in glaciers and snow cover are very likely to decline, reducing summer and autumn flows in regions where more than one-sixth of the world’s population currently live. ** N [3.4.1]
  • Runoff and water availability are very likely to increase at higher latitudes and in some wet tropics, including populous areas in East and South-East Asia, and decrease over much of the mid-latitudes and dry tropics, which are presently water-stressed areas. ** D [F3.4]
  • Drought-affected areas will probably increase, and extreme precipitation events, which are likely to increase in frequency and intensity, will augment flood risk. Increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts will have implications for sustainable development. ** N [WGI AR4 SPM; 3.4]
  • Up to 20% of the world’s population live in river basins that are likely to be affected by increased flood hazard by the 2080s in the course of global warming. * N [3.4.3]
  • Many semi-arid areas (e.g., Mediterranean Basin, western USA, southern Africa and north-eastern Brazil) will suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change. *** C [3.4, 3.7]
  • The number of people living in severely stressed river basins is projected to increase from 1.4-1.6 billion in 1995 to 4.3-6.9 billion in 2050, for the A2 scenario. ** N [3.5.1]
  • Sea-level rise will extend areas of salinisation of groundwater and estuaries, resulting in a decrease in freshwater availability for humans and ecosystems in coastal areas. *** C [3.2, 3.4.2]
  • Groundwater recharge will decrease considerably in some already water-stressed regions ** N [3.4.2], where vulnerability is often exacerbated by the rapid increase in population and water demand. *** C [3.5.1]
  • Higher water temperatures, increased precipitation intensity and longer periods of low flows exacerbate many forms of water pollution, with impacts on ecosystems, human health, and water system reliability and operating costs. ** N [3.2, 3.4.4, 3.4.5]
  • Uncertainties have been evaluated and their interpretation has improved and new methods (e.g., ensemble-based approaches) are being developed for their characterisation *** N [3.4, 3.5]. Nevertheless, quantitative projections of changes in precipitation, river flows and water levels at the river-basin scale remain uncertain. *** D [3.3.1, 3.4]
  • Climate change affects the function and operation of existing water infrastructure as well as water management practices *** C [3.6]. Adaptation procedures and risk management practices for the water sector are being developed in some countries and regions that recognise the uncertainty of projected hydrological changes. *** N [3.6]
  • The negative impacts of climate change on freshwater systems outweigh the benefits. ** D [3.4, 3.5]
  • Areas in which runoff is projected to decline will face a reduction in the value of services provided by water resources *** C [3.4, 3.5]. The beneficial impacts of increased annual runoff in other areas will be tempered by the negative effects of increased precipitation variability and seasonal runoff shifts on water supply, water quality and flood risks. ** N [3.4, 3.5]


  • The following ecosystems are identified as most vulnerable, and are virtually certain to experience the most severe ecological impacts, including species extinctions and major biome changes. On continents: tundra, boreal forest, mountain and Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Along coasts: mangroves and salt marshes. And in oceans: coral reefs and the sea-ice biomes. *** D [4.4, see also Chapters 1, 5, 6, 14, 15; WGI AR4 Chapters 10, 11]
  • Initially positive ecological impacts, such as increased net primary productivity (NPP), will occur in ecosystems identified as least vulnerable: savannas and species-poor deserts. However, these positive effects are contingent on sustained CO2-fertilisation, and only moderate changes in disturbance regimes (e.g., wildfire) and in extreme events (e.g., drought). • D [4.4.1, 4.4.2, B4.2, 4.4.3, 4.4.10, 4.4.11]
  • For global mean temperature increases up to 2°C,[17] some net primary productivity increases are projected at high latitudes (contingent to a large degree on effective migration of woody plants), while an NPP decline (ocean and land) is likely at low latitudes. ** D [4.4.1, 4.4.9, 4.4.10]
  • Projected carbon sequestration by poleward taiga expansion • D [4.4.5, F4.3] is as likely as not to be offset by albedo changes, wildfire, and forest declines at taiga’s equatorial limit ** N/D [4.4.5, F4.3], and methane losses from tundra. * N [4.4.6]
  • Tropical forest sequestration, despite recently observed productivity gains, is very likely to depend on land-use change trends *** D [4.2, 4.3, 4.4.10], but by 2100 is likely to be dominated by climate-change impacts, especially in drier regions. ** D [4.4.5, 4.4.10, F4.3]
  • Amazon forests, China’s taiga, and much of the Siberian and Canadian tundra are very likely to show major changes with global mean temperatures exceeding 3°C ** D [T4.2, 4.4.1, F4.2, 4.4.10, F4.4]. While forest expansions are projected in North America and Eurasia with <2°C warming [4.4.10, F4.4, T4.3], tropical forests are likely to experience severe impacts, including biodiversity losses. * D [4.4.10, 4.4.11, T4.1]
  • For global mean temperature increases of about 1.5 to 3°C, the low-productivity zones in sub-tropical oceans are likely to expand by about 5% (Northern) and about 10% (Southern Hemisphere), but the productive polar sea-ice biomes are very likely to contract by about 40% (Northern) and about 20% (Southern Hemisphere). ** N [4.4.9]
  • As sea-ice biomes shrink, dependent polar species, including predators such as penguins, seals and polar bears, are very likely to experience habitat degradation and losses. *** D [4.4.6]
  • Loss of corals due to bleaching is very likely to occur over the next 50 years *** C [B4.5, 4.4.9], especially for the Great Barrier Reef, where climate change and direct anthropogenic impacts such as pollution and harvesting are expected to cause annual bleaching (around 2030 to 2050) followed by mass mortality. ** D [B4.4, 4.4.9]
  • Accelerated release of carbon from vulnerable carbon stocks, especially peatlands, tundra frozen loess (‘yedoma’), permafrost soils, and soils of boreal and tropical forests is virtually certain. *** D/N [F4.1, 4.4.1, 4.4.6, 4.4.8, 4.4.10, 4.4.11]
  • An intensification and expansion of wildfires is likely globally, as temperatures increase and dry spells become more frequent and more persistent. ** D/N [4.4.2, 4.4.3, 4.4.4, 4.4.5]
  • Greater rainfall variability is likely to compromise inland and coastal wetland species through shifts in the timing, duration and depth of water levels. ** D [4.4.8]
  • Surface ocean pH is very likely to decrease further, by as much as 0.5 pH units by 2100, with atmospheric CO2 increases projected under the A1FI scenario. This is very likely to impair shell or exoskeleton formation by marine organisms requiring calcium carbonate (e.g., corals, crabs, squids, marine snails, clams and oysters). ** N [4.4.9, B4.5]

Food, fibre and forest products

  • In mid- to high-latitude regions, moderate warming benefits cereal crops and pasture yields, but even slight warming decreases yields in seasonally dry and tropical regions *. Further warming has increasingly negative impacts in all regions [F5.2]. Short-term adaptations may enable avoidance of a 10 to 15% reduction in yield. */• D [F5.2, 5.4]
  • Climate change will increase the number of people at risk of hunger marginally, with respect to overall large reductions due to socio-economic development. ** D [5.6.5, T5.6]
  • Projected changes in the frequency and severity of extreme climate events, together with increases in risks of fire, pests, and disease outbreak, will have significant consequences on food and forestry production, and food insecurity, in addition to impacts of projected mean climate. ** D [5.4.1 to 5.4.5]
  • Smallholder and subsistence farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fisherfolk will suffer complex, localised impacts of climate change. ** N [5.4.7]
  • Global food production potential is likely to increase with increases in global average temperature up to about 3°C, but above this it is very likely to decrease. * D [5.6]
  • Globally, forestry production is estimated to change only modestly with climate change in the short and medium term. Production increase will shift from low-latitude regions in the short term, to high-latitude regions in the long term. * D [5.4.5]
  • Local extinctions of particular fish species are expected at edges of ranges. ** N [5.4.6]
  • Food and forestry trade is projected to increase in response to climate change, with increased food-import dependence of most developing countries. */• N [5.6.1, 5.6.2, 5.4.5]
  • Experimental research on crop response to elevated CO2 confirms TAR conclusions * C. New free-air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) results suggest a lower response for forests. * D [5.4.1]

Coastal systems and low-lying areas

  • Coasts are very likely to be exposed to increasing risks due to climate change and sea-level rise and the effect will be exacerbated by increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas. *** D [6.3, 6.4]
  • It is likely that corals will experience a major decline due to increased bleaching and mortality due to rising sea-water temperatures. Salt marshes and mangroves will be negatively affected by sea-level rise. *** D [6.4]
  • All coastal ecosystems are vulnerable to climate change and sea-level rise, especially corals, salt marshes and mangroves. *** D [6.4.1]
  • Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and it is very likely that projected future increases in sea surface temperature (SST) of about 1 to 3°C in the 21st century will result in more frequent bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals. *** D [B6.1, 6.4.1]
  • Coastal wetlands, including salt marshes and mangroves, are sensitive to sea-level rise, with forecast global losses of 33% given a 36 cm rise in sea level from 2000 to 2080. The largest losses are likely to be on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the Americas, the Mediterranean, the Baltic, and small-island regions. *** D [6.4.1]
  • Ocean acidification is an emerging issue with potential for major impacts in coastal areas, but there is little understanding of the details. It is an urgent topic for further research, especially programmes of observation and measurement. ** D [6.2.3, 6.2.5, 6.4.1]
  • Coastal flooding in low-lying areas is very likely to become a greater risk than at present due to sea-level rise and more intense coastal storms, unless there is significant adaptation [B6.2, 6.4.2]. Impacts are sensitive to sea-level rise, the socio-economic future, and the degree of adaptation. Without adaptation, more than 100 million people could experience coastal flooding each year by the 2080s due to sea-level rise alone, with the A2 world likely to have the greatest impacts. *** N [F6.2]
  • Benefit-cost analysis of responses suggests that it is likely that the potential impacts will be reduced by widespread adaptation. It also suggests that it is likely that impacts and protection costs will fall disproportionately on developing countries. ** C [F6.4, 6.5.3]
  • Key human vulnerabilities to climate change and sea-level rise exist where the stresses on natural low-lying coastal systems coincide with low human adaptive capacity and/or high exposure and include: ** D [6.4.2, 6.4.3]
  • deltas, especially Asian megadeltas (e.g., the Ganges-Brahmaputra in Bangladesh and West Bengal);
  • low-lying coastal urban areas, especially areas prone to natural or human-induced subsidence and tropical storm landfall (e.g., New Orleans, Shanghai);
  • small islands, especially low-lying atolls (e.g., the Maldives).
  • Regionally, the greatest increase in vulnerability is very likely to be to be in South, South-East and East Asia, and urbanised coastal locations around Africa, and small-island regions. The numbers affected will be largest in the megadeltas of Asia, but small islands face the highest relative increase in risk. ** D [6.4.2]
  • Sea-level rise has substantial inertia compared with other climate change factors, and is virtually certain to continue beyond 2100 for many centuries. Stabilisation of climate could reduce, but not stop, sea-level rise. Hence, there is a commitment to adaptation in coastal areas which raises questions about long-term spatial planning and the need to protect versus planned retreat. *** D [B6.6]

Industry, settlement and society

  • Benefits and costs of climate change for industry, settlement and society will vary widely by location and scale. Some of the effects in temperate and polar regions will be positive and others elsewhere will be negative. In the aggregate, however, net effects are more likely to be strongly negative under larger or more rapid warming. ** N [7.4, 7.6, 15.3, 15.5]
  • Vulnerabilities of industry, infrastructures, settlements and society to climate change are generally greater in certain high-risk locations, particularly coastal and riverine areas, those in areas prone to extreme weather events, and areas whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources, such as agricultural and forest product industries, water demands and tourism; these vulnerabilities tend to be localised but are often large and growing. For example, rapid urbanisation in most low- and middle-income nations, often in relatively high-risk areas, is placing an increasing proportion of their economies and populations at risk. ** D [7.1, 7.4, 7.5]
  • Where extreme weather events become more intense and/or more frequent with climate change, the economic costs of those events will increase, and these increases are likely to be substantial in the areas most directly affected. Experience indicates that costs of major events can range from several percent of annual regional GDP and income in very large regions with very large economies, to more than 25% in smaller areas that are affected by the events. ** N [7.5]
  • Some poor communities and households are already under stress from climate variability and climate-related extreme events; and they can be especially vulnerable to climate change because they tend to be concentrated in relatively high-risk areas, to have limited access to services and other resources for coping, and in some regions to be more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies. ** N [7.2, 7.4.5, 7.4.6]
  • Growing economic costs from weather-related extreme events are already increasing the need for effective economic and financial risk management. In those regions and locations where risk is rising and private insurance is a major risk management option, pricing signals can provide incentives for adaptation; but protection may also be withdrawn, leaving increased roles for others, including governments. In those regions where private insurance is not widely available, other mechanisms for risk management will be needed. In all situations, poorer groups in the population will need special help in risk management and adaptation. ** D [7.4.2]
  • In many areas, climate change is likely to raise social equity concerns and increase pressures on governmental infrastructures and institutional capacities. ** N [7.ES, 7.4.5, 7.6.5]
  • Robust and reliable physical infrastructures are especially important to climate-related risk management. Such infrastructures as urban water supply systems are vulnerable, especially in coastal areas, to sea-level rise and reduced regional precipitation; and large population concentrations without infrastructures are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change. ** N [7.4.3 to 7.4.5]


  • The projected relative risks attributable to climate change in 2030 show an increase in malnutrition in some Asian countries ** N [8.4.1]. Later in the century, expected trends in warming are projected to decrease the availability of crop yields in seasonally dry and tropical regions [5.4]. This will increase hunger, malnutrition and consequent disorders, including child growth and development, in particular in those regions that are already most vulnerable to food insecurity, notably Africa. ** N [8.4.2]
  • By 2030, coastal flooding is projected to result in a large proportional mortality increase; however, this is applied to a low burden of disease so the aggregate impact is small. Overall, a two- to three-fold increase in population at risk of flooding is expected by 2080. ** N [8.4.1]
  • Estimates of increases of people at risk of death from heat differ between countries, depending on the place, ageing population, and adaptation measures in place. Overall, significant increases are estimated over this century. ** D [T8.3]
  • Mixed projections for malaria are foreseen: globally an estimated additional population at risk between 220 million (A1FI) and 400 million (A2) has been estimated. In Africa, estimates differ from a reduction in transmission in south-east Africa in 2020 and decreases around the Sahel and south-central Africa in 2080, with localised increases in the highlands, to a 16-28% increase in person-months of exposure in 2100 across all scenarios. For the UK, Australia, India and Portugal, some increased risk has been estimated. *** D [T8.2]
  • In Canada, a northward expansion of the Lyme-disease vector of approximately 1,000 km is estimated by the 2080s (A2) and a two- to four-fold increase in tick abundance by the 2080s also. In Europe, tick-borne encephalitis is projected to move further north-eastward of its present range but to contract in central and eastern Europe by the 2050s. * N [T8.2]
  • By 2030 an increase in the burden of diarrhoeal diseases in low-income regions by approximately 2-5% is estimated ** N [8.4.1]. An annual increase of 5-18% by 2050 was estimated for Aboriginal communities in Australia ** N [T8.2]. An increase in cases of food poisoning has been estimated for the UK for a 1-3°C temperature increase. * N [T8.2]
  • In eastern North America under the A2 climate scenario, a 4.5% increase in ozone-related deaths is estimated. A 68% increase in average number of days/summer exceeding the 8-hour regulatory standard is projected to result in a 0.1-0.3% increase in non-accidental mortality and an average 0.3% increase in cardiovascular disease mortality. In the UK, large decreases in days with high particulates and SO2 and a small decrease in other pollutants have been estimated for 2050 and 2080, but ozone will have increased ** N [T8.4]. The near-term health benefits from reducing air-pollution concentrations (such as for ozone and particulate matter), as a consequence of greenhouse gas reductions, can be substantial. ** D [8.7.1, WGIII AR4]
  • By 2085 it is estimated that the risk of dengue from climate change increases to include 3.5 billion people. * N []
  • Reductions in cold-related deaths due to climate change are projected to be greater than increases in heat-related deaths in the UK. ** D [T8.3]