The goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C is still achievable. But only if the world economy is transformed quickly and comprehensively. If that does not happen and greenhouse gas emissions remain at their current level, this temperature limit, negotiated at the 2015 Paris Agreement, will already be exceeded by around 2040.
These are the main findings of a draft report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was obtained by Reuters. The draft still needs to be accepted by governments and is subject to change, with a view to publishing the final report in October. It will be an important document for the preparation of the next world climate conference, taking place in December in Katowice, Poland.
Countries worldwide signed the Paris Agreement and agreed to limit global warming to “well below” an increase of 2°C above pre-industrial times and to “pursue efforts” to reach the stricter target of 1.5°C. According to the IPCC report, temperatures have already risen by about 1°C since industrialisation as well as increase each decade at about a rate of 0.2°C. Nevertheless, other studies are quoted to strike a similarly optimistic tone on the chances to achieve the 1.5°C goal.
The IPCC experts have emphasised the significant advantages of a 1.5°C world compared to the 2°C scenario. Achieving the 1.5°C target would limit deadly heatwaves and floods as well as the risks of conflicts and the number of people migrating. Already small increases in temperatures from current levels will pose considerable threats, among others, to coral reefs and coastal regions due to the rising sea levels.
In addition to affirming the need to reduce the use of coal and extract CO2 from the air through large-scale reforestation, the IPCC’s scenario envisions that renewables would need to become the main energy source. By aiming to make progress on climate protection, the European Union recently reached political agreements, including a new, binding, renewable energy target for 2030 of 32 % as well as a new energy efficiency target for 2030 of 32.5 %.
For the 1.5°C objective to be doable, the IPCC report stresses the need for technological innovations and extensive lifestyle changes, especially in the rich countries, in order to decrease energy demand and still ensure economic growth. While the energy-saving potential of technological innovations is also pointed out, another recent study highlights the importance of people changing their demand for energy, including the consequent use of resource-saving goods and services, for reaching the 1.5°C target.
These findings have made clear: Our lifestyles need to change. The individual demand for energy represents a main cause of the climate crisis but can also significantly contribute to its solution. Changing our attitudes towards the use of energy is a key factor in order to achieve the 1.5°C goal. Not only should this information be seen as a wake-up call, it can also be used to motivate and empower people to change. A societal shift to improve energy efficiency needs to be urgently accomplished.
By Earth Restoration Service Blog Writer Theresa Stoll
Images from Wikimedia