REPORTS AND PAPERS
In 1988 NASA scientist James Hansen warned lawmakers in the US Senate of the looming dangers presented by global warming, which humans were accelerating. In the same year the United Nations (UN) and the World Meteorological Organization (WHO) formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to report to world leaders on the science of climate change.
In 1990, the First IPCC Assessment Report (FAR) was published, underlining the importance of climate change as a challenge with global consequences and requiring international cooperation. It was followed by the 2nd (1995), 3rd (2001), 4th (2007) and 5th (2013-2014) with the 6th due in 2022.
On December 12, 2015 in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, the now-infamous Paris Agreement was written with an objective to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. It entered into force on November 4, 2016 by which time it had been ratified by 55 countries (accounting for 55% of global emissions). Within the following two years 197 countries — every nation on earth — signed on, including the U.S.
Unfortunately in the summer of 2017 President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. That takes effect on November 4, 2020.
Important papers in climate change research before 2017 also include the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment by the Arctic Council and International Arctic Science Committee in 2004 that chronicles a decrease in sea ice, thawing of permafrost, and disruption to arctic species. Also, crucially, there is the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the U.S. Department of Energy’s report back in 1968 called Sources, abundance, and fate of gaseous atmospheric pollutants, which warns of rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.
In 2017, a variety of climate groups worked together to release 2020: The Climate Turning Point, which talks about how GHG emissions must begin declining rapidly by 2020 if the world is to avoid crossing the temperature threshold agreed to in the Paris Climate Accords.
A stunning timeline, following our extraordinary lack of progress since 1988, was written by Paul Bledsoe and published in the New York Times on December 29, 2018. Many of the 2017 reports and papers referenced in this article appear in this CCR section.
Carbon Brief published a list of 2017 climate-change related papers most featured in the media. The infographic below shows which ones made it into the Top 10.