The overall global-scale consequences of climate change are dependent on the distribution of impacts across regions, and there are multiple dimensions to these impacts. This paper presents a global assessment of the potential impacts of climate change across several sectors, using a harmonised set of impacts models forced by the same climate and socio-economic scenarios. Indicators of impact cover the water resources, river and coastal flooding, agriculture, natural environment and built environment sectors. Impacts are assessed under four SRES socio-economic and emissions scenarios, and the effects of uncertainty in the projected pattern of climate change are incorporated by constructing climate scenarios from 21 global climate models. There is considerable uncertainty in projected regional impacts across the climate model scenarios, and coherent assessments of impacts across sectors and regions therefore must be based on each model pattern separately; using ensemble means, for example, reduces variability between sectors and indicators. An example narrative assessment is presented in the paper. Under this narrative approximately 1 billion people would be exposed to increased water resources stress, around 450 million people exposed to increased river flooding, and 1.3 million extra people would be flooded in coastal floods each year. Crop productivity would fall in most regions, and residential energy demands would be reduced in most regions because reduced heating demands would offset higher cooling demands. Most of the global impacts on water stress and flooding would be in Asia, but the proportional impacts in the Middle East North Africa region would be larger. By 2050 there are emerging differences in impact between different emissions and socio-economic scenarios even though the changes in temperature and sea level are similar, and these differences are greater in 2080. However, for all the indicators, the range in projected impacts between different climate models is considerably greater than the range between emissions and socio-economic scenarios.
The research presented in this paper was conducted under the QUEST-GSI project, funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as part of the QUEST programme (grant number NE/E001882/1). PS is a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award holder. We acknowledge the international modelling groups for providing climate change and sea level data for analysis, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) for collecting and archiving the model data, the JSC/CLIVAR Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) and their Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) and Climate Simulation Panel for organising the model data analysis activity. The IPCC Data Archive at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. We thank the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.