Climate Action

COP27: 10 key facts climate scientists want you to know

A climate change banner stating there's only 'one world'. COP27

The report lists vital facts that everyone should know about climate change. Image: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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COP28

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  • Adapting our world will not save us from the devastating effects of climate change, say scientists.
  • What is also needed is urgent action to achieve dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions.
  • Here are 10 insights from climate experts delivered in plain language.

Adapting the world to cope with the effects of climate change can only go so far and time is running out to make radical changes to the way we live if we are to have any hope of averting a climate catastrophe, leading scientists have warned.

Released at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, a report written by leading climate scientists lays bare the limitations of efforts to adapt to climate change. It says the world needs to urgently reduce the emissions that are changing the climate.

10 New Insights in Climate Science, commissioned by Future Earth, the Earth League and the World Climate Research Programme for the United Nations summit, focuses on the social consequence of rising global temperatures.

"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,” said Professor Johan Rockström, co-chair of the Earth League.

Simply adapting to climate change won’t stop its worst effects, experts say.
Simply adapting to climate change won’t stop its worst effects, experts say. Image: Pixabay.

Prof Rockström said evidence is mounting of the “massive costs and risks” of failing to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, as set out in the Paris Agreement. “To succeed requires global collaboration and speed at an unprecedented scale,” he added.

A survey conducted for the World Economic Forum in November 2021, found that almost 7 in 10 people trust what climate scientists tell them - but only half are optimistic that global carbon emissions can be reduced within 20 years.

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10 key facts about climate change

Setting out to avoid complex scientific jargon, the Insights report lists vital facts that everyone should know about climate change. The scientists hope their insights will influence governments and businesses around the world to take action. Here are their 10 key facts.

1. Endless adaptation to climate change is a myth

“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,” the report says. Ambitious efforts to cut emissions are essential to avoid a catastrophe.

2. Vulnerability hotspots cluster in ‘regions at risk’

Areas of the world, already home to 1.6 billion people, are the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, the report says. The population of these ‘hotspots’ in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia is set to double by 2050.

A graphic showing potential climate change consequences broken down into sectors.
Potential human health consequences of climate change. Image: 10 New Insights in Climate Science 2022.

3. New health threats are on the horizon from climate change

Climate change already causes 40% of heat-related deaths worldwide, while droughts and floods are spreading disease, to say nothing of the effect on people’s mental health. Animal health is also under threat and wildfires can wipe out whole wildlife populations.

4. Climate change will drive migration - it's time to prepare

It’s been estimated that, if global warming is not contained, nearly 92 million people could be driven from their homes by extreme weather including fierce heat, drought and floods. Shelters and evacuation plans need to be readied to protect those people, the report says.

5. Human security requires climate security

Climate change exacerbates human conflicts creating “vicious circles” that can lead to violence, say the scientists. It’s vital to improve access to food and water and reduce global tensions in parallel with cutting emissions to reduce the threat from global warming.

6. Sustainable land use is essential to meeting climate targets

Agricultural expansion has been a major cause of forest loss which has accelerated climate change. In order to feed a growing population agriculture needs to focus on food security and measures like soil conservation in order to enhance crop yields in a sustainable way.

7. Private sustainable finance is failing to deliver real change

Sustainable finance initiatives have so far failed to bring about fundamental economic change, the report says. It adds this is because schemes are “mostly designed to fit into the financial sector’s existing business models” rather than changing the way capital is allocated.

8. Loss and Damage – the urgent planetary imperative

A key debate at COP27 was about how the developed world will compensate the rest of the planet for the cost of adapting to climate change. The report says loss and damage will only increase and it’s vital there is a coordinated response by rich nations.

9. Inclusive decision-making is vital for effective climate action

Conventional centralized decision-making by politicians won’t deliver effective action against climate change, says the report. To ensure people support action and to deliver social justice, everyone must be involved in deciding how societies will adapt, the report says.

10. Breaking down structural barriers and unsustainable lock-ins

Measuring human progress by ever-increasing gross domestic product (GDP) is locking the world into creating more greenhouse gas emissions, say the scientists. Instead, the world needs to focus on human wellbeing as a measure of success.

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Climate ActionEnergy TransitionNature and Biodiversity
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