Bookshelf collage

Over the last several 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 bookshelf highlights 24 reports, including twelve that have been published since July. The first set of 12 was posted last week. The second set of 12 is listed below.

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 next month’s bookshelf.

The climate economy

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Energy Efficiency Jobs in America: 2.3 Million Americans Work in Energy Efficiency, by E4TheFuture (E4TheFuture 2019, 212 pages, free download available here)

Energy Efficiency Jobs in America illustrates how energy efficiency is one of the nation’s biggest employers, a workforce of more than 2.3 million Americans. The report explores job distribution beyond the top ten states in detail, finding more than 300,000 rural Americans and 35 percent of all U.S. energy workers are among the “faces of energy efficiency.” The report includes detailed state fact sheets and breakdowns of energy efficiency jobs to the city, county, legislative and congressional district level. It is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as a comprehensive survey of tens of thousands of businesses across the country. (A seven-page summary of the report is available here.)

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Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity: How National Governments Can Secure Economic Prosperity and Avert Climate Catastrophe by Transforming Cities, by Coalition for Urban Transitions (Cities Alliance 2019, 160 pages, free download available here)

A new report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions finds that leadership from national governments is essential for achieving equitable and sustainable economic development in cities. The report finds that investment in low-carbon measures in cities would be worth almost US $24 trillion by 2050 – proof that thriving cities create prosperous countries. Building on three years of research, Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity examines the important role national governments must play in a zero-carbon urban transition and the opportunities that urban climate action presents to fuel economic growth, reduce poverty and inequality, and avert climate catastrophe.

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Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change, by Soukeyna Gueye and Nick Jeffries (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2019, 62 pages, free download available here)

Completing the Picture starts with two observations: (1) Greenhouse gas emissions are not falling quickly enough to achieve climate targets and switching to renewable energy can only cut them by 55%. (2) The remaining 45% of emissions come from how we make and use products, and how we produce food. Whilst the circular economy is underpinned by renewable energy, Completing the Picture concentrates on cement, plastics, steel, aluminum, and food to illustrate how designing out waste, keeping materials in use, and regenerating farmland can reduce these emissions. It shows how business leaders, policymakers, and investors can build a thriving and resilient economy while playing an essential role in reaching climate targets.

Security, leadership, and development

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A Climate Security Plan for America: A Presidential Plan for Combatting the Security Threat of Climate Change, edited by John Conger, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell (Center for for Climate and Security 2019, 49 pages, free download available here)

A Climate Security Plan for America calls on the U.S. President to recognize climate change as a vital national security threat, and issue a National Strategy to fulfill a “responsibility to prepare for and prevent” that threat. That includes preparing for locked-in threats to security from climate change, and preventing major security disruptions in the future by significantly reducing the scale of the problem. The Plan – by a non-partisan group that includes eight retired 4-star generals and admirals, thirty senior military officers, and a past Chair of the National Intelligence Council – recommends 4 pillars of action: Demonstrate Leadership; Assess Climate Risks; Support Allies and Partners; Prepare for & Prevent Climate Impacts. (Bold in original)

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Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience, presented by co-chairs Ban Ki-Moon, Kristalina Georgrieva, and Bill Gates (Global Commission on Adaptation 2019, 90 pages, free download available here)

Adaptation is not an alternative to a redoubled effort to stop climate change, but an essential complement to it. Failing to lead and act on adaptation will result in a huge economic and human toll, causing widespread increases in poverty and severely undermining long-term global economic prospects. This report focuses on making the case for climate adaptation, providing specific insights and recommendations in key sectors: food security, the natural environment, water, cities and urban areas, infrastructure, disaster risk management, and finance. It is designed to inspire action among decision-makers, including heads of state and government officials, mayors, business executives, investors, and community leaders.

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Modelling for Sustainable Development: New Decisions for a New Age, by Howard Mann et al (International Institute for Sustainable Development 2019, 85 pages, free download available here)

Our environmental, economic, and social systems are currently facing a host of challenges, which if left unaddressed will have significant implications for the world in which we live. Tackling these challenges will require better-informed decision-making, which in turn requires models that are designed and developed with sustainable development objectives in mind. To support this need for better-informed decision making, this book brings together the insights and expertise of a dozen expert modellers and policy analysts. It outlines the different modelling approaches available; describes why model design and development matters for sustainable development; and explains how these models can contribute to decision-making processes.

Pricing carbon

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Raising Ambition Through Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Results Modelling from 26 Countries, edited by Laura Merrill (International Institute for Sustainable Development 2019, 54 pages, free download available here)

This working paper models the impact of the removal of fossil fuel subsidies on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions for the following countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the United States, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zambia. This study also includes a literature review of 60 pieces of research on global GHG emission reductions stemming from negative and positive carbon pricing. Our review shows that removing fossil fuel subsidies and applying appropriate taxation could reduce emissions by 28 per cent globally. Fossil fuel subsidies act as a negative carbon price and could also be considered along with carbon pricing discussions.

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Report on the High-Level Commission on Carbon Pricing and Competitiveness, by Janet Peace, Daniel Besley, Erika Rhoades, Namrata Patodia Rastogi, and Neeraj Prasad (World Bank 2019, 54 pages, free download available here)

The potentially adverse impact of carbon pricing on the competitiveness of businesses and economies has been a matter of concern to industry and policymakers. It has also been a barrier to progress on carbon pricing. The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition launched the High-Level Commission on Carbon Pricing and Competitiveness at its 2018 High-Level Assembly to address the issue. This report showcases dialogue among business leaders to explore the evidence base, the concerns of business, and the lessons learned in the design and implementation of carbon pricing policies in the context of competitiveness.

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Putting a Price on Carbon: Evaluating a Carbon Price and Complementary Policies for a 1.5° World, by Kevin Kennedy (World Resources Institute 2019, 36 pages, free download available here)

To achieve the Paris Agreement goals and limit global temperature rise this century to 1.5°C, the global economy must be rapidly transformed. A carbon price is needed to incorporate climate change costs into economic decision-making to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the electricity sector. However, a carbon price is not a silver bullet for addressing climate change. Complementary policies to a carbon price are needed. These policies and programs must address market barriers and drive deep emissions cuts over the long-term.

The energy sector

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Assessing Blockchain’s Future in Transactive Energy, by Ben Hertz-Shargel and David Livingston (Atlantic Council 2019, 44 pages, free download available here)

The global energy transition is fast evolving, and two trends in particular seem poised to converge. On the one hand, the rapid transition toward decarbonization and decentralization in the power sector is prompting exploration of new transactive electricity market models. Meanwhile, distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain are rapidly evolving beyond their initial financial applications to new uses in sectors such as energy. The authors of Assessing Blockchain’s Future in Transactive Energy, scrutinize the benefits and costs of blockchain. They find that six costs collectively outweigh the benefits. The report concludes with a set of policy recommendations for advancing progress toward transactive energy models, and lays out criteria for blockchain to aspire to in order to enable a transactive energy future in the years ahead.

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Impact of Climate Risk on the Energy System, by Amy Myers Jaffe, Joshua Busby, Jim Blackburn, Christina Copeland, Sara Law, Joan M. Ogden, and Paul A. Griffin (Council on Foreign Relations 2019, 86 pages, free download available here.)

As climatic effects such as rising seas and extreme weather continue to appear across many geographies, U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly at risk. Climate risk could manifest not only in physical damages, but also in financial market failures. To explore the challenges of climate risk to the U.S. energy system, the Council on Foreign Relations organized a two-day workshop in New York, on March 18 and 19, 2019. During their deliberations, workshop participants explored how climate-related risks to U.S. energy infrastructure, financial markets, and national security could be measured, managed, and mitigated. Impact of Climate Risk on the Energy System summarizes the insights from this workshop and includes contributions from seven expert authors delving into related topics.

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Transition Towards a Decarbonised Electricity Sector: A Framework of Analysis for Power System Transformation, by Gustavo De Vivero, Karsten Burges, Marie-Jeanne Kurdziel, and Markus Hagemann (New Climate Institute 2019, 58 pages, free download available here)

The global energy sector is undergoing a rapid and radical transition, motivated by the urgency to ensure a secure energy supply while limiting climate change. Around two thirds of global greenhouse gases (GHG) and 90% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stem from energy production and use. Hence, the transition to a cleaner and more efficient energy system is key to achieving the global goal of the Paris Agreement: to limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, aiming for 1.5°C. This paper develops a qualitative assessment framework that allows policy makers to understand the complexity of power sector transformation and to analyze their country’s position in the transformation process, including key challenges impacting the integration of variable renewable energy sources and examples for technically feasible solutions.

Editor’s note: Two reports released in the past month also offer contrasting assessments of nuclear energy: Beyond Yucca Mountain: Decentralization and Innovation for U.S. Nuclear Waste Management from the Breakthrough Institute and World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019 from McArthur Foundation, NRDC, Heinrich Boell Stiftung France, EWS, Stiftung Zukuntserbe, SES, and The Greens EFA.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...