The global-scale impacts of climate change on water resources and flooding under new climate and socio-economic scenarios
Arnell, N. and Lloyd-Hughes, B. (2013) The global-scale impacts of climate change on water resources and flooding under new climate and socio-economic scenarios. Climatic Change, 122 (1-2). pp. 127-140. ISSN 1573-1480
To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s10584-013-0948-4
This paper presents a preliminary assessment of the relative effects of rate of climate change (four Representative Concentration Pathways - RCPs), assumed future population (five Shared Socio-economic Pathways - SSPs), and pattern of climate change (19 CMIP5 climate models) on regional and global exposure to water resources stress and river flooding. Uncertainty in projected future impacts of climate change on exposure to water stress and river flooding is dominated by uncertainty in the projected spatial and seasonal pattern of change in climate. There is little clear difference in impact between RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP6.0 in 2050, and between RCP4.5 and RCP6.0 in 2080. Impacts under RCP8.5 are greater than under the other RCPs in 2050 and 2080. For a given RCP, there is a difference in the absolute numbers of people exposed to increased water resources stress or increased river flood frequency between the five SSPs. With the ‘middle-of-the-road’ SSP2, climate change by 2050 would increase exposure to water resources stress for between approximately 920 and 3400 million people under the highest RCP, and increase exposure to river flood risk for between 100 and 580 million people. Under RCP2.6, exposure to increased water scarcity would be reduced in 2050 by 22-24%, compared to impacts under the RCP8.5, and exposure to increased flood frequency would be reduced by around 16%. The implications of climate change for actual future losses and adaptation depend not only on the numbers of people exposed to changes in risk, but also on the qualitative characteristics of future worlds as described in the different SSPs. The difference in ‘actual’ impact between SSPs will therefore be greater than the differences in numbers of people exposed to impact.