In anticipation of the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), starting November 1, many governmental and non-governmental organizations have issued reports updating their accounts of climate change and its impacts.

The most weighty of these reports, literally and figuratively, is the nearly 4,000-page Working Group 1 report. It’s the first of three working group reports comprising the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. Working Groups 2 and 3 reports, dealing with climate impacts and potential mitigating strategies respectively, are to be issued in early 2022.  

With the start of COP26 less than a week away, when better to update the physical science?

The International Energy Agency, the United Nations Environment Program, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Lancet’s Countdown on Health and Climate Change have adapted regularly scheduled reports for the special circumstances of COP26.

In the U.S., the White House has sketched out its climate plans in a series of brief reports, including “A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy,” details in the list below. Reports by non-governmental organizations describe a business community and an American public they see as increasingly ready to act on climate change.

Finally, different groups and consortiums in the United Kingdom – which will host the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Scotland – have generated a series of reports and topic-specific briefings.

As always, the descriptions of these reports are drawn from copy provided by the organizations publishing them. Free downloads are available for all of the reports in this list; however, some organizations require that visitors first register.


Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by Working Group 1 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2021, 3949 pages, full report available here)

The Working Group I report addresses the most updated physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, global and regional climate simulations. It shows how and why climate has changed to date, and the improved understanding of human influence on a wider range of climate characteristics, including extreme events. There will be a greater focus on regional information that can be used for climate risk assessments. The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is available here.

World Energy Outlook 2021, by Lauri Cozzi and Tim Gould et al (International Energy Agency 2021, 386 pages, free download available here; executive summary here)

Against the backdrop of turbulent markets and a crucial meeting of the COP26 conference on climate change in Glasgow, the 2021 World Energy Outlook (WEO) provides an indispensable guide to the opportunities, benefits and risks ahead at this vital moment for clean energy transitions. The WEO is the energy world’s most authoritative source of analysis and projections. This flagship publication of the IEA has appeared every year since 1998. Its objective data and dispassionate analysis provide critical insights into global energy supply and demand in different scenarios and the implications for energy security, climate targets and economic development.

The Production Gap 2021: Governments’ Planned Fossil Fuel Production Remains Dangerously Out of Sync with Paris Agreement Limits, by Ploy Achakulwisut, Michael Lazarus, and Miquel Muñoz Cabré, coordinating lead authors (Stockholm Environment Institute / United Nations Environment Progamme 2021, 104 pages, free download available here)

The Production Gap Report tracks the discrepancy between governments’ planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. This year’s report presents the first comprehensive update of the gap since our 2019 assessment. The report also tracks how governments worldwide are supporting fossil fuel production through their policies, investments, and other measures, as well as how some are beginning to discuss and enact policies towards a managed and equitable transition away from fossil fuel production. The report also includes individual country profiles for 15 major fossil fuel-producing countries, and a special chapter on the role of transparency in helping to address the production gap.

Also see: The Heat Is On: A World of Climate Promises Not Yet Delivered, by Joeri Rogelj, Stephen M. Smith, and Sha Yu et al (United Nations Environment Programme 2021, 112 pages)

WMO Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970-2019), by James Douris and Geunhye et al (World Meteorological Organization 2021, 90 pages, free download available here)

The WMO Atlas provides an overview of impacts from weather, climate and water extremes globally from 1970 to 2019 based on disaster data from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). Disaster statistics are conducted for the 50-year and decadal periods at the national, regional and global scales. A special section describes the disproportionate impacts that tropical cyclones have on disaster statistics as well as on developing countries. Contributions from UNDRR and WHO discuss relevant sectoral loss and damage statistics, the challenges and opportunities in recording and analyzing loss and damage data, and they consider the implementation of the Sendai Framework agreement and the 2030 global agenda.

The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis, by Nicholas Lees et al (United Nations Children’s Fund 2021, 128 pages, free download available here, executive summary here)

The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis presents the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), which uses data to generate new global evidence on how many children are currently exposed to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses. A composite index, the CCRI brings together geographical data by analyzing 1) exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses; and 2) child vulnerability. The CCRI helps to understand and measure the likelihood of climate and environmental shocks or stresses leading to the erosion of development progress, the deepening of deprivation and/or humanitarian situations affecting children or vulnerable 

The 2021 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Code Red for a Healthy Future, by Marina Rominello (The Lancet 2021, 44 pages, free download available here)

The Lancet Countdown is an international collaboration that independently monitors the health consequences of a changing climate; the 44 indicators of this report expose an unabated rise in health impacts. The 2021 report coincides with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 26th Conference of the Parties, at which countries are facing pressure to realize the ambition of the Paris Agreement to keep the global average temperature rise to 1·5°C and to mobilize the financial resources required. These negotiations also unfold in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic – a crisis that has claimed millions of lives, affected livelihoods, and exposed deep inequities in the world’s capacity to cope with health emergencies. Paradoxically, however, the two crises offer an unprecedented opportunity to ensure a healthy future for all.

Blueprint 2030: An All-In Climate Strategy for Faster, More Durable Emissions Reductions, by Michael Bloomberg (America Is All In 2021, 61 pages, free download available here, executive summary here)

This report provides a blueprint for an all-in, whole-of-society approach to climate change mitigation that combines the unique power and strengths of each part of society to give us the best chance for the rapid, durable, transformative change needed to cut emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 and set the stage for a fully decarbonized economy well in advance of mid-century. An all-in, all-of-society approach to climate that combines the unique power and strengths of each part of society and builds on the foundation of expanded bottom-up leadership gives us the best chance for rapid, durable, transformative change while promoting a clean and prosperous economy.

Politics & Global Warming: September 2021, by Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach et al (Yale Program on Climate Change Communication* and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication 2021, 41 pages, free download available here)

Drawing on a nationally representative survey (n = 1,006; including 898 registered voters), this report describes how Democratic, Independent, and Republican registered voters view climate and energy policies. Large majorities of registered voters, including many Republicans, support a variety of climate and energy policies, including many currently being considered by Congress. For example, 75% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 74% support requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose how much carbon pollution they produce. Other important findings include public support for declaring climate change a national emergency, developing clean energy vs. fossil fuel as a strategy to grow the economy and create jobswho should act to reduce global warming, and support for policies by state and local governments.

*Editor’s note: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is publisher of this website.

A Roadmap to Build a Climate-Resilient Economy, by White House National Economic Council (U.S. White House 2021, 40 pages, free download available here)

This year alone, extreme weather has upended the U.S. economy and affected one in three Americans. Extreme weather has cost Americans an additional $600 billion in physical and economic damages over the past five years alone. Climate change poses a systemic risk to our economy and our financial system, and we must take decisive action to mitigate its impacts. By addressing the costs of the climate crisis head-on, the federal government will safeguard the life savings of workers and families, spur the creation of good-paying, union jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of U.S. economic prosperity. The roadmap makes clear that protecting the financial health of American households, deploying clean energy in United States, and building an economy from the bottom-up and the middle-out go hand-in-hand.  

Raising Climate Ambition at COP26, by Anna Aberg, Anthony Frogart, and Rebecca Peters (Chatham House 2021, 50 pages, free download available here)

COP26 is a crucial opportunity to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change and uphold the credibility of the Paris Agreement. To have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5°C, emissions of greenhouse gases must be halved by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ by 2050. The national emission reduction targets submitted in 2015 were not ambitious enough to keep the rise in the global average temperature to ‘well below’ 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. COP26 needs to be a turning point. For a positive outcome in Glasgow substantial progress is needed in three areas: in raising the ambition of countries’ 2030 nationally determined contributions; on providing support for developing countries; and on agreeing the remaining details of the ‘Paris Rulebook’.

The 2021 Climate Survey: Responding to Humanity’s Code Red, by ERM Survey (GlobeScan and SustainAbility 2021, 31 pages, free download available here)

According to The 2021 Climate Survey by GlobeScan and the SustainAbility Institute, seventy percent of experts either believe it is unlikely that we will avert major damage from climate change or believe that major damage has already occurred. Only one in ten thinks major damage can be avoided. Three-quarters believe there has been minimal progress on advancing the Paris Agreement climate goals. These experts say national governments, the private sector, investors/analysts, and local governments all have important roles to play for making progress on the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, experts also believe that public pressure is essential, suggesting a lack of public understanding poses a significant threat to its effective implementation.

Young People and Climate Change, by Anna Barford et al (British Academy 2021, 17 pages, free download available here)

Climate change is having widespread and, in some places, devastating impacts on people and their livelihoods, compromising human health, agriculture and food security, and provoking migration and conflict. This briefing connects the structural disadvantage experienced by many young people in low- and middle-income countries, to the upheaval, uncertainty and stress caused by climate change. To facilitate the involvement of young people in framing and responding to climate change, the briefing draws upon the study of marginalized young people from the remote Ugandan district of Karamoja, to give a voice to youth experiences, needs, and ideas for change.

Also see: The British Academy’s full list of COP26 briefings here. Another list of briefings, from the COP26 Universities Network of over 80 UK universities and research centers, can be found here.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since 2005. Before completing his interdisciplinary...