Assessing the potential risks of climate change on the natural capital of six countries resulting from global warming of 1.5 to 4 °C above pre‑industrial levels

Jeff Price (Lead Author), Rachel Warren, Nicole Forstenhäusler, Rhosanna Jenkins, Erin Graham

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Abstract

We present the results from a new framework providing an assessment of how climate change risks to natural capital accrue with warming of 1.5–4 °C in six countries (China, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, and India). Unlike typical biodiversity and climate change studies, this assessment also considers landcover and population changes across a range of 17 ecosystem services. The potential impacts of climate change (alone) on natural capital at 1.5 °C is greatest in Brazil and least in Ghana. However, when population and landcover change are included, areas projected to be at high natural capital risk begin to accrue by 1.5 °C in all countries. By 2 °C, Ethiopia and Ghana show increasing areas at high risk, even though they are at low risk owing to climate alone. Thus, current impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services and changes in potential demand coupled with warming exceed changes projected by climate alone. However, this also indicates that there is adaptation potential, especially with warming of<2 °C, to reduce risk through restoring habitat. At lower levels of warming, targeted restoration of marginal agricultural habitats would increase the bank of natural capital for use by people and provide support for remaining agricultural lands. By 3 °C, the adaptation potential from restoration is substantially less:<1% in Brazil, India and Egypt; 7–8% in China and Ethiopia; but still 26% in Ghana. This indicates that restoration as an adaptation option for biodiversity, and thus, natural capital, rapidly decreases with increasing temperatures. By 2100, factoring in population change (SSP2), current ecological footprint, and current landcover, even with only 1.5 °C warming, large parts of Brazil, eastern China, most of Egypt, much of Ethiopia, southwestern Ghana (except for protected areas), and most of India are at high to extreme natural
capital risk with an adaptation deficit potentially equating to a soft adaptation limit.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalClimatic Change
Volume177
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Risk Assessment
  • Human systems
  • Ecosystem services framework

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