Essential research findings to support decision-making in a critical decade
Each year, we invite leading scientists from around the world to review the most pressing findings in climate change-related research. Summarized into 10 concise insights, the result has always been a rich and valuable synthesis for policy and society at large.
This year, the authors emphasize and unpack the complex interactions between climate change and other drivers of risk, such as conflicts, pandemics, food crises and underlying development challenges. The 10 New Insights in Climate Science responds to clear calls for policy guidance during this climate-critical decade.
- Questioning the myth of endless adaptation: The potential to adapt to climate change is not limitless: people and ecosystems in different places across the world are already confronted with limits to adaptation, and if the planet warms beyond 1.5°C or even 2°C, more widespread breaching of adaptation limits is expected. Hence, adaptation efforts cannot substitute for ambitious mitigation.
- Vulnerability hotspots cluster in ‘regions at risk’: Vulnerability hotspots – areas with the highest susceptibility to being adversely affected by climate-driven hazards – are home to 1.6 billion people, a number projected to double by 2050. The report identifies vulnerability hotspots in Central America, the Sahel, Central and East Africa, the Middle East, and across the breadth of Asia.
- New threats on the horizon from climate–health interactions: Climate change is adversely impacting the health of humans, animals and entire ecosystems. Heat-related mortality, wildfires affecting our physical and mental health, and growing risks of outbreaks of infectious diseases are all linked to climate change.
- Climate mobility – from evidence to anticipatory action: The rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather events related to climate change, as well as its slow-onset impacts, will increasingly drive involuntary migration and displacement. These impacts can also render many people unable to adapt by moving out of harm’s way. Hence, anticipatory approaches to assist climate-related mobility and minimise displacement are essential in the face of climate change.
- Human security requires climate security: Climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in human security (caused by governance and socioeconomic conditions), which can lead to violent conflict. Effective and timely mitigation and adaptation strategies are required to strengthen human security and, by extension, national security. These must be pursued in parallel with concerted efforts to provide for human security to reduce the risks of increasing violent conflict and promote peace.
- Sustainable land use is essential to meeting climate targets: Enhancing yields via sustainable agricultural intensification with integrated land management should replace further expansion into natural areas, providing climate solutions, food security and ecosystem integrity. However, as the planet continues to warm, those land system co-benefits are less likely to hold.
- Private sustainable finance practices are failing to catalyse deep transitions: “Sustainable finance” practices in the private sector are not yet catalysing the profound economic transformations needed to meet climate targets. This reflects the fact that these are mostly designed to fit into the financial sector’s existing business models, rather than to substantially shift the allocation of capital towards meaningful mitigation.
- Loss and Damage – the urgent planetary imperative: Losses and damages are already widespread and will increase significantly on current trajectories, making it imperative to advance a coordinated global policy response. Deep and swift mitigation and effective adaptation are necessary to avert and minimise future economic and non-economic losses and damages.
- Inclusive decision-making for climate-resilient development: Decentring and coordinating decision-making across scales and contexts, while prioritising empowerment of a broad range of stakeholders, are key ways for climate action to be more effective, sustainable and just, as well as necessarily more reflective of local needs, worldviews and experiences.
- Breaking down structural barriers and unsustainable lock-ins: Transformative change towards deep and swift mitigation is impeded by structural barriers that arise from the current resource-intensive economy and its vested interests in maintaining the status quo. Integrating justice and equality across global agreements, decision-making processes, production-consumption arrangements, de-risking decarbonisation investments and fundamentally revising how progress is measured would strengthen climate action and redress ingrained and persistent injustices.
Explore 2022's 10 New Insights in Climate Science
“We need an urgent, global and coordinated response to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions to secure a safe and just future for humankind.”