Future vulnerability depends not only on climate change but also on development pathway

An important advance since the Third Assessment has been the completion of impacts studies for a range of different development pathways, taking into account not only projected climate change but also projected social and economic changes. Most have been based on characterisations of population and income levels drawn from the SRES scenarios [2.4].

These studies show that the projected impacts of climate change can vary greatly due to the development pathway assumed. For example, there may be large differences in regional population, income and technological development under alternative scenarios, which are often a strong determinant of the level of vulnerability to climate change [2.4].

To illustrate, Figure TS.18 shows estimates from a recent study of the number of people projected to be at risk of coastal flooding each year under different assumptions of socio-economic development. This indicates that the projected number of people affected is considerably greater under the A2-type scenario of development (characterised by relatively low per capita income and large population growth) than under other SRES futures [T20.6]. This difference is largely explained, not by differences in changes of climate, but by differences in vulnerability [T6.6].

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