WHAT IS THE 1.5 DEGREE CLIMATE TARGET?
On December 12, 2015, 196 Parties at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) adopted the Paris Agreement. This legally binding international treaty on climate change aimed to limit global warming to a threshold below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this, the Paris Agreement’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that swiftly and permanently stabilizes global temperatures.
But, will a half degree of temperature change really have any effect on the environment? It turns out that this small but significant number has a more dangerous impact than we can imagine.
WHERE WE’RE HEADED
According to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global warming level of 1.5°C can already lead to devastating effects. The AR5, also widely known as the “1.5°C Report,” revealed that human-induced or anthropogenic warming had already reached between approximately 0.8°C and 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels in 2017, and is increasing at a rate of 0.2°C per decade. With these figures in mind, average global temperatures are predicted to pass the 1.5°C threshold between 2030 and 2052 should emissions continue to rise.
What happens when we pass that threshold, or even simply reach the 1.5°C limit? Here are some possible consequences:
More frequent and more intense heatwaves
Extreme tidal waves
Drastic shift in ecosystems
Melting Arctic sea ice that can lead to further warming
Severe decline in coral reefs and global fisheries
Rising poverty, especially in communities dependent on coastal and agricultural resources
Rise of heat-related deaths
ARE WE ON COURSE TO ACHIEVE THE TARGET?
While there has been increased awareness about climate change, sustainability, and renewable energy, progress still seems too slow to achieve a level below 1.5°C.
What truly makes this a gargantuan task for nations, however, is that effective coordination is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Unfortunately, countries have not mobilized to implement policies that will achieve this target. In fact, with the way that oil and gas infrastructure and coal power plants are being built, the situation seems to suggest that we’re moving in the wrong direction.
Nevertheless, while global temperatures may briefly rise to 1.5°C or even 2°C, there’s still hope that the 1.5°C target can be reached. However, this would entail drastic changes, as well as strong political will among nations to implement the necessary steps toward stabilizing the global temperature.