What would a 2-degree temperature rise mean for the planet?

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The Paris Agreement, made in 2015 sets out a commitment to keep global temperature rises “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,” while “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

The Agreement also commissioned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to write a report into the difference between a 1.5°C temperature increase compared to 2°C. The report was published in October 2018 and is the product of three years of research.

It finds that 1.5°C has “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems” when compared with 2°C. For example:

  • Under a 1.5°C scenario, global sea level rises would be 10cm lower by 2100 than at 2°C of warming. This could save the homes of millions of people who inhabit islands and coastal regions around the globe.

  • Ocean acidification would be a more significant problem at 2°C. As a result, at 2°C 99% of the world’s coral reefs would die, but at 1.5°C up to 30% could still survive.

  • Over a third of the world’s population will experience an extreme heatwave every five years if temperatures rise by 2°C. As a result, heat related deaths, forest fires and water shortages would all be more severe.

The report says that we are currently off track in our attempts to keep warming to within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. However, it also shows that it is still possible to keep global warming within 1.5°C, but the window for action is closing fast. If we’re to tackle climate change, politicians and citizens need to act now. 

Date of Publication: 5.07.2018