New Project Syndicate Article: “Defense of the 1.5°C Climate Change Threshold”

According to a recent paper in the journal Nature, the world’s remaining “carbon budget” – the amount of carbon-dioxide equivalents that can be emitted before breaching the 1.5°C warming threshold – is somewhat larger than was previously thought. But this is no reason for complacency.

VIA Project Syndicate:

MANILA – The Earth today is more than 1°C hotter than it was in pre-industrial times, and the terrible symptoms of its fever are already showing. This year alone, back-to-back hurricanes have devastated Caribbean islands, monsoon flooding has displaced tens of millions in South Asia, and fires have raged on nearly every continent. Pulling the planet back from the brink could not be more urgent.

Those of us who live on the front lines of climate change – on archipelagos, small islands, coastal lowlands, and rapidly desertifying plains – can’t afford to wait and see what another degree of warming will bring. Already, far too many lives and livelihoods are being lost. People are being uprooted, and vital resources are becoming increasingly scarce, while those suffering the most severe consequences of climate change are also among those who have done the least to cause it.

That is why the Philippines used its chairmanship of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) – an alliance of the 48 countries that stand to bear the brunt of climate change – to fight to ensure that the 2015 Paris climate agreement aimed explicitly to cap global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. For us, 1.5°C isn’t merely a symbolic or “aspirational” number to be plugged into international agreements; it is an existential limit. If global temperatures rise above that level, the places we call home – and many other homes on this planet – will become uninhabitable or even disappear completely.

When we first introduced the 1.5°C target back in 2009, we met substantial resistance. Climate-change deniers – those who refuse to believe the science of human-induced global warming – continue to dismiss any such effort to stem the rise in the planet’s temperature as futile and unnecessary. But even well-meaning climate advocates and policymakers often opposed the 1.5°C target, arguing that, according to the science, humans had already emitted enough greenhouse gases to make meeting that goal virtually impossible.

Yet, on this front, the science is not as clear-cut as it might have seemed. According to a recent paper published in Nature, the world’s remaining “carbon budget” – the amount of carbon-dioxide equivalents we can emit before breaching the 1.5°C threshold – is somewhat larger than was previously thought.

This finding is no reason for complacency, as some commentators (not scientists) seem to think. It does not mean that previous climate models were excessively alarmist, or that we can take a more relaxed approach to reining in global warming. Instead, the paper should inspire – and, indeed, calls for – more immediate, deliberate, and aggressive action to ensure that greenhouse-gas emissions peak within a few years and net-zero emissions are achieved by mid-century.

What would such action look like? Global emissions would need to be reduced by 4-6% every year, until they reached zero. Meanwhile, forest and agricultural lands would have to be restored, so that they could capture and sequester greater amounts of carbon dioxide. Fully decarbonizing our energy and transportation systems in four decades will require a herculean effort, but it is not impossible.

Beyond their environmental consequences, such efforts would generate major economic gains, boosting the middle class in developed countries and pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty in the developing world, including by fueling job creation. The energy transition will lead to massive efficiency savings, while improving the resilience of infrastructure, supply chains, and urban services in developing countries, particularly those in vulnerable regions.

According to a report published last year by the United Nations Development Programme, maintaining the 1.5°C threshold and creating a low-carbon economy would add as much as $12 trillion to global GDP, compared to a scenario in which the world sticks to current policies and emissions-reduction pledges.

The paper asserting that the 1.5°C target is achievable was written by well-respected climate experts and published in a top-ranking journal after extensive peer review. But it is just one paper; there is still a lot more to learn about our capacity to limit global warming. That is why top scientists are already discussing and debating its findings; their responses will also be published in top journals. That is how scientific research works, and it is why we can trust climate science – and its urgent warnings.

Next year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish its own meta-analysis of all of the science related to the 1.5°C target, in what promises to be the most comprehensive summary of such research. But we cannot afford to wait for that analysis before taking action.

The members of the CVF have already committed to doing our part, pledging at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech to complete the transition to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. Our emissions are already among the world’s smallest, but our climate targets are the world’s most ambitious.

But whether the world manages to curb climate change ultimately will depend on the willingness of the largest current and historical emitters of greenhouse gases to fulfill their moral and ethical responsibility to take strong action. Keeping global temperatures below 1.5°C may not yet be a geophysical impossibility. But, to meet the target, we must ensure that it is not treated as a political and economic impossibility, either.

Click here to read original article publication

CARBON BRIEF: World can meet growing food demands and limit warming to 1.5C, study says

Carbon Brief featured a new study, by Dr. Stefan Frank, which finds that reducing emissions from agriculture and food production is essential to prevent a rise above 1.5C. Food production, alone, accounts for approximately 30% of greenhouse gas emissions: this must be reduced to meet the 1.5 limit

However, it is vital that food availability continues to increase while emissions decrease. Dr. Frank finds that a carbon tax may be the most effective method to ensure food stability, he says:

“For this study, we use an economic land use and mimic different climate change mitigation policies implementing emission reduction targets and bioenergy demands. The emission reduction targets are achieved by implementing a carbon price in the model, which incentivises the shift towards more greenhouse gas efficient production systems.”

This is an important study which shows that carbon pricing can drive positive effects, but can also drive negative effects. It sets an agenda about how to avoid the negatives, whilst embracing the positives.

CLICK HERE to read the full study 

CarbonBrief: Warming limit of 1.5C would ‘save’ huge expanses of permafrost, study says


CarbonBrief article highlights that the increase to 2C rather than stabilizing at 1.5C has severe impacts on the melting of permafrost.

The cost of allowing global temperature to rise to 2C, rather than capping warming at 1.5C, is an area of permafrost the size of Mexico, according to new research.


The article features a study that links the commitments in the Paris Agreement to permafrost melting.

The study, carried out by a team of scientists from Sweden, Norway and the UK, is the first to work out what the ambitious targets contained in the Paris Agreement mean for permafrost loss. While warming of 2C would ultimately see permafrost-covered land shrink by more than 40%, stabilising at 1.5C would “save” approximately 2m square km, says the new study. The paper, published in Nature Climate Change, warns that thawing permafrost unlocks large amounts of CO2 and methane, which could potentially be released to the atmosphere.

Link to full article here

Climate Analytics Report: EU Needs to Shut all Coal Plants by 2030

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 10.37.24 AMIn a new report, A Stress Rest for Coal in Europe under the Paris Agreement, Climate Analytics says:

The EU will need to phase out CO2 emissions from all of its coal plants in the next 15 years if it is to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature goals

The report provides a science-based analysis of when – and where – each of the EU’s more than 300 coal power plants would need to be phased out.

View the interactive map here.

Climate Analytics found that for the EU to remain within the temperature limit of ‘well below 2˚C,’ coal plants must not emit more than 6.5Gt by 2050. If coal plants continue to operate as usual the EU will surpass limits necessary for the Paris Agreement by 85%.


10 Steps: The Ten Most Important Short-Term Steps to Limit Warming to 1.5°C

New insights from the Climate Action Tracker on ten vital short-term steps that must be taken to limit temperature from increasing above 1.5°C. The ten steps include:

  1. screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-11-47-41-amELECTRICITY: Sustain the growth rate of renewables and other zero and low carbon power until 2025 to reach 100% by 2050
  2. COAL POWER: No new coal plants, reduce emissions from coal power by at least 30% by 2025
  3. ROAD TRANSPORT: Last fossil fuel car sold before 2035
  4. AVIATION AND SHIPPING: Develop and agree on a 1.5°C compatible vision
  5. NEW BUILDINGS: All new buildings fossil-free and near zero energy by 2020
  6. BUILDING RENOVATION: Increase rates from <1% in 2015 to 5% by 2020
  7. INDUSTRY: All new installations in emissions-intensive sectors are low-carbon after 2020, maximise material efficiency
  8. LULUCF: Reduce emissions from forestry and other land use to 95% below 2010 levels by 2030, stop net deforestation by the 2020s
  9. COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE: Keep emissions at or below current levels, establish and disseminate regional best practice, ramp up research
  10. CO2 REMOVAL: Begin research and planning for negative emissions


Why the 1.5C climate limit matters in the Maldives

By Thoriq Ibrahim @Thoriqibrahim

For all the progress made in the Paris Agreement, there was always a risk that the treaty would be seen as an end point in the international effort to tackle climate change and not the beginning of a generational challenge.

Download Press Release (English, Pdf)

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Photo Caption: Many of the Maldives islands are at risk from rising sea levels; Photo Credit: Nattu/Flickr; Photo License: CC BY-SA 2.0