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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Climate change: What we know and what is to be done

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Abstract Our goal in this article is to explain briefly what we believe to be the scientifically confirmed findings of climate change and what actions in our judgment are needed to forestall the worst impacts of a changing climate. Climate change is well documented by data and scientific observation. The global average temperature has already increased by more than 1°C (1.8°F) above preindustrial levels, and the impacts already felt are significant and encompass the entire globe. A 1°C increase in global temperature has resulted in increased melting of glaciers and the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets; higher frequency of more severe hurricanes; greater severity of droughts and forest fires; and extinction of selected species on land and in the sea, among other impacts. These are due largely to the extreme temperatures that accompany the higher mean temperature. There exist policies and cost‐effective technologies today that can achieve large reductions in carbon emissions. There is significant experience with all of the policies and technologies. R&D needs to be carried out on key new zero‐carbon technologies. Foremost among these technologies are electricity storage for large‐scale application in wind and solar power plants, batteries for electric vehicles, and zero‐carbon fuels for vehicles. Other than the (in our view limited but worthwhile) progress achieved through the Conference of the Parties meetings, especially the Paris Agreement, the world has not yet begun addressing climate change sufficiently to avoid very significant impacts. One early sign that the world has become serious about climate change will occur when oil and gas companies reduce and ultimately cease exploring for new resources. This article is categorized under: Energy and Climate > Climate and Environment
Worldwide extreme weather catastrophes—extreme temperatures, droughts and fires, floods and mudslides, and storms (Munich Re, 2019)
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Emission reduction trajectories associated with (a) warming below 1.5°C and (b) limiting warming below 2°C (Andrews, 2020)
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History of the growth in CO2 emissions since the mid‐1800s, expressed in metric tons of carbon (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2020)
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Increase in the probability of extremely high temperatures associated with an increase in average temperature (derived from Hansen, Sato, & Ruedy, 2013)
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History of temperature anomalies and projection of future temperatures in southwestern Europe under a high emissions scenario (Stott, Stone, & Allen, 2004)
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