Over the last six weeks, Americans have witnessed a remarkable burst of climate activism and communication. In two townhalls, Democratic candidates for president offered their plans for addressing climate change. Students and concerned citizens participated in climate strikes organized in cities across the nation and around the world. And Covering Climate Now, a consortium of more than 300 media outlets, gave climate change an unprecedented level of coverage for two weeks in September.
Over the same time period, many governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations released major new reports, underlining the urgency of meeting the challenge of climate change and offering recommendations for ways to meet that challenge. This month’s two-part bookshelf highlights 24 reports, including twelve that have been published since July. The first 12 are presented below. The second set is presented here.
The descriptions of these reports are drawn from copy provided by the organizations that released them. A link for the free PDF version of the report is included with each entry.
Editor’s note: The first nine months of 2019 also saw the release of several major reports on the interconnections between climate change, agriculture and land use, and diet. These reports, and related books, will be the focus of an upcoming bookshelf.
Climate communication and action
This report takes a political economy approach to the low-emissions transitions needed across five economic sectors (electricity, heavy industry, residential, surface transport, and agriculture) that are responsible for more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Synergies between emissions reduction and broader well-being objectives, such as reduced air pollution and improved health, increase the incentives for early mitigation action. At the same time, the impact of climate policies on issues such as the affordability of energy and jobs need to be taken into account. The report argues that reframing climate policies using a well-being lens is necessary for making visible such synergies and trade-offs. This requires us to rethink societal goals in terms of well-being, reframe our measures of progress and refocus policy-making accordingly.
Fossil fuel combustion is a major source of toxic air pollution that kills 7 million people every year, almost the same number of deaths caused by tobacco smoking. Burning fossil fuels releases a series of gases and tiny particles that have noxious effects for human health, leading to several respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The report has been prepared for health care and environmental audiences. It discusses local, national and international measures that can be employed to restrict the production and use of tobacco, on the one hand, and fossil fuels, on the other. Its objective is to facilitate a common language and vision by sharing similarities between tobacco control, air quality improvement and climate change mitigation.
The school strikes and Extinction Rebellion have created an incredible surge of energy. But how is the concept of net zero – and the ambition contained within it – understood and engaged with, beyond the environmental movement? Are the public, and especially the center-right, ready for net zero? Download the report to read the key findings and recommendations for campaigners looking to spread net zero messages, harnessing the energy of the school strike and Extinction Rebellion campaigns. Our findings are based on a review of the language currently being used in connection with net zero by campaigners, journalists and policy actors, as well as two Narrative Workshops we ran with members of the public who hold center-right political values.
EcoAdapt scientists examined if and how climate change is being integrated into activities at state public health departments and other agencies and organizations. The majority of initiatives at the state health departments surveyed are focused on capacity building, primarily environmental health monitoring; vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning efforts; public awareness outreach and communication campaigns related to climate change; and collaborating with local health departments, tribal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. Eighteen full-length case studies are presented on how various practitioners are integrating climate change into public health.
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. Healthcare’s climate footprint is 4.4% of the global total; meaning if it were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter on the planet. With a footprint of this size, it becomes clear that healthcare can play a vital role in mitigating mankind’s climate impact. The report also identifies key sources of emissions, a first step in establishing a routemap for healthcare’s transition towards a Paris Agreement-compliant emissions trajectory, thereby aligning global health goals with global climate goals.
Where once the notion of malaria elimination at the regional level seemed beyond reach, the international discussion has now turned to an even loftier goal – the complete global eradication of malaria. Despite increased investment, technological improvements, and a massive reduction in deaths annually, arriving at consensus around the feasibility and the path to achieving malaria eradication has been difficult. The Lancet Commission provides such a path. In the first report of its kind, the Commission lays the out the necessary steps, including an even greater financial outlay, strengthening malaria programs and global leadership, and acceleration of research and development, to eradicate malaria within a generation.
Community readiness, recovery, and resilience
While most actions to improve community resilience capacity occur at the local level, federal programs provide numerous resources that support relevant community capacity building nationwide. It is important to understand how such actions improve local resilience capacity. But the availability of locally scaled data for use in understanding and tracking community resilience capacity nationally is very limited. Federal agencies could improve availability significantly by using a consistent framework for community resilience indicators to help guide the development of useful measures, promote the identification and sharing of relevant data, and facilitate the collection of new data needed to fill critical information gaps.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall outside of Rockport, Texas on August 25, 2017, as a Category 4 storm. As of June 2019, 60 counties in Texas remain disaster areas. Among those still coping with trauma are more than three million children. Texas Continues to Recover: Two Years After Harvey provides a high-level overview of the recovery process for different communities of children and families, with a heavy emphasis on the Greater Houston Area. Through research data and stories, it outlines the long term impact Hurricane Harvey had on children and their families. It also addresses funding, legislation, nonprofit services, child care, education, and mental health issues and distills lessons and recommendations learned from previous storms.
Surging Waters looks at flooding in the United States and demonstrates how science supports flood management. The report’s authors highlight three types of flooding – flooding due to hurricanes, flooding in the central U.S., and coastal flooding. In 2017, Houston, Texas, was hit by Hurricane Harvey, the second most damaging weather disaster in U.S. history. The city of De Soto, Mo., has been plagued by recurrent flash flooding. The Hampton Roads area of coastal Virginia has fallen victim to sinking land and rising seas. Through these and other stories, the report shows how scientific research and data collection are essential to finding modern-day and future solutions to mitigate flooding. Surging Waters aims to empower community members and leaders, scientists, federal agencies, and policymakers to work together to find solutions.
Global warming has already reached 1°C above the pre-industrial level, due to past and current greenhouse gas emissions. There is overwhelming evidence that this is resulting in profound consequences for ecosystems and people. The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive. Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea-level rise, and coastal extreme events are becoming more severe. The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate provides new evidence for the benefits of limiting global warming to the lowest possible level – in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions will limit ocean and cryosphere changes, preserving ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on them.
Climate change poses stark risks to the health of the ocean and to the realization of a prosperous and sustainable ocean economy. But the ocean is also central to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. To highlight the important role of the ocean as a solution to global climate change, the High Level Panel prepared an initiative for ocean-based climate action for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. The report includes an innovative analysis to quantify the additional contribution that ocean-based mitigation strategies – such as the installation of offshore wind turbines, and protection of mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses – can play in reducing the global emissions gap. It also examines the range of other direct benefits that such strategies can deliver for people and ocean ecosystems.
Coral reefs are critical to ocean and human life because they provide food, living area, storm protection, tourism income, and more. In the face of climate change, however, these ecosystems now face an array of unfamiliar challenges due to destructive rises in ocean temperature, acidity and sea level. These factors lead to an increased frequency of bleaching events, hindered growth, and a decreasing rate of calcification. Research on interventions to combat these relatively new stressors and a reevaluation of longstanding interventions is necessary to understand and protect coral reefs in this changing climate. Previous research on these methods prompts further questions regarding the decision making process for site-specific interventions.