The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its Working Group II report on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.
Many of the world’s top climate scientists and economists are warning, in detail by geography and sector, that many aspects of maritime trade face not only rising costs, but global, systemic disruption from climate change if emissions are not slashed in the short term.
There is also a key role to play for shipping and trade routes to help adapt to climate impacts, for example by rerouting food supplies to tackle droughts.
Key takeaways for shipping from the 3,675-page report include how relative sea level rise and the increased frequency and severity of storms are already affecting port activity, infrastructure, and supply chains, sometimes disrupting trade and transport.
Of all transport infrastructure maritime ports are viewed in the UN report as at the greatest risk from climate hazards, followed by roads, rail, and airports.
A transformational adaptation approach to address climate impacts on maritime activities and increase security would relocate 41 ports, change centers of demand, reduce shipping distances, or shorten supply chains.
The report also suggests the need for better regulation of the dry bulk trade in soy, and other agricultural products linked to deforestation.
Trade diversification and re-routing of transport will be a key part of adapting to interregional climate risks.
The UN report may cast a different light on the International Maritime Organization’s Expert Working Group on Impact Assessment due next week, which still limits the scope of its discussion to the potential impact of carbon regulations on trade, rather than the potentially far greater impact on trade of climate change itself.
The Working Group II report – finalised and approved by 270 authors and 195 governments – is the biggest assessment of the impacts of climate change and the strategies to adapt to it since the release of the IPCC’s AR5 in 2014.