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We summarize what we assess as the past year's most important findings within climate change research: limits to adaptation, vulnerability hotspots, new threats coming from the climate–health nexus, climate (im)mobility and security, sustainable practices for land use and finance, losses and damages, inclusive societal climate decisions and ways to overcome structural barriers to accelerate mitigation and limit global warming to below 2°C.
We synthesize 10 topics within climate research where there have been significant advances or emerging scientific consensus since January 2021. The selection of these insights was based on input from an international open call with broad disciplinary scope. Findings concern: (1) new aspects of soft and hard limits to adaptation; (2) the emergence of regional vulnerability hotspots from climate impacts and human vulnerability; (3) new threats on the climate–health horizon – some involving plants and animals; (4) climate (im)mobility and the need for anticipatory action; (5) security and climate; (6) sustainable land management as a prerequisite to land-based solutions; (7) sustainable finance practices in the private sector and the need for political guidance; (8) the urgent planetary imperative for addressing losses and damages; (9) inclusive societal choices for climate-resilient development and (10) how to overcome barriers to accelerate mitigation and limit global warming to below 2°C.
Social media summary
Science has evidence on barriers to mitigation and how to overcome them to avoid limits to adaptation across multiple fields.
We summarize some of the past year's most important findings within climate change-related research. New research has improved our understanding about the remaining options to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, through overcoming political barriers to carbon pricing, taking into account non-CO2 factors, a well-designed implementation of demand-side and nature-based solutions, resilience building of ecosystems and the recognition that climate change mitigation costs can be justified by benefits to the health of humans and nature alone. We consider new insights about what to expect if we fail to include a new dimension of fire extremes and the prospect of cascading climate tipping elements.
A synthesis is made of 10 topics within climate research, where there have been significant advances since January 2020. The insights are based on input from an international open call with broad disciplinary scope. Findings include: (1) the options to still keep global warming below 1.5 °C; (2) the impact of non-CO2 factors in global warming; (3) a new dimension of fire extremes forced by climate change; (4) the increasing pressure on interconnected climate tipping elements; (5) the dimensions of climate justice; (6) political challenges impeding the effectiveness of carbon pricing; (7) demand-side solutions as vehicles of climate mitigation; (8) the potentials and caveats of nature-based solutions; (9) how building resilience of marine ecosystems is possible; and (10) that the costs of climate change mitigation policies can be more than justified by the benefits to the health of humans and nature.
Social media summary
How do we limit global warming to 1.5 °C and why is it crucial? See highlights of latest climate science.
We summarize some of the past year's most important findings within climate change-related research. New research has improved our understanding of Earth's sensitivity to carbon dioxide, finds that permafrost thaw could release more carbon emissions than expected and that the uptake of carbon in tropical ecosystems is weakening. Adverse impacts on human society include increasing water shortages and impacts on mental health. Options for solutions emerge from rethinking economic models, rights-based litigation, strengthened governance systems and a new social contract. The disruption caused by COVID-19 could be seized as an opportunity for positive change, directing economic stimulus towards sustainable investments.
A synthesis is made of ten fields within climate science where there have been significant advances since mid-2019, through an expert elicitation process with broad disciplinary scope. Findings include: (1) a better understanding of equilibrium climate sensitivity; (2) abrupt thaw as an accelerator of carbon release from permafrost; (3) changes to global and regional land carbon sinks; (4) impacts of climate change on water crises, including equity perspectives; (5) adverse effects on mental health from climate change; (6) immediate effects on climate of the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements for recovery packages to deliver on the Paris Agreement; (7) suggested long-term changes to governance and a social contract to address climate change, learning from the current pandemic, (8) updated positive cost–benefit ratio and new perspectives on the potential for green growth in the short- and long-term perspective; (9) urban electrification as a strategy to move towards low-carbon energy systems and (10) rights-based litigation as an increasingly important method to address climate change, with recent clarifications on the legal standing and representation of future generations.
Social media summary
Stronger permafrost thaw, COVID-19 effects and growing mental health impacts among highlights of latest climate science.
Sea-ice volume fluxes through Fram Strait, Arctic Ocean, are estimated for the two Icesat measurement periods in February/March and October/November 2003 by combining Sea-ice area fluxes, determined from Space-borne microwave observations, with estimates of the Sea-ice thickness distribution, inferred from measurements of Icesat’s Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAs) instrument. The thickness is derived from Icesat data by converting its Surface elevation measurements into an ice freeboard estimate. Combined with prior information about ice density and Snow depth and density, the freeboard is converted into ice thickness. Uncertainties in freeboard estimates due to geoid model errors are reduced through the use of the recent geoid from the Arctic Gravity Project. Missing information about the ocean circulation and ocean tides is approximated locally by interpolating the Sea Surface height linearly between open leads. Meridional ice volume fluxes estimated for 79˚N using ice drift observed by AMSR-E (QuiksCAT) amount to 168 km3 (236km3) and 62 km3 (77 km3) for 30 day periods in February/March and October/November 2003, respectively. These values lie in the range of previous results from Similar Studies, but are considerably Smaller than the average ice flux during the 1990s, most likely because of a Smaller ice-drift Speed during 2003.
Annual and winter (December–April) sea-ice area and extent are calculated for the Greenland Sea (GS) and Barents Sea (BS) from daily ice concentrations obtained from space-borne microwave radiometry for 1979–2003. The ice extent decreases significantly, particularly during winter, by 65 000 km2 (decade)–1 in the GS and by 72 000 km2 (decade)–1 in the BS. Ice-extent fractions (of these total extents) occupied by ice of five different ice-concentration ranges are calculated and analyzed. Changes in these fractions are again significant and most pronounced during winter. In the GS, the fraction of close to very compact ice (65–95%) decreases by 17 000 km2 (decade)–1 and the fraction of very compact ice (>95%) increases by 29 000 km2 (decade)–1, corresponding to a loss of 19% and a gain of 58% relative to the 25 year mean, respectively. In the BS, the fraction of close to compact ice (65–85%) increases by 26 000km2 (decade)–1 and the fraction with compact to very compact ice (>85%) decreases by 66 000 km2 (decade)–1, corresponding to a gain of 30% and a loss of 67% relative to the 25 year mean, respectively. The changing surface wind pattern analyzed from ERA-40 data favours this increasing (decreasing) ice compactness in the GS (BS).
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