Global and regional impacts of climate change at different levels of global temperature increase

Nigel W. Arnell, Jason A. Lowe, Andrew J. Challinor, Timothy J. Osborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The assessment of the impacts of climate change at different levels of global warming helps inform national and international policy discussion around mitigation targets. This paper provides consistent estimates of global and regional impacts and risks at increases in global mean temperature up to 5C above pre-industrial levels, for over 30 indicators representing temperature extremes and heatwaves, hydrological change, floods and droughts, and proxies for impacts on crop yields. At the global scale, all the impacts that could plausibly be either adverse or beneficial are adverse, and impacts and risks increase with temperature change. For example, the global average chance of a major heatwave increases from 4% in 1981-2010 to 26% at 1.5C and 93% at 4C, of an agricultural drought increases from 9% to 24% at 1.5C and 61% at 4C, and of the 50-year return period river flood increases from 2 to 2.4% at 1.5C and 5.4% at 4C. The chance of a damaging hot spell for maize increases from 4% to 48% at 4C, whilst the chance for rice rises from 25 to 45%. There is considerable uncertainty around these central estimates, and impacts and risks vary between regions. Some impacts – for example heatwaves – increase rapidly as temperature increases, whilst others show more linear responses. The paper presents estimates of the risk of impacts exceeding specific targets and demonstrates that these estimates are sensitive to the thresholds used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377–391
Number of pages15
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Cite this