The rate of change

by Meghan Beamish

While reading through the latest IPCC reports – Working Groups II and III – one word kept popping out at me: rate. Specifically when I compared this phrase:

The overall risks of climate change impacts can be reduced by limiting the rate and
magnitude of climate change.

To this:

About half of cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 have occurred in the last 40 years (high confidence).

With this summary of adaptation plans in North America (I added the emphasis):

In North America, governments are engaging in incremental adaptation assessment and planning, particularly at the municipal level. Some proactive adaptation is occurring to protect longer-term investments in energy and public infrastructure.

And this:

Within this century, magnitudes and rates of climate change associated with medium- to high-emission scenarios (RCP4.5, 6.0, and 8.5) pose high risk of abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure, and function of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, including wetlands (medium confidence).

And finally:

Greater rates and magnitude of climate change increase the likelihood of exceeding adaptation limits (high confidence). Limits to adaptation occur when adaptive actions to avoid intolerable risks for an actor’s objectives or for the needs of a system are not possible or are not currently available. Value-based judgments of what constitutes an intolerable risk may differ. Limits to adaptation emerge from the interaction among climate change and biophysical and/or socioeconomic constraints.

So, I suppose my question is, do our rates of adaptation and mitigation match the rates of climate change?

1 thought on “The rate of change

  1. RE: “So, I suppose my question is, do our rates of adaptation and mitigation match the rates of climate change?”

    Difficult to answer? Not necessarily if “rate of adaptation and mitigation” is defined correspondingly to climate (change) : ”Climate is defined as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years”, as suggested By WMO, IPCC and others; more at:

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