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Friday, January 16, 2009

Worldwatch Institute's "State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World"

State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World

The coming century of climate change, and how to manage and survive it.

"State of the World 2009 is a very timely compendium of up-to-date thinking on climate change." - Bill McKibben, Founder,
"State of the World 2009 is a research masterpiece, the single most important reference guide to climate change yet published." - Alex Steffen, Executive Editor,
See the Table of Contents for more information.
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Temporary cover imageIt's New Year's Day, 2101. Somehow, humanity survived the worst of global warming—the higher temperatures and sea levels and the more intense droughts and storms—and succeeded in stabilizing the Earth's climate. Greenhouse gas concentrations are peaking and are expected to drift downward in the 22nd century. The rise in global temperatures is slowing and the natural world is gradually healing. The social contract largely held. And humanity as a whole is better fed, healthier, and more prosperous today than it was a century ago.

This scenario of an imagined future raises a key question: What must we do in the 21st century—especially in 2009 and the years just following—to make such a future possible, and to head off the kind of climate catastrophe that many scientists now see as likely? This question inspires the theme of the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2009 report: how climate change will play out over the coming century, and what steps we most urgently need to take now.

The year 2009 will be pivotal for the Earth's climate. Scientists have warned that we have only a few years to reverse the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and help avoid abrupt and catastrophic climate change. The world community has agreed to negotiate a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. Early that same year, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. President. The United States, one of the world's largest producers of greenhouse gases, will have its best chance to provide global leadership by passing national climate legislation and constructively engaging with the international community to forge a new consensus on halting emissions.

"[State of the World 2009] will undoubtedly influence the negotiators from different countries to look beyond the narrow and short-term concerns that are far too often the reason for inaction."

R.K. Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Key Messages

State of the World 2009 is intended to inject new inspiration and energy into national and international climate negotiations by conveying the profound, long-term consequences of the experiment we are now conducting on the Earth's atmosphere, with an emphasis on the human and ecological effects of that transformation. The book will also examine the policy changes needed to combat climate change and will explore the economic benefits that could flow from the transition, including the potential to create new industries and jobs in rich and poor countries alike.

The 26th edition of the flagship series, State of the World 2009 will go beyond the incremental half-measures that mark climate policy debates in too many capitals. It will make the case that it is only by understanding the unique scale and vast time horizon of the climate problem that the needed political will can be mustered. And because solving the climate problem will have such significant benefits for human welfare, it may turn out that big solutions will be easier to adopt than the policy baby steps that have proven so difficult during the past two decades.

The questions addressed in State of the World 2009 are many: how do we adapt-not just as communities and nations, but as a species-to the warming that is headed our way, no matter what we do now? How will the world deal with the fact that the climate burden will fall heaviest on countries whose contributions to climate change have been the most modest? And even as we struggle to adapt, how does society maintain focus on slashing emissions to a pale shadow of their current levels?

Meanwhile, the drive to advance living standards will continue, and the world population will continue growing at least for some decades and perhaps for the rest of the century. What new technologies, behaviors, institutions and agreements, and even ways of governing will emerge from this challenge? Most critically, how will the poor fare in face of the greatest threat to economic development the world has ever seen? With the right approach, could we actually end up with more rather than less prosperity and well-being as a result?

Contributors and Contents

State of the World 2009 draws from the research expertise of the Worldwatch Institute and from outside scientists and policy experts, with chapters devoted to the technological and institutional developments most likely to help humanity weather the storm of global warming. For this historic volume, Worldwatch has recruited an exceptional team of innovative thinkers and inspiring writers from rich and poor countries alike. R.K. Pachuari, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, authored the foreword, and leading climate change researchers and activists from around the world contributed their talents to this volume.

State of the World 2009 examines: the next-generation technologies that show the most promise for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions or removing these gases from the atmosphere; enforceable agreements that reward countries and individuals for cutting emissions; innovative strategies for building climate-change resilience in the poorest countries; and ideas for making sure the natural world survives the changes on the way. In addition to six chapters, it includes 22 "climate connections" on topics from climate and biodiversity to Chinese and Indian perspectives on the crisis. It also includes a convenient climate change reference guide and glossary.

The Larger Project

State of the World 2009 is far more than a book. It will be part of a two-year campaign to mobilize the world to combat climate change, focusing special attention on the Copenhagen climate agreement and working closely with Worldwatch's partners around the globe-particularly the key countries of China, India, and the United States. Target constituencies include legislators, business and finance leaders, the media, the development community, and the young people whose lives will be most affected by climate change. We plan to integrate the existing Worldwatch Web site with State of the World 2009 to create an online platform that will present more ideas than the book alone can carry. And we will encourage an active, ongoing dialogue about climate solutions that involves everyone from prime ministers and CEOs to citizens concerned about their children's futures.

About the State of the World Series

Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world.

For more information, or to share ideas or comments about the project, please send an email to

State of the World 2009: Table of Contents

About State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World

Chapter 1. The Perfect Storm

Human-induced climate change may be the greatest challenge that humanity has ever confronted collectively. Effectively managing and surviving it over the coming century will require not only new technologies, but new behaviors and approaches to global governance. Will it be possible to stave off catastrophic changes in the timeframe required? What must be done today to ensure that we can get on track to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050? And might the steps required to slash emissions and to adapt in a warming world actually enrich humanity and improve health and well-being across the globe?

Chapter 2. Safe Landing

If humanity wishes to preserve a climate resembling the one in which civilization developed, the past climate record as well as the dramatic changes witnessed in the last decade suggest that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases cannot rise much higher than they are today and may need to be reduced. What are safe concentrations of greenhouse gases and how can we arrive at them as quickly as possible? Which global emissions paths would provide the best assurance of avoiding catastrophic ecological change, with its associated human impacts? This chapter will explore the uncertainties and implications of these questions and will, ideally, propose a rough "first-take" emissions path-based more on what is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change than political or economic feasibility-to inform the work of other chapters in the book.

Chapter 3. Using Land to Cool the Earth

Billions of tons of carbon are stored not only deep in the Earth's crust in fossil fuels, but also in the plants and soil around us. Land use changes, particularly the conversion of forests to crop or pasture land, throw vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. Yet land use change can work in the opposite direction as well: advanced sustainable agriculture and forestry practices may make it possible to build up carbon in soils. This chapter will explore the current role of forests and agriculture in the global carbon balance, as well as the potential to turn them from a new source of carbon in the atmosphere into a net sink.

Chapter 4. Harnessing Low-Carbon Energy on a Grand Scale

Renewable energy and energy efficiency are ready today for rapid scale-up and are the only technologies that can achieve the massive emissions reductions required over the next decade. This chapter will assess the range of promising technology options that could dramatically improve efficiency and provide economically competitive renewable energy, as well as draw the outline of a climate-positive energy economy that could be in place by 2050. It will also examine the policies that are available to spur innovation and deployment of the new energy options.

Chapter 5. Building Resilience

No matter what we do today, it's too late to stop climate change in its tracks. What changes are already occurring and how are societies and ecosystems adapting? As global temperatures continue to rise and as the impacts intensify, what strategies and technologies are available for building human and ecological resilience? Will the stresses of climate change-flooded coastal cities, droughts that hobble food production in once-fertile plains, more frequent heat waves and spread of disease-lead humans to ancient and violent means of competing for scarce resources? Or will they spur new approaches to diplomacy and peace-building? Might adaptation be a source of jobs? How can the international community help those with the least resilience and fewest resources gain both?

Chapter 6. Sealing the Deal to Save the Climate

Ultimately, human-driven climate change is a global problem in a world of nations driven by self-interest. Under the Kyoto Protocol, one pulse of progress, most industrialized nations agreed to cap emissions by 2012. Yet global emissions continue to rise at an accelerated rate, just as impacts of warming are accelerating as well. How can we achieve a framework commensurate to the challenge at hand that applies to all humanity, is enforceable, and achieves the dramatic emissions reductions required? Even as the world's population continues to expand, might there be a path forward that would address problems of equity, economics, and the human right to use the Earth's atmosphere-and still leave our grandchildren a planet on which they can thrive?

Climate Connections

In addition to the above chapters, the book includes 22 short pieces called "Climate Connections" that bring in a diversity of voices and geographic perspectives on a range of issues, and that go into more depth on key topics not covered fully elsewhere.

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