A review of recent developments in climate change science. Part II: The global-scale impacts of climate change

Simon N. Gosling, Rachel Warren, Nigel W. Arnell, Peter Good, John Caesar, Dan Bernie, Jason A. Lowe, Paul van der Linden, Jesse R. O'Hanley, Stephen M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents a review of recent developments in studies assessing the global-scale impacts of climate change published since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Literature covering six main impact sectors is reviewed: sea-level rise (SLR) and coastal impacts, ocean acidification, ecosystems and biodiversity, water resources and desertification, agriculture and food security, and human health. The review focuses on studies with a global perspective to climate change impacts assessment, although in the absence of global studies for some sectors or aspects of impacts, national and regional studies are cited. The review highlights three major emerging themes which are of importance for the policy- and decision-making process: (1) a movement towards probabilistic methods of impacts assessment and/or the consideration of climate modelling uncertainty; (2) a move towards assessing potential impacts that could be avoided under different climate change mitigation scenarios relative to a business-as-usual reference scenario; and (3) uncertainties that remain in understanding the relationship between climate and natural or human systems. Whether recent impact assessments show a changed risk of damage to human or natural systems since the AR4 depends upon the impact sector; whether the assessments are robust or not (i.e. will stand the test of time) requires additional expert judgement. However, using this judgement, overall we find an increased risk to natural systems, and in some components of human systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-464
Number of pages22
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Cite this