Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems (Figure SPM.1). The assessment of impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability in the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) evaluates how patterns of risks and potential benefits are shifting due to climate change. It considers how impacts and risks related to climate change can be reduced and managed through adaptation and mitigation. The report assesses needs, options, opportunities, constraints, resilience, limits, and other aspects associated with adaptation.
Climate change involves complex interactions and changing likelihoods of diverse impacts. A focus on risk, which is new in this report, supports decision-making in the context of climate change, and complements other elements of the report. People and societies may perceive or rank risks and potential benefits differently, given diverse values and goals.
Compared to past WGII reports, the WGII AR5 assesses a substantially larger knowledge base of relevant scientific, technical, and socioeconomic literature. Increased literature has facilitated comprehensive assessment across a broader set of topics and sectors, with expanded coverage of human systems, adaptation, and the ocean. See Background Box SPM.1.2
Section A of this summary characterizes observed impacts, vulnerability and exposure, and adaptive responses to date. Section B examines future risks and potential benefits. Section C considers principles for effective adaptation and the broader interactions among adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. Background Box SPM.2 defines central concepts, and Background Box SPM.3 introduces terms used to convey the degree of certainty in key findings. Chapter references in brackets and in footnotes indicate support for findings, figures, and tables.