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 2020, many reports focused on the economy as it pertains to climate change, such as Mobilizing for a Zero Carbon America: Jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs from Rewiring America, Congress’s Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America, and Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change from the Bank for International Settlements. 

2020 also featured several reports on sea level rise, like Nature’s humbling Projections of global-scale extreme sea levels and resulting episodic coastal flooding over the 21st Century, and the effects of flooding. First National Flood Risk Assessment from the First Street Foundation.

Already by August, 2020 saw reports on 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 — both through the leaking of HFCs and other refrigerants, and through emissions of CO2 and black carbon from the mostly fossil fuel-based energy powering air conditioners and other cooling equipment.

A note of real optimism came from The Goldman school of Public Policy in Berkeley, California: Assuming we take some real action “the U.S. can achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumers, and without new fossil fuel plants. On the path to 90% over the next 15 years, we can inject $1.7 trillion into the economy, support a net increase of more than 500K energy sector jobs each year, and reduce economy-wide emissions by 27%. This future also retires all existing coal plants by 2035, reduces natural gas generation by 70%, and prevents up to 85,000 premature deaths by 2050. But without robust policy reforms, this future will be lost.”


New Energy Outlook 2020

By Seb Henbest & others 01/07/21
The New Energy Outlook (NEO) is BloombergNEF’s annual long-term analysis on the future of the energy economy. Now covering transport, industry and buildings in addition to its traditional focus on the power sector, NEO leverages the combined expertise of more than 65 BNEF analysts across 12 countries to offer a…

Net Zero America: Potential Pathways, Infrastructure, and Impacts

By Eric Larson, Chris Greig and Others. 12/15/20
A growing number of pledges are being made by major corporations, municipalities, states, and national governments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. This study provides granular guidance on what getting to net-zero really requires and on actions needed to translate these pledges into tangible progress.

Emissions Gap Report 2020

By UNEP, UNEP DTU Partnership 12/09/20
The report finds that, despite a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.

The 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: responding to converging crises

By Nick Watts, Markus Amann & others 12/02/20
Climate change and human health: an assessment / prepared by a Task Group on behalf of the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Association and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Turning Climate Commitments into Results: Progress on State-Led Climate Action

By Drew Stilson, Pam Kiely and Others. 12/01/20
While the Trump administration carried out its unprecedented assault on critical environmental protections, many state leaders powerfully responded to the abdication of leadership and committed to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets – pledging at a critical inflection point to cut pollution at the rate science demands.

Sustainable aviation fuels as a pathway to net-zero aviation

Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time and requires collective action to solve, embodied in a shared vision and collaboration across government, industry and society. The decade until 2030 is our window of opportunity to shift the global trajectory to a sustainable future. Indeed, the…

Near-real-time monitoring of global CO2 emissions reveals the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

By Zhu Liu, Philippe Ciais 10/14/20
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting human activities, and in turn energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Here we present daily estimates of country-level CO2 emissions for different sectors based on near-real-time activity data.

Rate of mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet will exceed Holocene values this century

In collaboration with Health Care Without Harm, Arup has estimated the healthcare sector’s global climate footprint, establishing for the first time the significance of healthcare’s contribution to the climate emergency.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020: Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets

Updates for many countries have made it possible to estimate hunger in the world with greater accuracy this year. In particular, newly accessible data enabled the revision of the entire series of undernourishment estimates for China back to 2000, resulting in a substantial downward shift of the series of the…

Living Planet Report

Every two years, WWF publishes the Living Planet Report, a science-based analysis on the health of our planet and the impact of human activity. Global Footprint Network contributes the Ecological Footprint assessment as a measure of human demand.

Managing Climate Risk In The U.S. Financial System

Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy. Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human…

Dynamic ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet driven by sustained glacier retreat

By Michalea D. King, Ian M. Howat & others 08/13/20
The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass at accelerated rates in the 21st century, making it the largest single contributor to rising sea levels. Faster flow of outlet glaciers has substantially contributed to this loss, with the cause of speedup, and potential for future change, uncertain.

Projections of global-scale extreme sea levels and resulting episodic coastal flooding over the 21st Century

By Ebru Kirezci, Ian R. Young 07/30/20
Global models of tide, storm surge, and wave setup are used to obtain projections of episodic coastal flooding over the coming century. The models are extensively validated against tide gauge data and the impact of uncertainties and assumptions on projections estimated in detail.

Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution

By Simon Reddy & Winnie Lau 07/23/20
Plastic has become ubiquitous on store shelves and in our homes. From wrapped food and disposable bottles to microbeads in body washes, it’s used widely as packaging or in products because it’s versatile, cheap, and convenient. But this convenience comes with a price. Plastic waste is entering the ocean at…

Fasting season length sets temporal limits for global polar bear persistence

By Peter K. Molna, Cecilia M. Bitz & others 07/20/20
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) require sea ice for capturing seals and are expected to decline range-wide as global warming and sea-ice loss continue. Estimating when different subpopulations will likely begin to decline has not been possible to date because data linking ice availability to demographic performance are unavailable for most…

Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report

Efficient and climate friendly cooling is a crucial piece of the climate and sustainable development puzzle.We need cooling to protect vulnerable populations from heatwaves,keep vaccines viable and food fresh, and workforces productive.

Adapting to a Change Climate: How Collaboration Addresses Unique Challenges in Climate-Change and Environmental Reporting

By Caroline Porter 07/17/20
IntroductionIt was 2012, the year of Superstorm Sandy, record heat and persistent drought, and Bernadette1Woods Placky was staring down two discordant facts. First, meteorologists were consistentlyvoted the most trusted sources of news in their communities; and second, about half ofmeteorologists were convinced that climate change was real, according to a…

Mobilizing for a zero carbon America: Jobs, jobs, jobs, and more jobs

By Saul Griffith and Sam Calisch 07/01/20
From mass unemployment to the threat of climate change, the U.S. will face a number of seemingly unprecedented challenges even after the current public health tragedy has passed. Finding needed solutions won’t be easy and will require creative thinking, robust analysis, and political resolve. The good news is that these…

Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America

With the devastating consequences of climate change growing at home and abroad, the United States must harness the technological innovation of the moonshot, the creativity of our entrepreneurs, the strength of our workers, and the moral force of a nation endeavoring to establish justice for all. Solving the Climate Crisis:…

Gender, climate & security: sustaining inclusive peace on the frontlines of climate change

Climate change is a defining threat to peace and security in the 21st century – its impacts felt by everyone, but not equally. Gender norms and power dynamics shape how women and men of different backgrounds experience or contribute to insecurity in a changing climate. Grounded in a series of…

Global increase in major tropical cyclone exceedance probability over the past four decades

By James P. Kossin, View ORCID ProfileKenneth R. Knapp and more 06/02/20
Tropical cyclones (TCs), and particularly major TCs, pose substantial risk to many regions around the globe. Identifying changes in this risk and determining causal factors for the changes is a critical element for taking steps toward adaptation. Theory and numerical models consistently link increasing TC intensity to a warming world,…

Addressing Climate as a Systemic Risk: A Call to Action for U.S. Financial Regulators

A CALL TO ACTION FOR US FINANCIAL For additional details, references and endnotes, please review the entire report at SUMMARYSystemic risks have the potential to destabilize capital markets and lead to serious negative consequences for financial institutions and the broader economy. Under this definition, climate change, like the…

The 2035 Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Electricity Future

Global carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C and avoid catastrophic climate impacts. Most existing studies, however, examine 2050 as the year that deep decarbonization of electric power systems can be achieved—a timeline that would also hinder decarbonization of the buildings, industrial, and transportation sectors.

World Water Development Report 2020: Water and Climate Change

By Audrey Azoulay 01/01/20
The climate is changing, and our world is in danger. Around one million animal and plant species are facing extinction. Freshwater species have suffered the greatest decline, falling by 84% since 1970. Humans are also affected: around four billion people currently experience severe physical water scarcity for at least one…

The First Annual National Flood Risk Assessment: Defining America’s Growing risk

The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

How Climate Change Will Impact Major Cities Across the U.S.

By Eylul Tekin 06/25/20
Homeownership is a long-term investment, with the typical mortgage lasting between 15 and 30 years; however, most home buyers don't consider the potential impact of climate change on their most important investment.

Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement

By Corinne Le Quéré, Robert B. Jackson and more 01/20/21
Government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically altered patterns of energy demand around the world. Many international borders were closed and populations were confined to their homes, which reduced transport and changed consumption patterns. Here we compile government policies and activity data to estimate the decrease in CO2 emissions during…

The emergence of heat and humidity too severe for human tolerance

By Colin Raymond, Tom Matthews and Radley M. Horton 05/08/20
Humans’ ability to efficiently shed heat has enabled us to range over every continent, but a wet-bulb temperature (TW) of 35°C marks our upper physiological limit, and much lower values have serious health and productivity impacts

Rebuilding Marine Life

By Carlos M. Duarte & others 04/01/20
Sustainable Development Goal 14 of the United Nations aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. Achieving this goal will require rebuilding the marine life-support systems that deliver the many benefits that society receives from a healthy ocean.

Temperate rainforests near the South Pole during peak Cretaceous warmth

By Johann P. Klages & others 04/01/20
The mid-Cretaceous period was one of the warmest intervals of the past 140 million years1,2,3,4,5, driven by atmospheric carbon dioxide levels of around 1,000 parts per million by volume.

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner

As anthropogenic climate change continues the risks to biodiversity will increase over time, with future projections indicating that a potentially catastrophic loss of global biodiversity is on the horizon.

Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion

By Michalis I. Vousdoukas & others 03/02/20
Sandy beaches occupy more than one-third of the global coastline1 and have high socioeconomic value related to recreation, tourism and ecosystem services2. Beaches are the interface between land and ocean, providing coastal protection from marine storms and cyclones3.

How many curbside recycling programs have been cut?

By E.A. Crunden 03/04/20
Waste Dive's running tally of 70-plus suspensions or cancellations is smaller than some reported numbers (and does include revived programs) but still continues to grow.

WHO global strategy on health, environment and climate change

The burden of disease attributable to the environment is high and persistent, and amounts to 13 million deaths each year (one quarter of all deaths), and further health concerns are posed by global challenges such as climate change and rapid urbanization.

Annual Energy Outlook 2020

The Annual Energy Outlook presents an assessment by the U.S. Energy Information Administration of the outlook for energy markets through 2050.

Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019

By Lijing Cheng, John Abraham & 12 others 01/27/20
Human-emitted greenhouse gases (GHGs) have resulted in a long-term and unequivocal warming of the planet (IPCC, 2019). More than 90% of the excess heat is stored within the world’s oceans, where it accumulates and causes increases in ocean temperature (Rhein et al., 2013; Abram et al., 2019).

Preliminary US Emissions Estimates for 2019

By Trevor Houser and Hannah Pitt 01/07/20
After a sharp uptick in 2018, we estimate that US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 2.1% last year based on preliminary energy and economic data. This decline was due almost entirely to a drop in coal consumption.

Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change

Climate change poses new challenges to central banks, regulators and supervisors. This book reviews ways of addressing these new risks within central banks’ financial stability mandate. However, integrating climate-related risk analysis into financial stability monitoring is particularly challenging because of the radical uncertainty associated with a physical, social and economic…