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Climate Change Science Compendium 2009

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    Climate Change Science Compendium 2009

    Managing Editor: Catherine P. McMullen
    Associate Editor: Jason Jabbour

    Publisher: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
    Published: October 2009
    Pages: 72

    The Climate Change Science Compendium is a review of some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate that have been released through peer-reviewed literature or from research institutions over the last three years, since the close of research for consideration by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

    The Compendium is not a consensus document or an update of any other process. Instead, it is a presentation of some exciting scientific findings, interpretations, ideas, and conclusions that have emerged among scientists.

    Focusing on work that brings new insights to aspects of Earth System Science at various scales, it discusses findings from the International Polar Year and from new technologies that enhance our abilities to see the Earth’s Systems in new ways. Evidence of unexpected rates of change in Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and species loss emphasizes the urgency needed to develop management strategies for addressing climate change.

    The science has become more irrevocable than ever: Climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. And unless we act, we will see catastrophic consequences including rising sea levels, droughts and famine, and the loss of up to a third of the world’s plant and animal species. We need a new global agreement to tackle climate change, and this must be based on the soundest, most robust and up-to-date science available. Through its overview of the latest definitive science, this Climate Change Science Compendium reaffirms the strong evidence outlined in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report that climate change is continuing apace. In fact, this report shows that climate change is accelerating at a much faster pace than was previously thought by scientists. New scientific evidence suggests important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major Earth systems and ecosystems, may already have been reached or even overtaken.

    Climate change, more than any other challenge facing the world today, is a planetary crisis that will require strong, focused global action. As pressures build for an internationally agreed response, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to come together and address climate change through a newly invigorated multilateralism. This will be our chance to put in place a climate change agreement that all nations can embrace – an agreement that is equitable, balanced and comprehensive. This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over. We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation.

    Front Cover
    Foreword ii
    Preface iii
    Table of Contents
    Earth Systems 1
    Map: Climate Anomalies 2
    Significant climate anomalies from 2007 to 2009
    Introduction 4
    How Earth System Science Works 6
    Reading the Signs 8
    Reasons for Concern 9
    Earth’s Ice 13
    Glaciers and Ice Caps 14
    Arctic Ice 17
    Outlet Glaciers in Transition 20
    Greenland Ice 20
    Antarctic Ice 21
    Earth’s Oceans 25
    Increased Temperatures 26
    Sea-level Rise 26
    Circulation 28
    Acidification 29
    Cumulative Effects 31
    Earth’s Ecosystems 33
    Marine Ecosystems 34
    Terrestrial Ecosystems 37
    Shifting Climatic Zones 38
    Ecosystem Adaptation 41
    Systems Management 43
    Managing the Unavoidable 44
    Avoiding the Unmanageable 51
    Continuing Scientific Role 53
    Glossary 54
    Acronyms and Abbreviations 58
    References 59
    Acknowledgements 68