Climate Change is a key challenge for society

River with low water and birds an children walking through it

Low water at Rio Magdalena in Columbia. Picture: Programme office IKI

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the far-reaching impacts of progressing climate change on people and nature. Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks and Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka see this as further proof that urgent action on climate change is needed and constitutes a key challenge for society. Both ministers are therefore advocating ambitious, rapid climate action in order to slow down the global increase in temperatures.

"Climate change is happening every day. Mankind has to adapt to the changing conditions. Scientists tell us that the longer we wait, the more difficult this process will become. This is why we have to do two things: firstly to combat climate change and make sure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius, and secondly to prepare for the consequences of unavoidable climate change. Adaptation is neither easier nor cheaper than mitigation", Federal Environment Minister Hendricks commented.

"The report shows that there is a further need for research on climate change. Closing knowledge gaps and understanding how climate change works will help us develop more effective adaptation strategies and protect ourselves better against the effects of climate change", Federal Research Minister Wanka stated.

The IPCC presented its report on the risks and impacts of climate change and on opportunities for adaptation in Yokohama/Japan today. Hundreds of scientists, including 41 researchers from Germany, contributed to the report. The report illustrates the current impacts of climate change on people and ecosystems worldwide and provides a science-based outlook on potential future consequences of unchecked temperature rise.

The IPCC demonstrates that the temperature increase of 4°C compared with pre-industrial levels that mankind is facing with the measures currently in place would be associated with very high risks. The report predicts severe impacts on people and nature in many regions throughout the world. For example, Europe is expected to be more strongly affected by heat waves.

"We are taking these risks very seriously, and Germany has already developed an adaptation strategy and an action plan as we must prepare for the unavoidable consequences of climate change. The important thing is to assess the impacts climate change will have in various areas of life such as our cities, human health, transport or agriculture. The resulting challenges are diverse and range from developing early warning systems for extreme weather events to adaptation concepts for urban planning and specific changes to building legislation", Minister Hendricks added.

The German government also stands by its international commitments. Since 2008, the Federal Environment Ministry has been funding climate and biodiversity projects in newly industrialising and developing countries with a total of 1.4 billion euros via its International Climate Initiative (ICI). This includes more than 250 million euros for adaptation-related projects.

Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka stressed the importance of close, cooperative collaboration between science and policy, including at local level in the individual regions. "In recent years we have considerably advanced the development of climate models. We will now focus on using and implementing our findings at regional level, for example to back up local investment decisions or develop targeted regional adaptation strategies. Climate and adaptation measures are particularly effective when planned regionally and implemented with scientific support." The Federal Research Ministry spent a total of 750 million euros on projects and research institutions in the areas of climate and energy in 2013 alone. The Ministry is cooperating with approximately 40 countries on these issues. For instance, Germany is currently working together with African partner countries to establish two regional competence centres for climate change and adapted land use in Southern and West Africa, an investment worth up to 100 million euros. Climate change will play a prominent role in the new Africa Strategy for Education and Research. In Germany, the KLIMZUG funding programme facilitates the testing of strategies for adaptation to climate change and related weather extremes in various regions. "Education and research can make a difference in changing climate awareness worldwide. If people are successfully adapting to climate change at home, in their communities, this will make an important contribution to protecting our climate in general", Minister Wanka said.

The report issued today is the second of three volumes of the 5th IPCC assessment report. It deals with the impacts of climate change and options for adaptation. The first part of the report focused on observations, causes and projections of climate change. The third part will include options for avoiding further greenhouse gas emissions and will be adopted in Berlin on 12 April 2014.