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Single actions on climate change can have multiple benefits

When it comes to climate change the science is very clear: to restrain global warming we must rapidly cut our emissions of greenhouse gases.

But that’s not all that’s required. The planet has already warmed by more than a degree since the mid nineteenth century, leading to rising seas and more frequent floods, droughts and wildfires. And due to existing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, some measure of further warming is unavoidable. For this reason, we’re already having to adapt to reduce the impacts climate change can have on society.

These two strands of response to climate change are known as mitigation and adaptation. We need to mitigate to avoid the very worst potential impacts of climate change, and we need to adapt to the impacts from the climate change we’re already committed to in the future.

It is increasingly recognised that there are benefits from considering actions on mitigation and adaptation together. For example, by developing sustainable infrastructure, homes may be more resilient to new climate extremes such as heat, while also being more economic to run, saving energy and preventing greenhouse gas emissions.

And the benefits don’t have to be restricted to avoiding physical climate impacts. They could also positively benefit people’s health, the economy, our delicate ecosystem or even our society and culture. These ‘win-win’ actions are known as co-benefits and they are scalable from small individual decisions, all the way to major infrastructure projects.

The University of Leeds, working with the Met Office, has developed a new tool for policymakers, academics and industry to see how single actions can have multiple benefits for people’s lives and the world around them.

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