The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has released a thorough report addressing the progress of the 2015 Paris climate pact and its goal of reducing global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
In 2015 the United Nations met and created the Paris climate pact, an agreement to work together to reduce global warming levels to 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels, with an ideal goal of 1.5°C. As a follow up to the event, the IPCC was invited to produce a report scheduled for a 2018 release that would assess our progress, with the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. The resultant report was a thorough analysis of our progress towards our 1.5°C goal, and what many of the environmental impacts would be.
To summarise the work of dozens of authors and two years of research: we are ‘nowhere near’ reaching our goal.
To reach the goal of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the report concluded that there would need to be rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure, and industrial systems. These transitions would be unprecedented in scale, needing a wide array of emission reduction options and significant upscaling of investment into these areas. An increase of up to 9.5 million square kilometres of forests would be needed by 2050, compared to 2010 levels, among other measures. This is equivalent to the size of China. To this end, a special summary version of the full report was released and directed entirely at policy makers.
One of the most compelling parts of the report is the impact global warming will have when comparing the 1.5°C optimal goal and the 2.0°C minimum goal for global warming total. At first glance, 0.5°C doesn’t seem like it would be a huge difference, but some of the changes are scary. For example, at 1.5°C approximately 14% of the world’s population will be exposed to heatwave conditions every 5 years whereas at 2.0°C, 37% will be exposed to heatwaves every 5 years – a significant jump. Similarly, sea level rise is projected as being 0.1m lower at 1.5°C than 2.0°C, which equates to approximately 10 million fewer people being exposed to increased sea-level related risks.
This serves as a harsh reminder that the original goal of the Paris Agreement, which we are not on track to achieve, was only the first step of many in addressing global warming.
But the report was not all bad news. The report states that it is still not impossible to limit warming to 1.5°C but it will require huge changes. It goes on to say it is not just governments that can make a difference – every little will help. It is about how we live and work. It points out that the technology is already out there for cutting down emissions such as total renewable energy use, dietary and lifestyle changes. It reiterates that it will not just be these measures and tree planting – but all of that and the rest of the solutions all happening at the same time.
This progress update defines why we all need to make every effort to combat climate change now.
To read the original report from the IPCC: http://ipcc.ch/report/sr15/ .
The image below, taken from the IPCC Report, highlighting some key risks and probabilities of global warming over 1.5°.