The currently limited availability of long and high-quality surface instrumental climate records continues to hamper our ability to carry out more robust assessments of the climate. Such assessments are needed to better understand, detect, predict and respond to global climate variability and change. Despite the wealthy heritage of past climate data and recent efforts to improve data availability and accessibility, much more surface data could be digitised. Additionally, some long records are not of the quality needed for more confidently supporting any climate assessment, service, or application. The present paper discusses the usefulness of undertaking integrated data rescue (DARE) activities by showing several climate assessments as examples. It describes emerging DARE activities worldwide, with a focus on the World Meteorological Organization Mediterranean Data Rescue (MEDARE) and the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) initiatives to assess the benefits historical instrumental climate data can bring to studies of climate variability and change that consider the 21st century.