World Resources Institute WRI

Climate science: Major new discoveries

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This annual WRI review highlights the latest major research and innovations in climate change science and technology. It presents a timely synthesis of current understanding of global warming at a critically important time for the United States and the world. The international community is negotiating a new global agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases for the period post-2012, while the U.S. Congress is drafting landmark climate and energy legislation to reduce domestic emissions. Our review of select peer reviewed 2008 science and technology publications, including those from key general scientific journals and technical journals, aims to inform policymakers and legislators, the NGO community, and the media, by:

  • describing the wide-ranging potential ramifications of human-induced climate change;
  • documenting the impacts that are already occurring as a result of increased global temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and other changes in physical and hydrological systems; and
  • identifying important advances relating to technologies that could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

The latest science summarized below supplies further evidence confirming that anthropogenic activities are the primary cause of rising temperatures over the last century, and supports the need for rapid and substantial greenhouse gas mitigation efforts worldwide. It also confirms that adaptation measures are increasingly required today—and will be ever more important in the future—to enhance the resilience of both human and non-human populations in a changing climate.

Similar to previous WRI Climate Science reports, this review is divided into four topic sections:

  • Physical Climate
  • Hydrological Cycle
  • Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services
  • Climate Change Mitigation Technologies.

In preparing this review, WRI drew from a wide array of influential journals as well as information from organizations and climate/energy websites (listed on page 27). Articles were drawn only from 2008 publications. Each section contains short summaries of key scientific findings and their policy and research implications. This Issue Brief, in addition to WRI’s Climate Science 2007 Review, serves to outline new developments since the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

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