Jeff Tollefson’s 2018 piece in Nature, “Can the World Kick its Fossil-Fuel Addiction Fast Enough?” Maybe. “The good news is that clean-energy technology is at last making substantial strides. The bad news is that the pace isn’t nearly quick enough.”
For a fun-to-read, technologically-informed, and cheerful view, see Angus Hervey’s four-part 2018-19 “deep dive” into the energy riddle in Future Crunch, “Homo Electric.” Parts 2 and 3 are especially informative: “How to Make Electricity Great Again: The Wind and Solar Revolution” and “We’re Going to Need a Better Bike: Batteries, Electric Vehicles, Hydrogen and a Modern Energy Grid.”
For more on the need for significant changes in how we distribute energy – that is, in the architecture of our grid – the often-provocative David Roberts at Vox has a clear, thorough explainer (also 2018), “Clean Energy Technologies Threaten to Overwhelm the Grid. Here’s How it Can Adapt.” Changing the grid, Roberts argues, is “perhaps the key step – in unlocking the full potential of the clean energy technologies that will be needed to decarbonize the electricity sector and meet new demand coming from electrification of other energy-intensive sectors like transportation and buildings.”
Finally, since of course it’s unwise to ignore human psychology, go back a bit further and read Chris Mooney’s 2015 series in the Washington Post, “Your Brain on Energy.” Drawing on behavioral science, these three interesting and informative articles focus on how actual people do or don’t change how they act. Our next energy revolution won’t be all about technology: it “will be in our brains.”
The descriptions of the 12 reports listed below are drawn from copy provided by the organizations that released them. A link for the PDF version is included with each entry.
Global Warming of 1.5° C, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Working Groups (IPPC 2018, 558 pages, free PDFs for summary and individual chapters available for download)
This report responds to the invitation for IPCC “… to provide a Special Report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways” contained in the Decision of the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to adopt the Paris Agreement. The IPCC accepted the invitation in April 2016, deciding to prepare this Special Report in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. The Summary for Policymakers presents the key findings, based on the assessment of the available scientific, technical and socio-economic literature
Emissions Gap Reports 2018, by UNEP Project Steering Committee (United Nations Environment Programme 2018, 112 pages, free PDF available for download)
This year, the annual Emissions Gap Report includes an assessment of the emissions associated with the Nationally Determined Contributions, which form the foundation of the Paris Agreement, and the current policies of each of the G20 members, including the European Union. The report features new information on the “emissions gap”, which is the gap between where we are likely to be and where we need to be. It takes into account the latest scientific information, including the IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C. The report also features ways to bridge the still existing emissions gap, including fiscal policy, the role of innovation, the role of non-state and subnational action and ways to increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions.
For a related analysis, see World Resources Institute’s Toward Paris Alignment.
The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation on the United States, edited by D.R. Reidmiller et al (United States Global Change Research Program 2018, 1524 pages, free PDF of full report available for download, brief and chapters download)
Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4)analyzes the impacts and risks of global change, as described in Volume I (Climate Science Special Report), and considers how different regions of the United States might adapt. As overseen by a Federal Steering Committee comprising representatives from USGCRP agencies and NOAA, the administrative agency responsible for establishing procedures, the report has undergone an extensive, multi-phase process of internal and external review from Federal agency experts, the general public, and a panel of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
State of the Climate in 2017, edited by Jessica Blunden, Derek S. Arndt, and Gail Hartfield (American Meteorological Society 2018, 330 pages, free PDF available for download)
An international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer, the State of the Climate is the authoritative annual summary of the global climate published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space. This 28th issuance also documents the status and trajectory of our capacity and commitment to observe the climate system.
Explaining Extreme Events of 2017 from a Climate Perspective, edited by Jeffrey Rosenfield (American Meteorological Society 2018, 100 pages, free PDFs for individual chapters can be downloaded)
The U.S. Northern Plains and East Africa droughts of 2017, floods in South America, China and Bangladesh, and heatwaves in China and the Mediterranean were all made more likely by human-caused climate change, according to new research published in this supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). The seventh edition of Explaining Extreme Events in 2017 from a Climate Perspective also includes analyses of ocean heat events, including intense marine heatwaves in the Tasman Sea off Australia in 2017 and 2018. This is the second year that scientists have identified extreme weather events that they said could not have happened without warming of the climate through human-induced climate change.
WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017 (World Meteorological Organization 2018), 40 pages, free PDF available for download)
Every year, WMO issues a Statement on the State of the Global Climate based on data provided by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and other national and international organizations. For more than 20 years, these reports have been published in the six official languages of the United Nations to inform governments, international agencies, other WMO partners and the general public about the global climate and significant weather and climate trends. The Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2017 was completed and communicated at a press conference held at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva in November 2017. This final draft of the statement was published in March 2018.
Reports on the state of the climate in 2018 will be released in March (WMO) and July (AMS). AMS will release its analysis of extreme events in 2018 in December.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization 2018, 202 pages, free PDF available for download)
New evidence in 2018 confirms a rise in world hunger: the number of people who suffer from hunger has been growing over the past three years, returning to levels from almost a decade ago. Multiple forms of malnutrition are evident in many countries: adult obesity is growing even as forms of undernutrition persist. The report says that climate variability and extremes are key drivers behind this rise, together with conflict and economic downturns, and are threatening to erode and reverse gains made in ending hunger and malnutrition. The 2018 report reveals new challenges on the road to Zero Hunger, while setting out urgent actions needed to achieve the goal by 2030—in the context of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For a related analysis, see World Resources Institute’s Creating a Sustainable Food Future.
COP24 Special Report: Health & Climate Change, by World Health Organization (World Health Organization 2018, 38 pages, free PDF available for download)
The President of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP23), Prime Minister Bainimarama of Fiji, asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to prepare a report on health and climate change, to be delivered at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The report aims to provide (1) global knowledge on the interconnection between climate change and health, (2) an overview of the initiatives and tools with which the national, regional and global public health community is supporting and scaling up actions to implement the Paris Agreement for a healthier, more sustainable society, and (3) recommendations for UNFCCC negotiators and policy-makers on maximizing the health benefits of tackling climate change and avoiding the worst health impacts.
For a related analysis, see Lancet’s 2018 Countdown on Health and Climate Change.
Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century: Accelerating Climate Action in Urgent Times, by The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (The New Climate Economy 2018, 208 pages, free PDF available for download)
The growth story of the 21st century can unlock unprecedented opportunities of a strong, sustainable, inclusive economy. Research synthesized by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate finds that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits through 2030. This ground-breaking research produced by more than 200 experts highlights proof points of the global shift to a low-carbon economy and identifies ways to accelerate action in five sectors: energy, cities, food and land use, water, and industry. The benefits of climate action are greater than ever before, while the costs of inaction continue to mount. It is time for a decisive shift to a new climate economy.
The Energy, Economic, and Environmental Implications of a Federal U.S. Carbon Tax, by Noah Kaufman and Kate Gordon (Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy 2018, 13 pages, free PDF available for download.
This brief summarizes three larger reports issued by separate collaborations between Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), the Rhodium Group, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC), and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy: (1) Energy and Environmental Implications of a Carbon Tax in the United States (68 pages – download), (2) Distributional Implications of a Carbon Tax (42 pages – download), and (3) The Effects of Carbon Tax Policies on the U.S. Economy and the Welfare of Households (55 pages – download). The same groups subsequently issued a report on the carbon tax proposed by now former congressman Carlos Curbelo. CGEP does not advocate for a particular policy but rather aims to produce clear, objective, and data-driven research that enables the thoughtful consideration of federal carbon tax policy in the United States.
The Carbon Loophole in Carbon Policy: Quantifying the Embodied Carbon in Traded Products, by Daniel Moran, Ali Hasanbeigi, and Cecilia Springer (Global Efficiency Intelligence, KGM Associates, and ClimateWorks 2018, 65 pages, free PDF available for download)
The carbon loophole refers to the embodied greenhouse gas emissions associated with production of goods that are ultimately traded across countries. These emissions are a growing issue for global efforts to decarbonize the world economy. Embodied emissions in trade are not accounted for in current greenhouse gas accounting systems. If they were, many promising climate trends would be negated or reversed. For example, many achievements of reducing emissions by developed countries under the Kyoto Protocol would actually appear as emissions outsourced to developing countries. Global Efficiency Intelligence and KGM & Associates, in collaboration with the ClimateWorks Foundation, use the most recent available data and a cutting-edge model to conduct a global assessment of the so-called “carbon loophole.”
A Green New Deal: A Progressive Vision for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Stability, by Greg Carlock with Emily Mangan and Sean McElwee (Data for Progress 2018, 39 pages, free PDF available for download)
The popularity of progressive policies has been rising steadily since the 2016 presidential election. Mounting concern over economic inequality, injustice, and the threats of climate change are leading an increasing number of progressive candidates to call for more dramatic action. They propose an equitable transition to a 21st century economy and a clean energy revolution that guarantees clean air and water, modernizes national infrastructure, and creates high-quality jobs. These proposals form the basis of A Green New Deal: A Progressive Vision for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Stability.