10 Essential Climate Science Insights for 2022
By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, November 16, 2022 – As world leaders, scientists and diplomats at the United Nations’ annual climate conference, COP27, struggle to agree on how to manage the extremes of global warming, global scientists presented 10 essential climate insights realized by scientists this year as guideposts to negotiation.This year, the authors of the “10 New Insights in Climate Science” unpack the complex interactions between climate change and other risk drivers – conflicts, pandemics, food crises and underlying development challenges.Convened by the international networks Future Earth, The Earth League, and the World Climate Research Programme, scientists from around the world released the annual “10 New Insights in Climate Science” report with the new Executive Secretary of the agency UN Climate Change Simon Stiell, the former environment, education, and human resources minister of Grenada.
“The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year,” said Stiell. “But the science is clear and so are our environmental goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years.”
“Science is at the heart of everything we do. Science is our common language,” Stiell said. “It’s a foundational element that informs the COP negotiating process. Science provides the evidence and data on the impacts of climate change but it gives us the tools and knowledge on how we need to address it.”
“The insights of this report are alarming, confirming what we already know and giving us insights into other areas where further action is needed,” Stiell said.
The human potential to adapt to global warming is not limitless, the report emphasizes. Rising sea levels capable of submerging coastal communities and extreme heat intolerable to the human body, are examples of hard limits to our ability to adapt.
And by 2050, over three billion people, double today’s number, will inhabit “vulnerability hotspots,” areas with the highest likelihood of being harmed by climate-driven hazards.
“The latest science confirms the rising social costs of severe climate extremes and the urgent need to deviate away from risks of going beyond limits to adaptation and crossing irreversible tipping points,” warned Professor Johan Rockström, co-chair of The Earth League, the Earth Commission and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“As science advances, we have more evidence of massive costs, risks but also global benefits of reduced loss and damage, through an orderly safe landing of the world within the Paris climate range. To succeed requires global collaboration and speed at an unprecedented scale,” Rockström said.
This Year’s 10 Essential Climate Insights:
- Questioning the myth of endless adaptation: The potential to adapt to global heating 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: Today, vulnerability hotspots 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 Asia.
- New threat 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 render many people unable to adapt by moving out of harm’s way. So, anticipatory approaches to assist climate-related mobility and minimize 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. But as the planet continues to warm, those land system co-benefits are less likely to hold, the report comments.
- Private sustainable finance practices are failing to catalyze deep transitions: Sustainable finance practices in the private sector are not yet catalyzing 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 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 minimize 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 prioritizing empowerment of a broad range of stakeholders, are key ways for climate action to be more effective, sustainable and just, as well as 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 decarbonization investments and fundamentally revising how progress is measured would strengthen climate action and redress ingrained and persistent injustices.
Persistent human dependence on fossil fuels worsens energy and food gaps, so, the report warns “deep and swift mitigation is immediately necessary to tackle the drivers of climate change and to avert and minimize future loss and damage.””People and ecosystems in different places across the world are already confronted with enormous impacts, and if the planet warms beyond 1.5/2°C, more widespread breaching of adaptation limits can be expected. Adaptation efforts cannot substitute for ambitious mitigation,” Professor Mercedes Bustamente, Department of Ecology, University of Brasilia, Brazil, said.And Professor Chukwumerije Okereke, from Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Ndufu-Alike, Nigeria, said, “Decision makers must recognize the interconnectedness of biophysical-social challenges, and that the most impactful responses are not siloed. Substantially shifting the allocation of capital and land use towards meaningful mitigation, enacting robust and coordinated global policy responses for adaptation, loss and damage, as well as deconstructing the barriers to just climate action are some of the approaches identified within the report to accelerate reaching Paris Agreement Goals.President Joe Biden Pledges Support and Funding.
Speaking on November 11 in person in Sharm el-Sheikh, U.S. President Joe Biden proudly told the COP27 delegates, “Finally, thanks to the actions we’ve taken, I can stand here as President of the United States of America and say with confidence: The United States of America will meet our emissions targets by 2030.” (Applause.)
“We are racing forward to do our part to avert the ‘climate hell’ that the U.N. Secretary-General so passionately warned about earlier this week. We’re not ignoring the harbingers that are already here,” Biden said.
“It’s true the climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and to recover. That’s why, last year, I committed to work with our Congress to quadruple U.S. support to climate finance and provide $11 billion annually by 2024, including $3 billion for adaptation.”
The fund – Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience – PREPARE, is intended to help more than half a billion people in developing countries respond to environmental destruction. “We’ve already requested more than $2 billion for the PREPARE this year. I am going to fight to see that this and our other climate objectives are fully funded,” President Biden said.
“Today, as a down payment, we’re announcing more than $150 million in initiatives that specifically support PREPARE’s adaptation efforts throughout Africa, including Adaptation in Africa effort that Egypt and the United States launched together in June,” Biden offered.
This includes support for expanding early warning systems to help cover Africa, broadening access to climate finance, providing disaster-risk protection, strengthening food security, mobilizing the private sector, and supporting a new training center in Egypt to accelerate adaptation all across the continent.
President Biden told the COP27 delegates, “My administration has also made the United States the first-ever contributor to the Adaptation Fund last year, and this year we’re doubling our pledge to bring our total commitment to $100 million.”