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5 degrees of separation

  • Published at 05:12 pm July 19th, 2018
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Special report on 1.5c leaked

A newly leaked draft from the International Panel on Climate Change -- the “Special report on 1.5°C ” -- highlights the difference between a rise of 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming above pre-industrial level. The leaked report meant for international climate policymakers is expected to be published later this year.

The report emerges out of the 2015 UN climate talks held in Paris where world leaders came together to negotiate and decide upon a global plan to tackle climate change. The negotiations resulted in the Paris Agreement, a global treaty that intends to reduce emissions to maintain “well below 2°C” of warming, compared to pre-industrial levels, with the aim at reaching 1.5°C or less. 

However, despite agreements on the text, which represented a consensus of the representatives of the 196 parties and 174 countries, adopting this into their national legal systems, the question remains: Is a 2°C target enough? This is the question the report attempts to answer. 

The draft report discloses, that at current rates of warming, we have already reached average global warming of 1°C, while some geographical regions have already surpassed that, furthermore within the next 25 years or less we are expected to reach 1.5°C.

The report specifically states that the economic impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming will require higher costs for adaptation and mitigation as well as loss and damage, while exceeding the adaptive capacity of already vulnerable systems. 

Recommendations within the report state that emissions reductions must be made in order to maintain 1.5 degrees of warming. Across three broad approaches, which include, lowering the use of energy, lowering the emissions that come from energy supply, agriculture and land use and finally removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

The report concludes there is a need for a more ambitious, rapid global response to climate change harnessing and embracing new systematic shifts in financial flows, investment patterns, coherence in governance while addressing issues of equity and capacities across and between generations and regions. 

Dr Saleemul Huq, world-renowned climate change adaptation expert, concludes, “The leaked final draft of the IPCC special report on 1.5°C reinforces two very important claims made by the vulnerable countries when negotiating the Paris Agreement. The first is that there will be many hundreds of vulnerable and poor people on the planet who will not be saved with a 2°C long term temperature goal but who could be saved with a 1.5°C goal. 

“The second message is that there is still time to keep global, temperature below 1.5°C but time is, running out quickly. So all efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases must be redoubled.”

Laura Bahlman is currently doing her masters in International Development at Massey University, New Zealand.