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 rise “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,” while “pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”

The European Geosciences Union published a study in April 2016 that examined the impact of a 1.5 degree Celsius versus a 2.0 degree C temperature increase by the end of the century. They found that the jump from 1.5 to 2 degrees—a third more of an increase—raises the impact also by roughly one third (NASA):

  • Heat waves would last around a third longer
  • Rain storms would be about a third more intense
  • Sea increase rise would be approximately one third higher
  • The percentage of coral reefs at risk of severe degradation would be roughly one third greater
  • Some regions would feel more of an impact. For example water availability in the Mediterranean would fall by 9% under 1.5C of warming but 17% under 2C.

But in some cases, impacts would be much more severe.  The research found that at 1.5 C, tropical coral reefs stand a chance of adapting but at 2 C, their chance of recovery vanishes. With a 2-degree temperature rise, low-lying islands risk being wiped from the map. At 2 degrees, scientists predict a sea level rise of 10cm more than if warming was contained to 1.5 degrees.

An IPCC report answering the question above in much more detail is to be released in autumn 2018- watch this space!

Date of Publication: 5.07.2018