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.