The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, known as SR15. It outlines the benefits produced from limiting global temperature increase to 1.5C, compared to 2C, and the pathways available to achieve it. Although it clearly urges immediate action, global government responses varied.
The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment report was produced in 2014. It outlined the cause and impacts of climate change as well as many mitigation pathways, all relevant to a 2°C change. In 2015, the Paris agreement was signed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to “[hold] the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and [pursue] efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”.
It was alongside this agreement that the UNFCCC commissioned the SR15 report to inform the dialogue at their 24th Conference of Parties, scheduled for early December.
Now completed, the SR15 contains contributions from 91 authors and review editors from 40 countries and boasts 6000 scientific citations. The focus on a 1.5°C rise compared to 2°C highlighted some key benefits.
It found that sea levels would rise 10cm less, the chances of having an Arctic ice free summer reduce from 1 in every 10 years to 1 in every 100 and coral reef decline would be limited to 70-90% rather than >99%.
In addition, of 105,000 species studies, the numbers standing to lose 50% of their climatically determined geographic range would be cut in half and the proportion of the world population exposed to water stress would be 50% less.
Less quantifiable effects include reduced ocean acidity, stalled fall in sea oxygen levels, smaller net losses in yields of cereal crops and greater food availability.
There would also be fewer droughts, a smaller number of heatwaves and less flooding from increased precipitation
The report also comments on the current global trajectory. It warns “Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate”.
Furthering that “mitigation ambitions as submitted under the Paris agreement… would not limit global warming to 1.5°C, even if supplemented by very challenging increases in the scale and ambition of emissions reductions after 2030”. It therefore calls to all governments to change their emissions targets within the next 12 years.
With new evidence to support the importance of restricting carbon emissions, all eyes are on various governments, including the UK, Australia and the U.S. to impose restrictions or come up with other solutions.
However, these governments’ responses have been below the standards implied as necessary by the IPCC report. Claire Perry, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, wrote a letter to Lord Deben and the UK Committee on Climate Change. The letter asks for the committee to provide information regarding “[t]he range which UK greenhouse gas emissions reductions would need to be within, against 1990 levels, by 2050 as an appropriate contribution to the global goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and [t]he range which UK greenhouse gas emissions reductions would need to be within, against 1990 levels, by 2050 as an appropriate contribution towards global efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”
However, as Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavillion, highlights via Twitter, the letter also states “[c]arbon budgets already set in legislation (covering 2018-2032) are out of scope of this request”.
Lucas also stands against the government’s decision to allow fracking in Lancashire in the wake of the report. SR15 has set guidelines to drop natural gas usage by up to 60% between 2020 and 2050 however also concedes “some pathways show a marked increase albeit with widespread deployment of CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage]” .
The Australian deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, has backed the country’s continued use of coal. Stating he would not change policy “just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do”. He remains adamant that the country will meet their original guidelines for 2030.
In an interview with Lesley Stahl, President Donald Trump has claimed a “political agenda” for the scientists behind the reports. Stating we “don’t know that [climate change is] man made” and the temperature rise “could very well go back”.
He cited monetary reasons in an announcement to exit the Paris agreement, stating “I don’t want to spend trillions and trillions of dollars” to “be at a disadvantage”.
In light of these varied government responses, it is important to note that even immediate adherence to the reports advice relies on as of yet underdeveloped technology. “[A]ll pathways use Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR), but the amount varies across pathways” and “[t]echnologies for CDR are mostly in their infancy despite their importance”.