The global and regional impacts of climate change under Representative Concentration Pathway forcings and Shared Socioeconomic Pathway socioeconomic scenarios

Nigel W. Arnell, Jason A. Lowe, Dan J. Bernie, Robert J. Nicholls, Sally Brown, Andrew J. Challinor, Timothy J. Osborn

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This paper presents an evaluation of the global and regional consequences of climate change for heat extremes, water resources, river and coastal flooding, droughts, agriculture and energy use. It presents change in hazard and resource base under different rates of climate change (Representative Concentration Pathways: RCP), and socio-economic impacts are estimated for each combination of RCP and Shared Socioeconomic Pathway. Uncertainty in the regional pattern of climate change is characterised by CMIP5 climate model projections. The analysis adopts a novel approach using relationships between level of warming and impact to rapidly estimate impacts under any climate forcing. The projections provided here can be used to inform assessments of the implications of climate change. At the global scale all the consequences of climate change considered here are adverse, with large increases under the highest rates of warming. Under the highest forcing the global average annual chance of a major heatwave increases from 5% now to 97% in 2100, the average proportion of time in drought increases from 7% to 27%, and the average chance of the current 50-year flood increases from 2% to 7%. The socio-economic impacts of these climate changes are determined by socio-economic scenario. There is variability in impact across regions, reflecting variability in projected changes in precipitation and temperature. The range in the estimated impacts can be large, due to uncertainty in future emissions and future socio-economic conditions and scientific uncertainty in how climate changes in response to future emissions. For the temperature-based indicators, the largest source of scientific uncertainty is in the estimated magnitude of equilibrium climate sensitivity, but for the indicators determined by precipitation the largest source is in the estimated spatial and seasonal pattern of changes in precipitation. By 2100 the range across socio-economic scenario is often greater than the range across the forcing levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number084046
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2019

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