This series of policy briefs provides a review of some of the major climate change science research and innovations in recent years.

Executive Summary

This WRI Issue Brief highlights the latest major research in climate change science and technology. It presents a synthesis of current understanding of global warming at a critically important time, as the world continues to negotiate a comprehensive international climate agreement and countries begin to implement their national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and actions. Our summary of select peer-reviewed science and technology publications from 2009 and 2010, including those from key general scientific and technical journals, aims to inform policymakers, the non-governmental organization (NGO) community, and the media, by:

  • documenting the impacts of a changing climate that are already occurring as a result of increased global temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and other changes in the climate system;
  • synthesizing the current state of knowledge on how the climate is likely to change in the future; and
  • identifying important advances related to technologies that could help to mitigate climate change.

The latest science summarized below suggests that the impacts of climate change in many areas of the world are not advancing linearly: profound changes are already occurring and models project even greater changes for the remainder of the 21st Century. The findings support the need for rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time confirm that climate adaptation measures are increasingly required today—and will be ever more important in the future—to enhance the resilience of both human communities and ecosystems.

There is new and abundant literature on four topics: climate feedbacks where the literature generally suggests positive feedbacks from many different processes; sea level rise where the evidence indicates that previous estimates of sea level rise are likely to be revised upward; ocean acidification where new science is confirming the potential global implications of an ocean that is already 30 percent more acidic than about 100 years ago; and on climate impacts to ecological systems, where the literature base on climate impacts is broadened to provide more evidence of changes to a variety of species, including lizards, tigers and butterflies.

Similar to previous years, this review is divided into four sections:

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