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 highly anticipated Sixth Assessment Report due to come out in four volumes over the course of 2021-22.
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 withdrawal took effect on November 4, 2020.
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.
In 2018, came the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report, a U.S. report written for the president every four years. This report focused heavily on climate change’s impact on the American economy.
In 2019, the words “Green New Deal” entered the lexicon, prompting One Earth to study the potential impacts of such legislation on grid stability in 143 countries.
In 2020 we saw reports on the economy as it pertains to climate change, on sea level rise and flooding, food security and nutrition, water management, the plastic pollution of our oceans, climate induced migration, and disease. There was a critical one on the dangers of the growing demand for cooling, as our world warms, and finally, one with some optimism from The Goldman school of Public Policy in Berkeley, California suggesting that it is still possible, with some robust policy reforms, for the U.S. can achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035.
By early June, 2021 we had already read dozens of reports on subjects from air quality to conserving and restoring America’s lands and waters, from melting ice to gas emission inventories, from health consequences to economic consequences, not to mention the deforestation of the Amazon. Perhaps Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector released by the International Energy Agency, on May 1, is the one you should read first. It is both demanding and optimistic.
On August 9, a landmark U.N. report from the IPCC “issued its latest and most dire assessment about the state of the planet, detailing how humans have altered the environment at an “unprecedented” pace and cautioning that the world risks increasingly catastrophic impacts in the absence of rapid greenhouse gas reductions. It’s sprawling assessment states that there is no remaining scientific doubt that humans are fueling climate change. That much is “unequivocal.” The only real uncertainty that remains, its authors say, is whether the world can muster the will to stave off a darker future than the one it already has carved in stone.”
And, while the Trump White House managed to delay its scheduled publication by a year, the 5th National Climate Assessment is now back on track under a newly Biden appointed director, Allison Crimmins.