What’s at stake at COP26? Your climate primer

This weekend, world leaders will meet in Glasgow to discuss the acute social, scientific and economic challenge we face.

With so much information flying past, it’s easy to lose track of the science and technology. What’s our current trajectory? Could we suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? Why is everyone so interested in hydrogen all of a sudden?

Here, we’ve created a Cosmos collection of the essential information you need on the climate crisis and its solutions. Read on to find out more.

Our current climate trajectory

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Credit: Brook Mitchell / Stringer / Getty Images

What can we currently expect from the climate over the next few decades?

Sixth time’s the charm: new IPCC report shows climate is still changing

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international authority on global warming, its effects, and its causes. It released its sixth major report in August, covering the causes, current effects, and future predictions, of climate change. Cosmos provides a summary.

The climate crisis Australia our children could inherit

What does this mean locally? In March, the Australian Academy of Science released a detailed report on the expected social, economic and environmental costs of the climate crisis in Australia.

Emissions policy

The climate is changing – so what is Australia, and the rest of the world, doing about it?

Australia’s net zero emissions target for 2050

The Australian federal government has announced its aim for Australia to be producing net zero emissions by 2050. While an incremental step in the right direction, the plan has drawn criticism from experts for being light on detail and interim targets.

Photo of power station against sunset
Power station in Taralgon, Victoria. Credit: John W Banagan / Getty Images

Will the COP26 climate conference be a game changer?

After a year’s delay due to COVID, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference — also known as COP26 — is about to begin in Glasgow, providing a crucial opportunity for more than 100 world leaders to come together and chart our future on this planet. But what do the climate scientists themselves think of this pivotal moment?

The carbon policy of our South East Asian neighbours

What are the other countries in our region doing about carbon? Indonesia and Malaysia have announced new action and pledges to reduce carbon emissions ahead of the Glasgow COP26 summit.

What drives Australian companies to set net zero targets?

Even as the COP26 climate change conference rapidly approaches, it is international pressure and not national leadership, that is driving Australian companies and businesses to go green, according to Australian experts.

Good news, bad news: how climate science is being used in court

Economic and social pressures can drive climate action, but the courts are also becoming an increasingly valuable place to legislate emissions down.

Renewable energy

The most effective way to curb climate change is to switch from burning fossil fuels for energy, and use renewable sources instead. What’s on offer?

“Technology, not taxes”? Experts say that existing renewable technology should be used immediately

Existing technology and new policies are the keys to a net-zero emissions future, according to the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

Nuclear power in Australia: is it a good idea?

Wind turbines against the sunrise
A wind farm on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. Credit: tim phillips photos / Getty Images

The AUKUS submarine deal has re-ignited debate around nuclear power. What are the pros and cons?

Cosmos Briefing: Electric vehicles

When it comes to electric vehicle purchase, Australia lags behind the rest of the world. Why is this the case and what’s being done to change it? An expert panel explains.

Solar and wind cheapest energy source in Australia

Solar and wind are the cheapest sources of new electricity generation in Australia, and renewables are outcompeting fossil fuels for cost efficiency across the board, according to the CSIRO.

Cosmos Briefing: Lithium

As the demand for renewable-energy technologies skyrockets, we need to think about how to source their constituent materials without further damaging the world we’re trying to save – most notably, the scarce resource lithium, which is crucial for batteries.


Hydrogen is a major lynchpin of the federal government’s plan, and has recently been the source of massive state government infrastructure announcements. What’s driving interest in the element?

What is hydrogen fuel and how does it work?

What is hydrogen and why does it matter? Hydrogen is set to accelerate as a fuel source over the next decade, but we need to watch where it’s used, according to a Cosmos Briefing panel.

Map of australia illuminated in a lightbulb; could it soon be powered by hydrogen?
Credit: eyegelb / Getty Images

What’s a hydrogen electrolyser?

The Queensland government has announced plans to build one of the world’s largest renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world, backed by Fortescue Future Industries. Why is FFI focussing on electrolysers first, and what else will they be making in Gladstone? What is an electrolyser, anyway, and why do we need one to make green hydrogen?

Is Australia’s green hydrogen industry taking off?

Hydrogen has been discussed as the fuel of the future in recent times, with state and federal governments aiming to see renewable hydrogen at a competitive price by 2030. Could it become the fuel of now?

Carbon capture

Road sign showing decline of co2
Credit: Animaflora / Getty Images

A major part of the federal government’s plan to reduce emissions is carbon capture and storage. What is it, and is there any evidence that it can actually help?

How does carbon capture and storage work?

One approach to keeping carbon emissions under control is the use of carbon capture and storage technologies that use underground rocks as “storage tanks”. But how do these technologies work?

The great CCS debate: can Santos make carbon capture work?

Santos has recently announced an ambitious carbon capture and storage project. Is it feasible?

Gorgon’s carbon capture target was the largest such project in the world. What does its shortfall mean for the future of CCS?

In July, the world’s largest carbon storage project, off the coast of Western Australia, announced it had failed to store even half of the carbon dioxide it was supposed to. What does this shortfall mean for the future of carbon capture?

Out of thin air: direct carbon capture is on the horizon

An Australian company hopes to be selling carbon-capture modules by next year – what are the economics?

For more information…

Check Cosmos’ climate and energy archives for more.

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