UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


IRDR experts contribute to major new UN report on climate change

2 March 2022

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world according to a major new UN report on climate change.

view of garden distorted by rain on a window pane

The new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 27 February 2022, assesses the impacts of climate change, looking at ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at global and regional levels. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change.

IRDR academic Dr Mohammad Shamsudduha was appointed in 2019 as a contributing author for Chapter 4 (Water) in Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet. Taking action now can secure our future.

Other IRDR academics whose work has strongly informed and shaped the report have been sharing their responses to its findings in relation to their own research.

Professor Ilan Kelman suggested that although the report gives a grim verdict, there are also lessons on disasters and violent conflicts that could help save lives and create safer societies regardless of human-caused climate change.

“As an academic who researches disasters and health, I was particularly interested in how the report examined climate change as a cause of disasters, including violent conflicts, and set out actions to avoid them,” he said.

“The IPCC’s summary entirely avoids the phrase “natural disaster”. This reflects decades of work explaining that disasters are caused by sources of vulnerability – such as unequal and inequitable access to essential services like healthcare or poorly designed or built infrastructure like power plants – rather than by the climate or other environmental influences.”

He concludes though that the report’s subtitle, “Taking action now can secure our future,” needs emphasising. 

Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson also highlighted how her research areas, including the links between mental health and climate change, trapped populations and loss and damage, were reflected in the report in more detail than ever before.

“Having been a part of a growing number of scholars working on loss and damage for so long it is amazing to see the entry and elaborations in the report,” she explained. “The report also presents a more complex and holistic understanding of limits to adaptation including social, psychological and subjective constraints to people's responses as well as barriers to mobility.”

However, she added the report also illustrated how evidence in these areas was still urgently lacking.

You can read Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability on the IPCC website, along with a Summary for Policy Makers. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. Find out more about the organisation.

Read more commentaries on the report by Professor Kelman in Psychology and The Conversation.

Follow our experts

Mohammad Shamsudduha
Twitter: twitter.com/EarthShams

Ilan Kelman
Twitter: twitter.com/IlanKelman and Instagram: www.instagram.com/ilankelman

Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson
Twitter: twitter.com/s_ayebkarlsson 
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