The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report (Working Group I) once again sounded alarms about the ongoing and rapidly amplifying effects of anthropogenic climate change on a vast array of areas, including on nature and human health.
News headlines conveyed the urgency of this report, but the component results span several decades of past published research. The report includes over 2,000 citations to journal articles published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) that document the complex nature of climate change and its impacts. The vast amounts of data on Earth systems and model simulations of these document and reveal the intricate interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere, and the effects of climate change (current and past) on these interactions.
Fortunately, heads of nations agree we must move swiftly to combat the risks of further anthropogenic climate change. The United Nations’ Climate Change Conference (COP26) will convene on 31 October 2021 to commit to actions that uphold the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The editors in chief of AGU’s journals see this moment as an opportunity to reiterate a demand for action to combat climate change based on extensive geoscience research on the deleterious effects of global warming. They explain that scientists have been trained to be dispassionate observers, but the consequences of climate change require them to move from neutrality to advocacy.
To this end, AGU’s editors in chief selected some of the most important research on climate change published in AGU’s journals that might be of use for delegates attending COP26 and for any interested readers. These articles have been compiled in a collection, Global Climate Crisis: From Research to Solutions, which highlights just some of the thousands of articles published in AGU journals on the causes and effects of climate change and with some proposing solutions to these grand challenges. Papers selected for the collection also speak to the goals of the COP26 conference: reaching net-zero carbon levels and mitigating current warming, adapting to the climate-change impacts already felt worldwide and planning for future resilience, mobilizing international finances, and creating an operational plan for international collaboration.
The multidisciplinary nature and topical breadth of AGU’s publications highlight Earth as a system of complex but increasingly well understood interactions. The contents of this collection detail the impacts of climate change on all these systems, as well as how we might mitigate further effects and slow or reverse anthropogenic warming. Specific topics include:
- Coastal wetland loss from sea level rise
- Increasing of floods and impacts on dams, water quality, and water delivery
- Using Earth’s vertical land motion to understand impacts of sea level rise
- Impacts of evapotranspiration on food and water security
- Modeling the effect of various warming scenarios (From +1° C to +3° C) on natural and human systems
- Changing land use in a warming world
- Impacts on human health of increasing heat exposure
- Health effects of increasing use of gas and diesel
- Radiative forcing (net change in energy balance of the Earth system)
Many of these papers do more than report, helpfully showing the way forward. Articles such as There Are Several Pathways to Net-Zero CO2 Emissions and It’s Past Time to Get Moving in AGU Advances uphold “deep decarbonization” as the way out of rapid climate change and explain the research that shows how to carry out the process. Carbon-Neutral Pathways for the United States provides multiple blueprints for reaching zero or negative CO2 emissions by 2050. Addressing the shortcomings of government proposed model of climate mitigation policy is Climate-Driven Limits to Future Carbon Storage in California’s Wildland Ecosystems. Commitments to reducing carbon emissions will be an important outcome of the meeting, and COP26 delegates will consider all the ways to achieve real reductions, along with strategies for adaptation and community resilience in the face of impacts already occurring.
In addition to the special collection of journal articles, AGU Publications was invited to contribute a selection of books to a COP26 Virtual Books Showcase organized by Exact Editions. Publishers from around the world are sharing a selection of free-to-read ebooks related to climate and the health of the planet. They range from scientific monographs and popular science books to children’s books and poetry. Between 28 October and 22 November, you can read AGU’s four contributions for free: El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate; Biogeochemical Cycles: Ecological Drivers and Environmental Impact; Coastal Ecosystems in Transition: A Comparative Analysis of the Northern Adriatic and Chesapeake Bay; and Global Drought and Flood: Observation, Modeling, and Prediction.
We encourage all to peruse the collection of articles and books and share with planners and decision makers from any level or sector. It is imperative that the research in this collection inform global solutions to this crisis.