A fundamental determinant of climate and life on our planet is the solar radiation (sunlight) incident at the Earth's surface. Any change in this precious energy source affects our habitats profoundly. Until recently, for simplicity and lack of better knowledge, the amount of solar radiation received at the Earth's surface was assumed to be stable over the years. However, there is increasing observational evidence that this quantity undergoes significant multidecadal variations, which need to be accounted for in discussions of climate change and mitigation strategies. Coherent periods and regions with prevailing declines (“dimming”) and inclines (“brightening”) in surface solar radiation have been detected in the worldwide observational networks, often in accord with anthropogenic air pollution patterns. The present synthesis provides in a nutshell the main characteristics of this phenomenon, a conceptual framework for its causes, and an overview of potential environmental implications. The latest developments and remaining gaps of knowledge in this rapidly growing field of research are further highlighted.

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