These are the biggest climate problems of 2022. Here’s how experts think we can solve them
Today at COP27, leading global experts highlighted 10 of the greatest insights in climate science from last year.
These revelations come from climate-related research published this year and are collated by Future Earth, the Earth League, the World Climate Research Program (WCRP), as well as scientists around the world.
“The information provided by this report is alarming and confirms some of what we already know,” said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, at the launch of the report.
“[They] give us insight into other areas where urgent action is needed.
Why is this information important?
The report’s authors say their reflections show the complex interactions between climate change and other risk factors such as conflict, food crises and pandemics.
Each year, these reports offer scientific advice to decision-makers on how best to deal with climate change.
“We need an urgent, comprehensive and coordinated response to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions to ensure a safe and just future for humanity,” says Wendy Broadgate, Global Hub (Sweden) Director for Future Earth.
“In a year of complex crises, including geopolitical instability, extreme weather events, and pandemic repercussions, 10 new insights into climate science are providing critical research findings to inform decisions.”
1. The potential for adaptation to climate change is not unlimited
Coping with the impacts of climate change is important, but scientists say our adaptive capacity is not unlimited. Sea level rise is capable of overwhelming coastal communities and the extreme heat is intolerable to the human body. These are just a few examples of “hard” limits that we cannot adapt to.
“1.5°C is not a target, it’s a physical limit. Go beyond and we’re likely to trigger tipping pointsexplained Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research at COP27.
“Now we have more and more scientific evidence that this also poses limits to adaptation.”
Going beyond 1.5C would push particularly vulnerable communities beyond what they can cope with, he added. Achieving 2C would mean that adaptation could in no way replace climate change mitigation.
2. Vulnerability hotspots are grouped into “risk regions”
More than three million people will be living in ‘vulnerability hotspots’ – areas most likely to be affected by climate hazards – by 2050. That’s double what it is today.
Linking to the first idea, Rockstrom said it would put a third of the world’s population in areas that are approaching the limits of adaptation.
These areas include low-lying coastal regions, tropical forests, regions vulnerable to monsoons, and glacial and mountainous ecosystems.
3. Climate change harms human health
The impact of climate change on the human health, animals and entire ecosystems is increasingly widespread. And new risks are constantly emerging.
Health scientists and climate scientists are working together to highlight this rapidly growing evidence.
This not only includes the most obvious impacts of forest fires, floods and other extreme weather conditions, but also infectious diseases.
The report says we urgently need policies in place to create surveillance and early warning systems and information to make the climate agenda a real agenda for protecting human health.
4. We must anticipate that climate change will lead to migration
Evidence of increased climate mobility – people moving to cope with the impacts of climate change – is mounting. Climate change is driving migrationdisplacement and potentially push societies towards conflict.
The impact of extreme weather conditions dominates the risks driving this climate mobility. Large numbers of people displaced since 2008 have had to move due to weather events such as floods, storms and wildfires – more than those displaced by conflict.
Although this area of research is still under development, the report indicates that it is important that policy makers are prepared. Instead of changing policy in response to the problem, they need to look ahead and plan long term for increased climate mobility.
5. Human security requires climate security
For simplicity, Human security depends on climate action. Although climate change does not in itself cause conflict, it aggravates existing vulnerabilities, which can lead to violent conflict. The interaction is fueled by “vicious circles”.
The human security impacts of climate change then become national security concerns. The report cites the example of the war in Ukraine. It revealed significant problems with food supply and stable access to energy locally, nationally and internationally due to a reliance on fossil fuels.
6. We need to use land sustainably to achieve climate goals
“A step change in land use is needed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” the report authors write.
The expansion of agricultural land is one of the main drivers of forest loss in the tropics. It is also a key driver of greenhouse gas emissions, loss of biodiversity and degradation of the ecosystems on which people depend for their livelihoods.
Droughts and extreme weather also affect the way we produce food and increase vulnerability.
According to experts, to protect land for the benefit of people and the planet, we need an integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation. More intense agriculture may be preferable to further expansion into natural areas, while attempts to increase crop yields may contribute to food security.
7. Private sustainable finance practices fail
Financial markets are crucial for reach net zerosays the report – especially in industries with high climate impact.
But the vast majority of sustainable finance practices today are designed to protect existing business models rather than address climate change.
Implementing and strengthening climate policies – like carbon prices and taxes – are most important for creating economic incentives to tackle climate change, experts say.
Private finance sustainability practices also need to better align with climate policy efforts. This means increasing transparency on emissions and ensuring that monetary flows are in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
8. Loss and damage is an urgent planetary imperative
As many vulnerable countries have already said at COP27, loss and damage climate change is already happening. It is likely to increase significantly on our current global warming trajectory.
But while the focus has been on finance in Egypt, and many losses and damages can be calculated in monetary terms, there are other forms that need to be better understood.
A coordinated and global policy response to loss and damage is urgently needed, they conclude.
9. Climate development must involve inclusive decisions
Being inclusive and empowering in all forms of decision-making has been shown to lead to better and fairer climate outcomes.
And climate-resilient development relies on choices that go beyond the formal decisions of politicians and decision-makers. In particular, the report says, because the current form of “inclusive” decision-making is not sufficient to meet the needs for climate action or justice.
These decisions are made around us every day, from town halls to corporate boards. But not everyone’s voice is included as well. The way they are made needs to be more inclusive, say the report’s authors.
10. We need to break down structural barriers and unsustainable blockages
Our current strategies to mitigate climate change are still insufficient to keep global warming below 2°C.
There are a number of barriers to change, including how we measure success and social progress. For the main drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, these measures are often wealth and economic growth.
This leaves us locked into a resource-intensive economy – a serious impediment to climate change mitigation efforts. Business models focus on ever-increasing production, weak or vague climate policies are created, and there is even the use of outright violence to benefit the fossil fuel industry.
To achieve true transformational change, the authors of the report argue that we must remove these blockages and structural barriers.