Getting serious about 1.5°C

ap_611245925978_wide-0d885fdde8a9b22d1501efec383f5eb03654796c-s900-c85As we reported earlier, the historic Paris Agreement of December 2015 established a long-term temperature goal to keep global temperature increase “well below 2°C” and to undertake efforts to limit that increase to 1.5°C, “recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The COP21 decision adopting the Agreement included an invitation to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) “to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.”Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.44.05 PM

The impacts on lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems is likely be quite different between a 2°C and a 1.5°C increase. And, while scientists have been characterizing the former for some time, too few studies have focused on a 1.5°C hotter world. So, this report will be very critical for policymakers.

The IPCC accepted the COP’s invitation in April and established an 11-member Steering Committee for the Special Report from among its top officials. A scoping meeting of more than 80 experts nominated from around the world was held in Geneva last week (August 15-18) to draft a Scoping Paper “describing the objectives and an annotated outline of the Special Report as well as the process and timeline for its preparation.” Carbon Brief, in reporting occgraph1n the meeting, characterized part of the message from Dr. Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair, to the gathered experts this way: “[T]he report will need to spell out what’s to be gained by limiting warming to 1.5°C, as well as the practical steps needed to get there within sustainability and poverty eradication goals.”

Outcomes of the 1.5°C Special Report scoping meeting will be presented to the IPCC’s 44th Session in October, and once the report structure is approved, “a call for authors” for each chapter will go out.

It has become clear for many, though, that limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C is pretty much impossible at this point. In fact, based on IPCC carbon budget data (originally crunched in 2015) and assuming current levels of CO2 emissions, Carbon Brief concludes that there is a 66% chance we’ll reach that 1.5°C increase in just 5 years.carboncountdown

This IPCC report certainly won’t come too soon!