IPCC Report: 1.5°C limit achievable with ‘rapid and far-reaching’ emissions cuts

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 8th, 2018

Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes across all sectors of society can limit global warming to below the 1.5°C threshold, leading climate scientists have said.

 According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest special report –  Global Warming of 1.5 °C – released this morning, it is possible to limit temperature increases but not without deep emissions cuts.

The report is the work of 91 authors from 40 countries and includes more than 6,000 scientific references and contributions from thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide.

It confirms that limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C is still possible, highlighting policy and technical solutions that countries can employ across land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

The earth is already 1°C warmer than pre-industrial levels, the report states, causing impacts across much of the planet such as more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice.

The report states that staying below the 1.5°C threshold will significantly reduce the damage of climate change for the most vulnerable and most developed countries alike.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C, the report states, would mean 10cm lower global sea level rise at the end of the century and a significant reduction in the chances that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer.

While coral reefs will still decline by 70 to 90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, they would be virtually all lost if we hit a 2°C rise, the report states.

Paris Agreement falls short

The report confirms, however, that the Paris Agreement commitments fall far short of what is needed and that a policy shift is needed to cut emissions by half by 2030 and reach zero by 2050.

According to Phil Kearney, Chair of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee,  the overall message of the report is one of both “urgency and hope”.

“1.5°C is still feasible, but only if policymakers act now,” he said, echoing the report’s findings on the Paris targets.

The report, Mr Kearney said, gives a clear signal that Ireland and the EU need to increase climate ambition at the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Poland this December.

“We need a fundamental shift from incremental to transformational change to have a more secure and sustainable future,” he added.

The hottest 3-day average of Tmax in 2018 (ECMWF analyses up to 24 July, forecasts up to 31 July) compared to the highest 3-day maximum temperature in the period 1981-2010 that is currently the “normal” period (ERA-interim).

The hottest 3-day average of Tmax in 2018 (ECMWF analyses up to 24 July, forecasts up to 31 July) compared to the highest 3-day maximum temperature in the period 1981-2010 that is currently the “normal” period (ERA-interim).

Irish impacts

Without this shift, climatologist Professor John Sweeney warned that many low lying islands will be lost and millions displaced in places that have “not contributed significantly to climate change”.

Major extinctions of plants and animals will “accelerate”, he said, and weather-related hazards will increase in frequency “almost everywhere” including Ireland.

“For Ireland, overshooting 1.5oC would accentuate our emerging problems of climate extremes and damage the economic prospects of our current young people,” Prof Sweeney added.

Speaking in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action last week, Professor Peter Stott of the UK Met Office said that the Irish climate has already shifted with warmer average temperatures, more precipitation and more weather extremes.

In July, the World Weather Attribution network found that climate change doubled the likelihood of the summer heatwave in Ireland, with “clear trends towards more heat waves” in coming decades.

The report is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year, the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London