Impacts of Climate Change

Impacts of Climate Change 2018-08-28T14:51:27+00:00

Theme Leads: James Pearce-Higgins, Richard Corlett

The overall aim of this theme is to improve understanding of the impacts of climate change.  By impacts we mean not only the direct impacts of climate change on species, through their physiology or their interactions with other species, but also the impacts of human responses to climate change, which may be at least as important. These human responses include the effects of climate change mitigation, such as the expansion of windfarms and the promotion of biofuel crops, and the effects of human adaptation to climate change, such as population movements and changes in crops.

The activities we have planned for the next few years are therefore split into two main areas, recognizing this distinction between direct impacts and the impacts of human responses.

Direct responses to climate change

The goal of this group of activities is to document and understand the impacts of the climate change that has already occurred, and to improve our ability to assess the future vulnerability of species to climate change. It currently includes the following activities.

  1. A classification framework for impact mechanisms. Different studies consider impacts of climate change in different ways, and there is a need for clarity about what is meant by climate change impacts and how they should be recognized. This activity should produce one or more peer-reviewed publications which discuss these issues and provide such clarity.
  2. Review the attribution of climate change impacts. Different levels of evidence are presented in support of observed climate change impacts. We will review these studies and identify what is required in order to attribute ecological changes to climate change.
  3. Identifying which species have been affected by climate change and why. Although there is increasing evidence for the impacts of climate change on many species, it is not clear what factors make a particular species or population vulnerable. This project will try to identify common ecological and life-history traits associated with currently observable responses, or lack of responses, to changes in climate variables, such as temperature and rainfall.
  4. Trait-based assessment of climate change vulnerability of Borneo trees. Building on the IUCN guidelines for vulnerability assessment, this activity will use those guidelines to identify the trees in Borneo which have traits suggestive of high vulnerability to climate change.

Human responses to climate change

The goal of this group of activities is to improve our understanding of how human responses to climate change are impacting species now and will do so in the future. Adverse impacts are already apparent and it is anticipated that this mechanism will be an increasingly important driver of future climate change impacts, which this activity aims to understand and predict.

  1. Human responses to climate change and their impacts on biodiversity. This activity uses a literature review approach to document the likely impact of human responses to climate change upon biodiversity, so that such impacts can be incorporated into existing biodiversity vulnerability assessment protocols.
  2. The dangers of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) for biodiversity. This activity will consider the dangers that this approach to achieving the negative carbon emissions required for ambitious climate change mitigation targets will pose for species, for example through large-scale habitat conversion.