Global warming below 1.5 degrees "still possible, but we need to act quickly and drastically"

October 9, 2018, Radboud University
Heleen de Coninck. Credit: Radboud University

Keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius is still possible, but we have to take immediate and drastic measures. That is the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report which was presented today. The report was requested by the countries that signed the 2015 Paris agreement and pledged to keep climate change well below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C. Climate policy scientist Heleen de Coninck of Radboud University and environmental psychologist Linda Steg of the University of Groningen made important contributions to the IPCC report. One thing is certain: dealing with climate change will change our lives drastically.

Since the industrial revolution, increased emissions of greenhouse gasses have caused a global temperature increase of 1°C. As a result, we are seeing more and more weather extremes and sea level is rising. To prevent further consequences, all countries agreed in 2015 to keep change well below 2°C and to aim for 1.5°C. At that time, the consequences of aiming for 1.5°C were unknown. The IPCC, the scientific panel of the United Nations, was therefore commissioned to investigate the consequences of a 1.5-degree rise in global temperature and the changes that are needed to limit to this level.

Drastic changes within 20 years

The IPCC studied peer-reviewed literature on the feasibility, impact and costs of limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. The scientists concluded that this aim is still possible, but we need to act very quickly. "If we continue our current practices, we will exceed the 1.5 degree limit between 2030 and 2050." The differences in impact between a 1.5 and 2 degree temperature rise include the disappearance of coral reefs, an ice-free artic for much of the year, a rise of more than a decimetre by 2100 and more heat waves. This will have far-reaching consequences for people.

"To stay below this limit, drastic measures must be taken immediately to limit all types of greenhouse gas emissions," explains climate scientist Heleen de Coninck, one of the lead authors of the chapter on strengthening and implementing emission-control measures. "By 2050, the world's net CO2 emissions should be zero." These measures include lifestyle changes such as reduced meat consumption, energy savings in buildings and large-scale investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The remaining emissions that are difficult to prevent could be balanced by means of large-scale reforestation, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

All countries endorse policy conclusions

The IPCC report provides authorities at all levels with the necessary scientific information for further negotiations on implementing the Paris agreement. During the past week, the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) was extensively discussed in the South Korean city of Incheon. After several changes, each sentence in this summary was approved by all countries.

For the first time, an IPCC report has paid special attention to the impact of lifestyle changes. Environmental psychologist Linda Steg: "We could limit the risks of climate change considerably if people modified their behaviour and supported policy and changes targeting climate change. In addition, it is crucial that people act now to protect themselves from the risks of , such as flooding and heat waves."

De Coninck: "Regardless of whether global warming reaches 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees or more, the world will change drastically. Our lives will no longer be the same. The report shows that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees can have many benefits, including those for human health and natural habitats. We can still choose the kind of future we want, but we have to act now."

Explore further: Reaching international climate change goals can halve rising sea levels by the end of the century

Related Stories

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning

October 8, 2018

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. ...

UN report on global warming carries life-or-death warning

October 8, 2018

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. ...

UN report on 'mission impossible' climate target: key points

October 1, 2018

An executive summary of the UN special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be vetted in South Korea this week, line-by-line, by diplomats under the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ...

IPCC, the world's top authority on climate science

October 1, 2018

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which compiles comprehensive reviews of climate science, meets this week to vet and validate a report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees ...

Recommended for you

Oceans of garbage prompt war on plastics

December 15, 2018

Faced with images of turtles smothered by plastic bags, beaches carpeted with garbage and islands of trash floating in the oceans, environmentalists say the world is waking up to the need to tackle plastic pollution at the ...

A damming trend

December 14, 2018

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences—affecting everything from food security to the environment—greatly outweigh the positive ...

Data from Kilauea suggests the eruption was unprecedented

December 14, 2018

A very large team of researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. has concluded that the Kilauea volcanic eruption that occurred over this past summer represented an unprecedented volcanic event. In their paper published ...

The long dry: global water supplies are shrinking

December 13, 2018

A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like ...

Death near the shoreline, not life on land

December 13, 2018

Our understanding of when the very first animals started living on land is helped by identifying trace fossils—the tracks and trails left by ancient animals—in sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the continents.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Joker23
not rated yet Oct 10, 2018
These ''scientists'' have an Atlas Complex thinking that they can stop or slow Climate Change. Ths climate has been changing for millions of years and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Like our ancestors, we would be better off figuring how to adapt. Anything else is nonsense. When the bearing straits opened up as the continents drifted the ocean flow patterns made the climate change. If that was happening today, would these same ''scientists'' try to stop continental drift....probably yes. Better to adapt and offset the effects than to try to do the impossible and destroy our assets instead of diverting those assets to adaptation....like Air Conditioning and similar adaptations.,
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2018
Ths climate has been changing for millions of years

Not nearly at the velocity it is currently changing.

and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

We caused it - so we can influence it.

Like our ancestors, we would be better off figuring how to adapt.

Our ancestors had time to adapt. Tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Man made climate change happens so fast that we do not have that time.

would these same ''scientists'' try to stop continental drift

No, because scientists know the difference between "geological timescales" and "a couple hundred years". This is something you need to learn (you should have learned that in elementary school when you were coloring in pictures of dinosaurs. Didn't you listen to your teachers back then?)

.like Air Conditioning

Oh my...Air conditoning produces GLOBALLY more heat than it produces LOCAL cooldown. it is the problem - not the cure. Didn't you learn anything in school?
cantdrive85
3 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2018
The moron AGWites again crying wolf. Demanding we revert back to the pre-industrial era due to the results of their failed models. It would be sad if it weren't so dangerous as many of these morons are of voting age and so easily duped. Their failed models are remarkably feeble and dramatically wrong, until all aspects of the Sun-Earth connection are incorporated into the forecasting we will continue to be fed a line of utter BS and Chicken Little like warnings.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.