UEA studies climate change risks as global warming increases

A research programme led by the University of East Anglia (UAE) has quantified how climate change risks increase at a national scale as the level of global warming increases.


A collection of eight studies, focusing on Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and India, has shown that the risks of drought, flooding, declines in crop yields, and loss of biodiversity and natural capital greatly increase for each additional degree of global warming.

Published yesterday (February 28, 2024) in Climatic Change, this final research paper in the Topical Collection of studies published over the last three years presents the overarching picture for the accumulation of climate risk across the selected countries, as global warming increases from 1.5 ºC to 4 ºC above pre-industrial levels.

The studies provide an assessment for the six countries of projected changes in exposure of humans and land to climate-related hazards, such as drought and coastal flooding, and the projected effects of climate change on biodiversity, as well as the economic and societal implications of climate risks.

The research team found very large increases in the exposure of agricultural land to drought with 3ºC warming. Over 50 per cent of the agricultural land in each country is projected to be exposed to severe droughts of longer than one year in a 30-year period.  


However, researchers found that limiting global warming to 1.5 ºC would reduce the increase in exposure of agricultural land to drought by between 21 per cent (India) and 61 per cent (Ethiopia), as well as reduce economic damages due to fluvial flooding. 

Avoided increases in human exposure to severe drought were found to be 20–80 per cent lower at 1.5°C than 3°C across the six countries. Economic damages associated with sea-level rise are projected to increase in coastal nations, but more slowly if warming were limited to 1.5°C. 

The researchers warn that more effort is needed to reduce global warming, as policies in place globally are likely to result in 3ºC of global warming. 

Many areas in the six countries were found to be at an already high natural capital risk at 1.5ºC when effects of increasing human population is accounted for. When global warming increases, the risks escalate substantially. 

The study also showed that an expansion of protected area networks is necessary to deliver climate resilient biodiversity conservation. 

In a statement, programme lead and lead author professor Rachel Warren, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, said: “Until now, people have used very different datasets and models to explore climate change risks in different countries, or have conducted global analyses that make it difficult to resolve the implications for individual countries.

“Since important decisions about climate change mitigation and adaptation are made at the national scale, national scale outputs are needed for informing policy. The results presented in this collection confirm the need for the implementation of climate policies aligned to the Paris Agreement limits if widespread and escalating climate change risk is to be avoided. 

“They provide additional confirmation of the rapid escalation of climate change risks with global warming found in the IPCC 2022 report, which identifies how the risk of severe consequences increases with every additional increment of global warming.”  

The work focused on developing countries as researchers said they tend to be more vulnerable to climate change than others, though ‘other nations are projected to experience similar issues.’ Spanning the continents of Asia, Africa, and South America, the case studies present examples of large and small countries and cover a range of levels of socioeconomic development.