IPCC: Immediate measures on a global scale are necessary to limit global warming to 1,5 degrees Celsius

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a report on Monday the 8th of October, which states that policy makers all over the world must aim at limiting global warming to 1,5 °C instead of 2 °C. A global temperature rise of 2 °C instead of 1,5 °C means a greater negative impact on plants, animals and people. It could also lead to irreversible consequences.

Based on expectations of the IPCC, a global temperature rise of 1,5 °C will occur in 2040. In order to prevent this, the global emission of greenhouse gases must be cut down by half between now and 2030. In 2050 the emissions must be zero to prevent global warming to rise further than 1,5 °C, according to the IPCC report. The capture and storage of carbon emissions on a worldwide scale is inevitable. With the current commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement, we are heading towards a global temperature rise of 3 °C.

Global temperature rise of 1,5 °C versus 2 °C

What is the difference of a global temperature rise of 1,5 °C and 2 °C? A few highlights of the IPCC report ‘Global Warming of 1,5 degrees Celsius’:

-          With a global temperature rise of 2 °C instead of 1,5 °C the heatwaves will increase to a few degrees, more extreme rainfall, a higher chance of extreme drought and water shortages will occur.

-          The average prediction of sea level rise in the year 2100 will increase by 10 centimeters, when global warming rises to 2 °C. More importantly, there is a reasonable degree of confidence that parts of Greenland and Antarctica will melt with a global temperature rise of 2 °C. This will lead to many meters of sea level rise.

-          The consequences for the environment are considerably higher. When the global warming rises with 1,5 °C, 70 to 90 percent of shallow coral reefs will vanish. A global temperature rise of 2 °C will lead to the vanishing of all of shallow coral reefs. Furthermore, 8 percent of plants, 6 percent of insects and 4 percent of vertebrates will lose half of their habitat with a global temperature rise of 1,5 °C. When global warming rises to 2 °C, the percentages of plants, insects and vertebrates that will lose half of their habitat will double.

With enormous efforts, global warming of 1,5 °C is still feasible

“It is almost impossible to cut back the global emission of greenhouse gasses by half in 2030. It means that wealthy countries, such as the Netherlands, must push back greenhouse gas emissions much further and help developing countries on a much larger scale to reduce their emissions”, says Sible Schöne, director of the HIER Klimaatbureau and the Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO). According to Schöne, it will not only be about focusing on the most vulnerable people in developing countries and the environment. The fact that Greenland and parts of Antarctica will vanish with a global temperature rise of 2 °C should also be a sufficient reason for the Netherlands to accelerate in achieving its climate goals.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1,5 °C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems”, said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of an IPCC Working Group, in a press release. Fortunately, the scientists of IPCC also have good news to share. The actions that are necessary to limit global warming to 1,5 °C are already undertaken. It only needs to accelerate and to be implemented on a global scale, says IPCC. As an example of a measure to limit global warming to 1,5 °C, the organisation mentions increasing the global share in renewable energy.

The IEA (International Energy Agency) expects that the share of renewable energy will increase in the coming five years to 40 percent of the worldwide energy supply. This will become possible by means of technology innovations in clean energy and the use of bio-energy as an alternative source for heating, among other things.

Currently, the global share of renewable energy in the worldwide energy supply stands at 24 percent, says the IEA. “Even with renewable energy technologies becoming increasingly competitive, appropriate policies and market design are critical”, writes the IEA in its market analysis ‘Renewables 2018’. “Under an accelerated case, which assumes greater supportive government measures, the expansion of renewables in electricity and in transport could be 25 percent higher.”

Limiting the share of energy generated from gas and coal

In order to limit global warming to 1,5 °C, investments to take concrete measures in the sectors of agriculture, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities are necessary, says the IPCC. The scientists predict that an annual investment of 800 billion euros are necessary. This will ensure that 70 to 85 percent of all the electricity in 2050 are generated in a sustainable fashion. Media company Bloomberg estimates that an investment of 2,4 trillion dollars are necessary to limit global warming to 1,5 °C by shifting from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Next to that, gas consumption must have a share of 8 percent of the total energy supply. Based on the numbers of the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the Dutch energy supply in 2017 consists of 92 percent of fossil fuels and 8 percent of renewable energy.

Strengthening climate goals?

During the climate conference in the Polish city of Katowice, that will take place in December of this year, governments will start a discussion on the IPCC report and how to strengthen the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. According to Bloomberg, the IPCC report, which was written by 91 scientists and refers to more than 6.000 scientific researches on climate change, should put more pressure on the governments that have signed the Paris Climate Agreement.

“With this report, a mandate has been spoken to strengthen the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. If we take a look at the current political affairs, then it is plausible to expect a new climate conference in 2021 that is comparable to the climate conference in Paris”, says Schöne. “The intention is that the countries that have committed to the Paris Climate Agreement will become more ambitious in their climate targets, such as reducing carbon emissions and increasing their share of renewable energy. Only then can we change the course and prevent a global warming of 3 °C.”