Climate change: Why 1.5 is the new magic number

Climate change: Why 1.5 is the new magic number

The world has reached a fork in the road with two paths ahead: a planet that's 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels and a planet that's 1.5°C warmer. Coral reefs would decline by 70 percent to 90 percent with global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, whereas virtually all would be lost with 2 degrees Celsius.

Clearly, that deceivingly small half-degree difference has the potential to bring about significantly worse effects. As Henn and Mann both indicate, the IPCC report is based on the consensus view of the hundreds of scientists who make up the IPCC - and its been consistently true that some of the most recent (and increasingly worrying) scientific findings have not yet found enough support to make it into these major reports which rely on near-unanimous agreement. However, the reference here is to global average temperatures.

Curtis says if things don't change the consequences of global warming could even hurt our economy here in North Carolina by affecting things like tourism if rainfall and flooding continue to damage areas like our coast.

Dramatically reducing the use of coal, planting huge swathes of land with carbon-absorbing forest or powering most transport with electricity are no longer sufficient to bring about the swift transition needed, they said, with warming expected to pass the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) mark in as little as 12 years. And Miami will likely be destroyed by hurricane storm surge. Adaptation, or the changes required to withstand the temperature rise, will also be lower at the lower temperature limit. More than half of the Earth acquired by land is experiencing higher than normal temps.

But those past predictions appear to have been far too conservative (a common critique of IPCC reports in general).

Key points in the report include maintaining the current global temperature at 1.5ºC.

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The respected Climate Analytics group, which tracks the impacts of the commitments made by countries under the Paris deal, says without improvements to those pledges, temperatures will reach 3.2°C by the end of this century. At the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, worldwide leaders agreed to keep global warming "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" with the hopes to limit this to just 1.5°C.

"We can reduce emissions to a certain extent, but it's not because of imposing regulations or mandates", Maisano said. It's up to them to use this manual, considering the constraints or opportunities existing in different countries. Emissions need to peak early within the next decade or so, and then drop. But there are also many synergies between achieving mitigation targets and fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals.

"Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes", he said.

The United States - which has contributed more to carbon pollution than any other country in history - emitted 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This is a hard question to address, given the contentious nature of the negotiations.

The report is seen as the main scientific guide for government policymakers on how to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement during the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December. Even at the current level of 1°C warming, it is painful.

Since 2016, representatives of 195 nations - including all the big emitters - signed on to the landmark Paris agreement calling for systematic emissions reductions beginning in 2020. The report was finalised at a special meeting in South Korea last week. Each will have to decide whether to play politics on a global scale for one's own interests or to collaborate to protect the world and its ecosystems as a whole. Change, of the speed and scope required, can not rely on easily packaged discrete, simple, individual change checklists.

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