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.
In 2019, global energy-related CO2 emissions flattened resulting mainly from a sharp decline in CO2 emissions from the power sector in advanced economies, thanks mainly to the expanding role of renewable sources (primarily wind and solar PV), the switching of fuels from coal to natural gas, and nuclear power.
2019 yielded other more narrowly-focused papers on climate change’s effects than in previous years. The IPCC released special reports covering impacts on the ocean and cryosphere, along with land in general. Both special reports have illuminating summaries: one for policymakers and one for scientists.
In the U.S. the words “Green New Deal” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/climate/green-new-deal-questions-answers.html entered the lexicon, prompting One Earth to study the potential impacts of such legislation on grid stability in 143 countries.
NOAA and FEMA both put out report cards of sorts, one on the state of the Arctic and one on our national preparedness to deal with natural disasters.
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. This has unfortunately, not been updated.
Early in 2020, CarbonBrief published an article on which climate-change related papers were most featured in the media in 2019. The infographic below shows which ones made it into the Top 10.