Costs of mitigating climate change are far outweighed by immediate co-benefits to both people and the planet, according to new research.
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10 New Insights in Climate Science

Scientists have outlined some of the most important recent findings related to climate from across a wide range of disciplines. The topics covered in their report include the increase in megafires around the world as well as new justifications for the costs of rapid climate action.

Leading researchers presented a compilation of the 10 most important new insights on the climate at COP26 in early November 2021. The 10 New Insights in Climate Science series is a horizon scan of the most pressing research findings and emerging scientific insights to help inform immediate and equitable transformations across sectors to preserve a safe and habitable planet. 

In the report the researchers warn that we are on the verge of or already past the point of exhausting the carbon budget for exceeding global warming of 1.5°C, with observed increases in methane and nitrous oxide emissions that may even set us on a path to 2.7°C warming. As temperature warms, so too does the risk of carbon-feedback cycles that may lower the threshold climate tipping points, such as the observed rapid melting of Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier that may result in sea level rise of 0.5 meters or more. Given that human and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, deep transformations of energy and consumption patterns are required that must also take into account justice and equity, including support for vulnerable populations. 

New research, however, shows that the costs of mitigating climate change are far outweighed by immediate co-benefits to both people and planet, such as the restoration of natural ecosystems – which also represent a high economic value – as well as the many improvements to human health and well-being. For example, renewable energy transitions could dramatically lower the 6.67 million deaths caused by air pollution annually, while strong methane reductions could boost agricultural yields around the globe. 

A key addition to this year’s report is the inclusion of key implications for policy makers at global, regional, and local levels. For example, to better support household behaviour changes – a crucial but often overlooked opportunity for climate action – the report recommends defining equitable “consumption corridors” through democratic processes that place the burden of demand-side changes on high-emitting consumer elites. Importantly, to stay within the critical 1.5°C warming target the report also recommends an aggressive mid-term goal of a global 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as well as an ambition of net-zero by 2040. 

This year’s top insights: 

  1. Stabilising at 1.5°C warming is still possible, but immediate and drastic global action is required. 
  2. Rapid growth in methane and nitrous oxide emissions put us on track for 2.7°C warming. 
  3. Megafires – climate change forces fire extremes to reach new dimensions with extreme impacts. 
  4. Climate tipping elements incur high-impact risks. 
  5. Global climate action must be just. 
  6. Supporting household behaviour changes is a crucial but often overlooked opportunity for climate action. 
  7. Political challenges impede the effectiveness of carbon pricing. 
  8. Nature-based solutions are critical for the pathway to Paris – but look at the fine print. 
  9. Building resilience of marine ecosystems is achievable by climate-adapted conservation and management, and global stewardship. 
  10. Costs of climate change mitigation can be justified by the multiple immediate benefits to the health of humans and nature. 

(WCRP/Earth League/Future Earth/ile)

Read more and explore the report

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