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State of the World 2009

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It'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 in order to avoid abrupt and catastrophic climate change. The world community has agreed to negotiate a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. That same year, a new president will take office in the United States, and one of the world's largest producers of greenhouse gases will have its best chance to provide global leadership by passing national climate legislation.

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 vast 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 to be 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, new behaviors, new 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? But 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 will draw 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 will recruit an exceptional team of innovative thinkers and inspiring writers from rich and poor countries alike. We will invite Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to write forewords to the book.

Among State of the World 2009's likely chapter topics are: next-generation technologies that show the most promise for eliminating greenhouse emissions or removing the 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.

The Larger Project

The State of the World 2009 project will be far more than a book. It will be part of a two-year campaign to mobilize the world to combat climate change, working closely with Worldwatch's scores of partners around the globe, and with a particular focus on the key countries of China, India, and the United States. Constituencies to be targeted 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 Institute's Web site with State of the World 2009 in order 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.


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