Climate Problems for the 2020s
Climate change was and is a greater threat to our security, and to the futures of citizens around the globe, than any other. For the most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and low-income and indigenous communities, the risk is even more severe. Across the United States, we have seen a massive groundswell of institutions, cities and states, the private sector, foundations and nonprofits, and citizen advocates, stepping up to this challenge .
The 2019 UN Climate Summit represents a significant opportunity to speed up that process and provide critical input for our future work . The goals are clear and the science is non-negotiable: we must limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and, on the road to doing so, achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This must be done urgently and cooperatively; a global project requiring the best efforts from all nations, all businesses and all people.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced the idea of tipping points two decades ago. The evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute. We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens .
Climate change increasingly affects people’s health and well-being, as do other global environmental changes such as loss of biodiversity. Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, droughts, extreme rainfall and severe cyclones in many areas, and modifying the transmission of food-borne, water-borne and zoonotic infectious diseases, resulting in large impacts on health . Wider consequences include scarcity of water and forced migration with the political tensions these involve.
With global warming currently at around 1 °C, we are witnessing many damaging extreme weather events. Worldwide, July 2019 was the hottest month ever on record, and 9 out of the 10 hottest July have occurred since 2005, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The current projected pathways set out by national governments will take us to a world that will be around 3°Celsius warmer by 2100 .
Starting from such general references, this booklet identifies ten relevant areas from very recent contributions put forward at academic level in the form journal articles, conference proceedings and students theses. Ten freely accessible internet references have been selected for each area and direct links are provided at the end of each chapter for own consultation. Our selected references do not intend to mirror ranking indexes nor establish novel classifications. On the contrary, they are meant to represent peer-reviewed, diverse and scientifically-sound case studies for vertical dissemination aimed at non-specialist readers. They will also be able to scoop even more references through the bibliography that is reported at the end of each selected reference.
Without further ado, these are the “Ten Problems for Climate in the 2020s” that we are going to introduce in this booklet:
- energy policies,
- machine learning,
- non-state actors,
- social sciences,
- green infrastructures,
- regional environments,
Each problem has its own dedicated chapter made of an introductory section, a short presentation of the ten selected references and a conclusions section.
The final chapter of this booklet will report the conclusions from each chapter again in order to provide a complete executive summary.
GENERAL REFERENCES CITED
 V. Ramanathan et al., “Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions”, 2019, University of California, ISBN 978-0-578-50847-4 , online at https://escholarship.org/content/qt6kr8p5rq/qt6kr8p5rq.pdf
 P. Espinosa et al., “Climate action and support trends”, 2019, United Nations, online at https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Climate_Action_Support_Trends_2019.pdf
 T.M. Lenton et al., “Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against”, 2019, Nature 575, 592-595 (2019) , doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03595-0 , online at https://www.nature.com/magazine-assets/d41586-019-03595-0/d41586-019-03595-0.pdf
 T.A. Ghebreyesus, “Health, environment and climate change”, 2019, World Health Organization, online at http://www.searo.who.int/docs/default-source/climate-change/who-global-strategy-on-health-environment-and-climate-change-a72-15.pdf
 A. Gurria, “Accelerating Climate Action – Highlights”, 2019, OECD, online at https://www.oecd.org/environment/cc/Highlights-Accelerating-Climate-Action-Refocusing-Policies-through-a-Well-being-Lens.pdf