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

TS.4.2 Regional impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

A summary of impacts projected for each region is given in Box TS.6.

Box TS.6. The main projected impacts for regions


  • The impacts of climate change in Africa are likely to be greatest where they co-occur with a range of other stresses (e.g., unequal access to resources [9.4.1]; enhanced food insecurity [9.6]; poor health management systems [9.2.2, 9.4.3]). These stresses, enhanced by climate variability and change, further enhance the vulnerabilities of many people in Africa. ** D [9.4]
  • An increase of 5 to 8% (60 to 90 million ha) of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected by the 2080s under a range of climate-change scenarios. ** N [9.4.4]
  • Declining agricultural yields are likely due to drought and land degradation, especially in marginal areas. Changes in the length of growing period have been noted under various scenarios. In the A1FI SRES scenario, which has an emphasis on globally-integrated economic growth, areas of major change include the coastal systems of southern and eastern Africa. Under both the A1 and B1 scenarios, mixed rain-fed, semi-arid systems are shown to be heavily affected by changes in climate in the Sahel. Mixed rain-fed and highland perennial systems in the Great Lakes region in East Africa and in other parts of East Africa are also heavily affected. In the B1 SRES scenario, which assumes development within a framework of environmental protection, the impacts are, however, generally less, but marginal areas (e.g., the semi-arid systems) become more marginal, with the impacts on coastal systems becoming moderate. ** D [9.4.4]
  • Current stress on water in many areas of Africa is likely to be enhanced by climate variability and change. Increases in runoff in East Africa (possibly floods) and decreases in runoff and likely increased drought risk in other areas (e.g., southern Africa) are projected by the 2050s. Current water stresses are not only linked to climate variations, and issues of water governance and water-basin management must also be considered in any future assessments of water in Africa. ** D [9.4.1]
  • Any changes in the primary production of large lakes are likely to have important impacts on local food supplies. For example, Lake Tanganyika currently provides 25 to 40% of animal protein intake for the population of the surrounding countries, and climate change is likely to reduce primary production and possible fish yields by roughly 30% [9.4.5, 3.4.7, 5.4.5]. The interaction of human management decisions, including over-fishing, is likely to further compound fish offtakes from lakes. ** D [9.2.2]
  • Ecosystems in Africa are likely to experience major shifts and changes in species range and possible extinctions (e.g., fynbos and succulent Karoo biomes in southern Africa). * D [9.4.5]
  • Mangroves and coral reefs are projected to be further degraded, with additional consequences for fisheries and tourism.** D [9.4.5]
  • Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea-level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations. The cost of adaptation will exceed 5 to 10% of GDP. ** D [B9.2, 9.4.6, 9.5.2]


  • A 1 m rise in sea level would lead to a loss of almost half of the mangrove area in the Mekong River delta (2,500 km2), while approximately 100,000 ha of cultivated land and aquaculture area would become salt marsh. * N [10.4.3]
  • Coastal areas, especially heavily populated megadelta regions in South, East and South-East Asia, will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and, in some megadeltas, flooding from the rivers. For a 1 m rise in sea level, 5,000 km2 of Red River delta, and 15,000 to 20,000 km2 of Mekong River delta are projected to be flooded, which could affect 4 million and 3.5 to 5 million people, respectively. * N [10.4.3]
  • Tibetan Plateau glaciers of under 4 km in length are projected to disappear with a temperature increase of 3°C and no change in precipitation. ** D [10.4.4]
  • Errata If current warming rates are maintained, Himalayan glaciers could decay at very rapid rates, shrinking from the present 500,000 km2 to 100,000 km2 by the 2030s. ** D [10.6.2]
  • Around 30% of Asian coral reefs are expected to be lost in the next 30 years, compared with 18% globally under the IS92a emissions scenario, but this is due to multiple stresses and not to climate change alone. ** D [10.4.3]
  • It is estimated that under the full range of SRES scenarios, 120 million to 1.2 billion and 185 to 981 million people will experience increased water stress by the 2020s and the 2050s, respectively. ** D [10.4.2]
  • The per capita availability of freshwater in India is expected to drop from around 1,900 m3 currently to 1,000 m3 by 2025 in response to the combined effects of population growth and climate change []. More intense rain and more frequent flash floods during the monsoon would result in a higher proportion of runoff and a reduction in the proportion reaching the groundwater. ** N [10.4.2]
  • It is projected that crop yields could increase up to 20% in East and South-East Asia, while they could decrease up to 30% in Central and South Asia by the mid-21st century. Taken together and considering the influence of rapid population growth and urbanisation, the risk of hunger is projected to remain very high in several developing countries. * N [10.4.1]
  • Agricultural irrigation demand in arid and semi-arid regions of East Asia is expected to increase by 10% for an increase in temperature of 1°C. ** N [10.4.1]
  • The frequency and extent of forest fires in northern Asia are expected to increase in the future due to climate change and extreme weather events that would likely limit forest expansion. * N [10.4.4]

Australia and New Zealand

  • The most vulnerable sectors are natural ecosystems, water security and coastal communities. ** C [11.7]
  • Many ecosystems are likely to be altered by 2020, even under medium-emissions scenarios [11.4.1]. Among the most vulnerable are the Great Barrier Reef, south-western Australia, Kakadu Wetlands, rain forests and alpine areas [11.4.2]. This is virtually certain to exacerbate existing stresses such as invasive species and habitat loss, increase the probability of species extinctions, and cause a reduction in ecosystem services for tourism, fishing, forestry and water supply. * N [11.4.2]
  • Ongoing water security problems are very likely to increase by 2030 in southern and eastern Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and some eastern regions, e.g., a 0 to 45% decline in runoff in Victoria by 2030 and a 10 to 25% reduction in river flow in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin by 2050. ** D [11.4.1]
  • Ongoing coastal development is very likely to exacerbate risk to lives and property from sea-level rise and storms. By 2050, there is very likely to be loss of high-value land, faster road deterioration, degraded beaches, and loss of items of cultural significance. *** C [11.4.5, 11.4.7, 11.4.8]
  • Increased fire danger is likely with climate change; for example, in south-east Australia the frequency of very high and extreme fire danger days is likely to rise 4 to 25% by 2020 and 15 to 70% by 2050. ** D [11.3.1]
  • Risks to major infrastructure are likely to increase. Design criteria for extreme events are very likely to be exceeded more frequently by 2030. Risks include failure of floodplain levees and urban drainage systems, and flooding of coastal towns near rivers. ** D [11.4.5, 11.4.7]
  • Increased temperatures and demographic change are likely to increase peak energy demand in summer and the associated risk of black-outs. ** D [11.4.10]
  • Production from agriculture and forestry by 2030 is projected to decline over much of southern and eastern Australia, and over parts of eastern New Zealand, due to increased drought and fire. However, in New Zealand, initial benefits are projected in western and southern areas and close to major rivers due to a longer growing season, less frost and increased rainfall. ** N [11.4]
  • In the south and west of New Zealand, growth rates of economically important plantation crops (mainly Pinus radiata) are likely to increase with CO2-fertilisation, warmer winters and wetter conditions. ** D [11.4.4]
  • Increased heat-related deaths for people aged over 65 are likely, with an extra 3,200 to 5,200 deaths on average per year by 2050 (allowing for population growth and ageing, but assuming no adaptation). ** D [11.4.11]


  • The probability of an extreme winter precipitation exceeding two standard deviations above normal is expected to increase by up to a factor of five in parts of the UK and northern Europe by the 2080s with a doubling of CO2. ** D [12.3.1]
  • By the 2070s, annual runoff is projected to increase in northern Europe, and decrease by up to 36% in southern Europe, with summer low flows reduced by up to 80% under IS92a. ** D [12.4.1, T12.2]
  • The percentage of river-basin area in the severe water stress category (withdrawal/availability higher than 0.4) is expected to increase from 19% today to 34 to 36% by the 2070s. ** D [12.4.1]
  • The number of additional people living in water-stressed watersheds in the seventeen western Europe countries is likely to increase from 16 to 44 million based on HadCM3 climate under the A2 and B1 emission scenarios, respectively, by the 2080s. ** D[12.4.1]
  • Under A1FI scenarios, by the 2080s an additional 1.6 million people each year are expected to be affected by coastal flooding. ** D [12.4.2]
  • By the 2070s, hydropower potential for the whole of Europe is expected to decline by 6%, with strong regional variations from a 20 to 50% decrease in the Mediterranean region to a 15 to 30% increase in northern and eastern Europe. ** D [12.4.8]
  • A large percentage of the European flora could become vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered or extinct by the end of the 21st century under a range of SRES scenarios. *** N [12.4.6]
  • By 2050, crops are expected to show a northward expansion in area []. The greatest increases in climate-related crop yields are expected in northern Europe (e.g., wheat: +2 to +9% by 2020, +8 to +25% by 2050, +10 to +30% by 2080), while the largest reductions are expected in the south (e.g., wheat: +3 to +4% by 2020, −8 to +22% by 2050, −15 to +32% by 2080).*** C [12.4.7]
  • Forested area is likely to increase in the north and decrease in the south. A redistribution of tree species is expected, and an elevation of the mountain tree line. Forest-fire risk is virtually certain to greatly increase in southern Europe. ** D [12.4.4]
  • Most amphibian (45 to 69%) and reptile (61 to 89%) species are virtually certain to expand their range if dispersal were unlimited. However, if species were unable to disperse, then the range of most species (>97%) would become smaller, especially in the Iberian Peninsula and France. ** N [12.4.6]
  • Small Alpine glaciers in different regions will disappear, while larger glaciers will suffer a volume reduction between 30% and 70% by 2050 under a range of emissions scenarios, with concomitant reductions in discharge in spring and summer. *** C [12.4.3]
  • Decreased comfort of the Mediterranean region in the summer, and improved comfort in the north and west, could lead to a reduction in Mediterranean summer tourism and an increase in spring and autumn. ** D [12.4.9]
  • Rapid shutdown of Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), although assigned a low probability, is likely to have widespread severe impacts in Europe, especially in western coastal areas. These include reductions in crop production with associated price increases, increased cold-related deaths, winter transport disruption, population migration to southern Europe and a shift in the economic centre of gravity. * N [12.6.2]

Latin America

  • Over the next 15 years, inter-tropical glaciers are very likely to disappear, reducing water availability and hydropower generation in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. *** C [13.2.4]
  • Any future reductions in rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions of Argentina, Chile and Brazil are likely to lead to severe water shortages. ** C [13.4.3]
  • By the 2020s between 7 million and 77 million people are likely to suffer from a lack of adequate water supplies, while for the second half of the century the potential water availability reduction and the increasing demand, from an increasing regional population, would increase these figures to between 60 and 150 million. ** D [13.ES, 13.4.3]
  • In the future, anthropogenic climate change (including changes in weather extremes) and sea-level rise are very likely to have impacts on ** N [13.4.4]:
  • low-lying areas (e.g., in El Salvador, Guyana, the coast of Buenos Aires Province in Argentina);
  • buildings and tourism (e.g., in Mexico and Uruguay);
  • coastal morphology (e.g., in Peru);
  • mangroves (e.g., in Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela);
  • availability of drinking water in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Ecuador.
  • Sea surface temperature increases due to climate change are projected to have adverse effects on ** N [13.4.4]:
  • Mesoamerican coral reefs (e.g., Mexico, Belize, Panama);
  • the location of fish stocks in the south-east Pacific (e.g., Peru and Chile).
  • Increases of 2°C and decreases in soil water would lead to a replacement of tropical forest by savannas in eastern Amazonia and in the tropical forests of central and southern Mexico, along with replacement of semi-arid by arid vegetation in parts of north-east Brazil and most of central and northern Mexico. ** D [13.4.1]
  • In the future, the frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean Basin are likely to increase. * D [13.3.1]
  • As a result of climate change, rice yields are expected to decline after the year 2020, while increases in temperature and precipitation in south-eastern South America are likely to increase soybean yields if CO2 effects are considered. * C [13.4.2]
  • The number of additional people at risk of hunger under the SRES A2 emissions scenario is likely to attain 5, 26 and 85 million in 2020, 2050 and 2080, respectively, assuming little or no CO2 effects. * D [13.4.2]
  • Cattle productivity is very likely to decline in response to a 4°C increase in temperatures. ** N [13.ES, 13.4.2]
  • The Latin American region, concerned with the potential effects of climate variability and change, is trying to implement some adaptation measures such as:

- the use of climate forecasts in sectors such as fisheries (Peru) and agriculture (Peru, north-eastern Brazil);

- early-warning systems for flood in the Rio de la Plata Basin based on the ‘Centro Operativo de Alerta HidrolÛgico’.

  • The region has also created new institutions to mitigate and prevent impacts from natural hazards, such as the Regional Disaster Information Center for Latin America and the Caribbean, the International Centre for Research on El NiÒo Phenomenon in Ecuador, and the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific. *** D [13.2.5]

North America

  • Population growth, rising property values and continued investment increase coastal vulnerability. Any increase in destructiveness of coastal storms is very likely to lead to dramatic increases in losses from severe weather and storm surge, with the losses exacerbated by sea-level rise. Current adaptation is uneven, and readiness for increased exposure is poor. *** D [14.2.3, 14.4.3]
  • Sea-level rise and the associated increase in tidal surge and flooding have the potential to severely affect transportation and infrastructure along the Gulf, Atlantic and northern coasts. A case study of facilities at risk in New York identified surface road and rail lines, bridges, tunnels, marine and airport facilities and transit stations. *** D [14.4.3, 14.4.6, 14.5.1, B14.3]
  • Severe heatwaves, characterised by stagnant, warm air masses and consecutive nights with high minimum temperatures, are likely to increase in number, magnitude and duration in cities where they already occur, with potential for adverse health effects. Elderly populations are most at risk. ** D [14.4.5]
  • By mid-century, daily average ozone levels are projected to increase by 3.7 ppb across the eastern USA, with the most polluted cities today experiencing the greatest increases. Ozone-related deaths are projected to increase by 4.5% from the 1990s to the 2050s. * D [14.4.5]
  • Projected warming in the western mountains by the mid-21st century is very likely to cause large decreases in snowpack, earlier snow melt, more winter rain events, increased peak winter flows and flooding, and reduced summer flows *** D [14.4.1].
  • Reduced water supplies coupled with increases in demand are likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources. *** D [14.2.1, B14.2]
  • Climate change in the first several decades of the 21st century is likely to increase forest production, but with high sensitivity to drought, storms, insects and other disturbances. ** D [14.4.2, 14.4.4]
  • Moderate climate change in the early decades of the century is projected to increase aggregate yields of rain-fed agriculture by 5 to 20%, but with important variability among regions. Major challenges are projected for crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or which depend on highly utilised water resources. ** D [14.4]
  • By the second half of the 21st century, the greatest impacts on forests are likely to be through changing disturbances from pests, diseases and fire. Warmer summer temperatures are projected to extend the annual window of high fire risk by 10 to 30%, and increase area burned by 74 to 118% in Canada by 2100. *** D [14.4.4, B14.1]
  • Present rates of coastal wetland loss are projected to increase with accelerated relative sea-level rise, in part due to structures preventing landward migration. Salt-marsh biodiversity is expected to decrease in north-eastern marshes. ** D [14.4.3]
  • Vulnerability to climate change is likely be concentrated in specific groups and regions, including indigenous peoples and others dependent on narrow resource bases, and the poor and elderly in cities. ** D [14.2.6, 14.4.6]
  • Continued investment in adaptation in response to historical experience rather than projected future conditions is likely to increase vulnerability of many sectors to climate change [14.5]. Infrastructure development, with its long lead times and investments, would benefit from incorporating climate-change information. *** D [14.5.3, F14.3]

Polar Regions

  • By the end of the century, annually averaged Arctic sea-ice extent is projected to show a reduction of 22 to 33%, depending on emissions scenario; and in Antarctica, projections range from a slight increase to a near-complete loss of summer sea ice. ** D [15.3.3]
  • Over the next hundred years there will important reductions in thickness and extent of ice from Arctic glaciers and ice caps, and the Greenland ice sheet ***, as a direct response to climate warming; in Antarctica, losses from the Antarctic Peninsula glaciers will continue ***, and observed thinning in part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which is probably driven by oceanic change, will continue **. These contributions will form a substantial fraction of sea-level rise during this century. *** D [15.3.4, 15.6.3; WGI AR4 Chapters 4, 5]
  • Northern Hemisphere permafrost extent is projected to decrease by 20 to 35% by 2050. The depth of seasonal thawing is likely to increase by 15 to 25% in most areas by 2050, and by 50% or more in northernmost locations under the full range of SRES scenarios. ** D [15.3.4]
  • In the Arctic, initial permafrost thaw will alter drainage systems, allowing establishment of aquatic communities in areas formerly dominated by terrestrial species ***. Further thawing will increasingly couple surface drainage to the groundwater, further disrupting ecosystems. Coastal erosion will increase. ** D [15.4.1]
  • By the end of the century, 10 to 50% of Arctic tundra will be replaced by forest, and around 15 to 25% of polar desert will be replaced by tundra. * D [15.4.2]
  • In both polar regions, climate change will lead to decreases in habitat (including sea ice) for migratory birds and mammals [15.2.2, 15.4.1], with major implications for predators such as seals and polar bears ** [15.2, 15.4.3]. Changes in the distribution and abundance of many species can be expected. *** D [15.6.3]
  • The climatic barriers that have hitherto protected polar species from competition will be lowered, and the encroachment of alien species into parts of the Arctic and Antarctic are expected. ** D [15.6.3, 15.4.4, 15.4.2]
  • Reductions in lake and river ice cover are expected in both polar regions. These will affect lake thermal structures, the quality/quantity of under-ice habitats and, in the Arctic, the timing and severity of ice jamming and related flooding. *** N [15.4.1]
  • Projected hydrological changes will influence the productivity and distribution of aquatic species, especially fish. Warming of freshwaters is likely to lead to reductions in fish stock, especially those that prefer colder waters. ** D [15.4.1]
  • For Arctic human communities, it is virtually certain that there will be both negative and positive impacts, particularly through changing cryospheric components, on infrastructure and traditional indigenous ways of life. ** D [15.4]
  • In Siberia and North America, there may be an increase in agriculture and forestry as the northern limit for these activities shifts by several hundred kilometres by 2050 [15.4.2]. This will benefit some communities and disadvantage others following traditional lifestyles. ** D [15.4.6]
  • Large-scale forest fires and outbreaks of tree-killing insects, which are triggered by warm weather, are characteristic of the boreal forest and some forest tundra areas, and are likely to increase. ** N [15.4.2]
  • Arctic warming will reduce excess winter mortality, primarily through a reduction in cardiovascular and respiratory deaths and in injuries. *** N [15.4.6]
  • Arctic warming will be associated with increased vulnerability to pests and diseases in wildlife, such as tick-borne encephalitis, which can be transmitted to humans. ** N [15.4.6]
  • Increases in the frequency and severity of Arctic flooding, erosion, drought and destruction of permafrost, threaten community, public health and industrial infrastructure and water supply. *** N [15.4.6]
  • Changes in the frequency, type and timing of precipitation will increase contaminant capture and increase contaminant loading to Arctic freshwater systems. Increased loadings will more than offset the reductions that are expected to accrue from global emissions of contaminants. ** N [15.4.1]
  • Arctic human communities are already being required to adapt to climate change. Impacts to food security, personal safety and subsistence activities are being responded to via changes in resource and wildlife management regimes and shifts in personal behaviours (e.g., hunting, travelling). In combination with demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle changes, the resilience of indigenous populations is being severely challenged. *** N [15.4.1, 15.4.2, 15.4.6, 15.6]

Small Islands

  • Sea-level rise and increased sea-water temperature are projected to accelerate beach erosion, and cause degradation of natural coastal defences such as mangroves and coral reefs. It is likely that these changes would, in turn, negatively impact the attraction of small islands as premier tourism destinations. According to surveys, it is likely that, in some islands, up to 80% of tourists would be unwilling to return for the same holiday price in the event of coral bleaching and reduced beach area resulting from elevated sea surface temperatures and sea-level rise. ** D [16.4.6]
  • Port facilities at Suva, Fiji, and Apia, Samoa, are likely to experience overtopping, damage to wharves and flooding of the hinterland following a 0.5 m rise in sea level combined with waves associated with a 1 in 50-year cyclone. *** D [16.4.7]
  • International airports on small islands are mostly sited on or within a few kilometres of the coast, and the main (and often only) road network runs along the coast. Under sea-level rise scenarios, many of them are likely to be at serious risk from inundation, flooding and physical damage associated with coastal inundation and erosion. *** D [16.4.7]
  • Coastal erosion on Arctic islands has additional climate sensitivity through the impact of warming on permafrost and massive ground ice, which can lead to accelerated erosion and volume loss, and the potential for higher wave energy. *** D [16.4.2]
  • Reduction in average rainfall is very likely to reduce the size of the freshwater lens. A 10% reduction in average rainfall by 2050 is likely to correspond to a 20% reduction in the size of the freshwater lens on Tarawa Atoll, Kiribati. In general, a reduction in physical size resulting from land loss accompanying sea-level rise could reduce the thickness of the freshwater lens on atolls by as much as 29%. *** N [16.4.1]
  • Without adaptation, agricultural economic costs from climate change are likely to reach between 2-3% and 17-18% of 2002 GDP by 2050, on high terrain (e.g., Fiji) and low terrain (e.g., Kiribati) islands, respectively, under SRES A2 (1.3°C increase by 2050) and B2 (0.9°C increase by 2050). ** N [16.4.3]
  • With climate change, increased numbers of introductions and enhanced colonisation by alien species are likely to occur on mid- and high-latitude islands. These changes are already evident on some islands. For example, in species-poor sub-Antarctic island ecosystems, alien microbes, fungi, plants and animals have been causing a substantial loss of local biodiversity and changes to ecosystem function. ** N [16.4.4]
  • Outbreaks of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, dengue, filariasis and schistosomiasis can be costly in lives and economic impacts. Increasing temperatures and decreasing water availability due to climate change is likely to increase burdens of diarrhoeal and other infectious diseases in some small-island states. ** D [16.4.5]
  • Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on tourism destination selection ** D [16.4.6]. Several small-island countries (e.g., Barbados, Maldives, Seychelles, Tuvalu) have begun to invest in the implementation of adaptation strategies, including desalination, to offset current and projected water shortages. *** D [16.4.1]
  • Studies so far conducted on adaptation on islands suggest that adaptation options are likely to be limited and the costs high relative to GDP. Recent work has shown that, in the case of Singapore, coastal protection would be the least-cost strategy to combat sea-level rise under three scenarios, with the cost ranging from US$0.3-5.7 million by 2050 to US$0.9-16.8 million by 2100. ** D [16.5.2]
  • Although adaptation choices for small islands may be limited and adaptation costs high, exploratory research indicates that there are some co-benefits which can be generated from pursuing prudent adaptation strategies. For example, the use of waste-to-energy and other renewable energy systems can promote sustainable development, while strengthening resilience to climate change. In fact, many islands have already embarked on initiatives aimed at ensuring that renewables constitute a significant percentage of the energy mix. ** D [16.4.7, 16.6]