Physical impacts

Physical impacts are observed in all regions today and can have abrupt consequences, with some changes occurring at a faster rate than expected previously. For example, sea level rise was previously thought to be a long-term issue, but it is accelerating and can lead to significant damage in combination with extreme weather events.


Flooding: In general, wet areas projected to become wetter (and dry areas prected to become drier), and the increased precipitation often comes as extreme rain.

Drought: Observed in all regions.

Sea level rise: Accelerating (due to thermal expansion and melting glaciers/snow, loss of Greenland ice).

Heat stress: Heat waves are having a significant impact worldwide.

Wind: It is uncertain how wind patterns will shift.

Extreme weather: Significant damage can results from extreme weather in combination with other impacts. Stronger hurricanes (but lower frequency) are expected, and combined with sea level rise in coastal regions can be particularly damaging (e.g. Hurricane Sandy)

Some observations

Physical impacts are likely to continue in the short term (next 10-20 years), regardless of emission reduction scenario, and manifest mainly by rare events becoming (sometimes much) more frequent. In the long run, policy changes could affect physical impacts to some degree.

Systemic risk is highly uncertain, for example how El Niño will progress and impact weather patterns around the Pacific Ocean. Natural climate variability can also, in periods, both strengthen and weaken climate-related risks. Although the focus of this report is current and mid-century risks, in some scenarios, risks continue to worsen after 2100.