Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action

Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action

Ever since governments at the 2015 Paris climate summit set 1.5°C as the desired limit for global warming, scientists and journalists alike have regularly asked whether it is achievable. The question arose again recently when the UN published a report of national emission-cutting pledges for the next decade. It will be posed regularly before the publication of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report in July – a synthesis of the most recent information scientists can offer on climate change – and the UN climate summit in November.

Science is already clear that the 1.5°C target can be met. But science cannot say whether it will be met. The outcome depends on two things we cannot know with precision: how sensitive the climate system is to rising greenhouse gas concentrations, and how quickly the world will cut emissions.

Humanity has little sway over climate sensitivity. But on the second issue – what we do about emissions – humanity clearly holds the lever of influence.

The recent UN report showed that governments are not pushing that lever on short-term emissions hard enough. Only 40% of countries have so far set a new emission-cutting target for 2030, as they are due to under the Paris Agreement. Collectively, they are pledging to bring emissions down by 1% below 2010 levels rather than the 45% proposed by the IPCC as being compatible with meeting the 1.5°C limit.

Yet, since autumn 2020, China, the EU, the US, Japan and South Korea have all pledged to reach net zero emissions around mid-century. If they follow through, that would halve the gap to the 1.5°C target – and that’s without factoring in the wider effect on global markets, investment and prices that will inevitably follow.

So the future is not set, and much will depend on decisions made in these next few crucial years.

While scientists might be tempted to spend much of 2021 arguing whether the Paris Agreement’s limit is feasible, having this as a live debate could itself lower our chances of delivering the target.

Consensus and empowerment

The chances of stopping warming at 1.5°C increase the faster the global community cuts greenhouse gas emissions to zero. And how fast we do that depends on the interrelated actions of a huge mix of people – government ministers most importantly, but also business chiefs, investors, banks, religious leaders, activists and citizens. The last few years have seen efforts accelerate across those constituencies, from the establishment of financial mechanisms by the UN to the Fridays for Future movement.

Across these initiatives, one inescapable fact is how central the 1.5°C target now is. The open letter that Fridays for Future sent to political leaders in 2020 referred to the 1.5°C limit five times, and not at all to the other Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming “well below 2°C”. When deciding their net zero emissions targets, the governments of the UK and New Zealand both explicitly referred to the 1.5°C limit as the global “guardrail” and set their national decarbonisation trajectories accordingly. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, exhorts governments and businesses to meet this goal specifically rather than “well below 2°C.”

So to claim that 1.5°C is out of reach would be to undercut all of those initiatives and many others – to tell them all, from minister to investor to youth activist, that they are doomed to fail.

Social science tells us a lot about the effects of different types of messaging on climate action, including on two issues that are significant here: consensus and empowerment.

From climate change to vaccination, a consensus message from scientists increases public faith and willingness to act. We’re seeing how mixed messaging damages trust right now with the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Would climate contrarians have put so much effort into undermining the perception of consensus among climate scientists were not the perception of consensus important to decarbonisation?

The world stands a better chance of tackling climate change if people feel they have a chance of succeeding. Academic research backs up this common sense. A major study in 2020 showed how the “we cannot do it” argument works to delay action, noting that such statements “can result in a paralysing state of shock and resignation”, which is a deterrent to active engagement in solutions. Research also shows that public disengagement is the inevitable result of a perceived sense of conflict among scientists. This may be the intent of people wishing to delay climate action, but it’s presumably not an outcome that scientists who support decarbonisation seek.

The IPCC is perhaps the biggest consensus-forming initiative in the whole of science. Its 2018 Special Report found 1.5°C achievable and, judging from private conversations, this year’s report is unlikely to close the door.

So will our species succeed in limiting global warming to 1.5°C and so stave off some of the more crippling effects of climate change? No one can possibly know. Can we succeed? As former US president Barack Obama once said: “Yes, we can.” And knowing that we can makes it more likely that we will.The Conversation

About The Author

Richard Black, Honorary Research Fellow, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London and Catherine Happer, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow

Related Books

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

by Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann
1786634295How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse. Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Available On Amazon

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond
0316409138Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet. Available On Amazon

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

by Kathryn Harrison et al
0262514311Comparative case studies and analyses of the influence of domestic politics on countries' climate change policies and Kyoto ratification decisions. Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Available On Amazon

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

POLITICS

UK Court Urged To Respect 1.5°c Climate Limit
UK Court Urged To Respect 1.5°c Climate Limit
by Alex Kirby
The UK faces growing pressure not to expand Heathrow airport but to respect the 1.5°C limit agreed on global heating.
Why Sustainability Rankings Don't Always Identify Sustainable Companies
Why Sustainability Rankings Don't Always Identify Sustainable Companies
by Rumina Dhalla and Felix Arndt, University of Guelph
As consumers and investors, we often look at environmental, social and governance (ESG) rankings to guide our purchase,…
How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power
How To Stop Psychopaths and Narcissists From Winning Positions of Power
by Steve Taylor, Leeds Beckett University
In the past, this was mostly due to hereditary systems which assigned power to kings and lords and others, who often…
How Children Are Taking European States To Court Over The Climate Crisis – And Changing The Law
How Children Are Taking European States To Court Over The Climate Crisis – And Changing The Law
by Aoife Daly, University College Cork et al
Even before Greta Thunberg launched her school strike for climate at age 15, youth activists have been key players in…
If 80% Of Australians Care About Climate Action, Why Don't They Vote Like It?
If 80% Of Australians Care About Climate Action, Why Don't They Vote Like It?
by Rebecca Colvin and Frank Jotzo, Australian National University
Poll after poll suggests a large majority of Australians cares about climate change. Yet in recent federal elections,…
Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action
Keeping Hope Of 1.5°c Limit Alive Is Vital To Spurring Global Climate Action
by Richard Black, Imperial College London and Catherine Happer, University of Glasgow
Ever since governments at the 2015 Paris climate summit set 1.5°C as the desired limit for global warming, scientists…
Lawmakers and Groups Demand Urgent Action by Fed to Protect Economy From Climate Risks
Lawmakers and Groups Demand Urgent Action by Fed to Protect Economy From Climate Risks
by Jessica Corbett
The Federal Reserve must do its job, steering the economy away from disaster by ending fossil fuel finance.
Fossil Fuel Companies Got $8.2 Billion in Tax Bailouts—Then Fired Over 58,000 Workers
Fossil Fuel Companies Got $8.2 Billion in Tax Bailouts—Then Fired Over 58,000 Workers
by Jessica Corbett
It's time to stop subsidizing them and start facing the climate crisis, says a BailoutWatch analyst.

LATEST VIDEOS

The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
What Is A Hurricane Storm Surge and Why Is It So Dangerous?
by Anthony C. Didlake Jr
As Hurricane Sally headed for the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, forecasters warned of a…

LATEST ARTICLES

The US Electric Power Sector Is Halfway To Zero Carbon Emissions
The US Electric Power Sector Is Halfway To Zero Carbon Emissions
by Bentham Paulos, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory et al
So far 17 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have adopted laws or executive orders setting goals for…
Hydrogen Is One Future Fuel Oil Execs And Environmentalists Could Both Support As Rival Countries Search For Climate Solutions
Hydrogen Is One Future Fuel Oil Execs And Environmentalists Could Both Support As Rival Countries Search For Climate Solutions
by John Ballantine, Brandeis University
The 2015 Paris Agreement was a groundbreaking diplomatic effort – 196 countries committed to prevent average…
Climate Change Threatens Coffee – But We’ve Found A Delicious Wild Species That Could Help Save Your Morning Brew
Climate Change Threatens Coffee – But We’ve Found A Delicious Wild Species That Could Help Save Your Morning Brew
by Aaron P Davis, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The world loves coffee. More precisely, it loves arabica coffee. From the smell of its freshly ground beans through to…
Competition Heats Up In The Melting Arctic, And The Us Isn't Prepared To Counter Russia
Competition Heats Up In The Melting Arctic, And The US Isn't Prepared To Counter Russia
by Rockford Weitz, Tufts University
For decades, the frozen Arctic was little more than a footnote in global economic competition, but that’s changing as…
Global Farming Feels The Impacts Of Global Heating
Global Farming Feels The Impacts Of Global Heating
by Tim Radford
Global heating has already set back farming around the world, and wiped out seven years of steady advance.
Interstate Water Wars Are Heating Up Along With The Climate
Interstate Water Wars Are Heating Up Along With The Climate
by Robert Glennon, University of Arizona
Interstate water disputes are as American as apple pie. States often think a neighboring state is using more than its…
As Extreme Fires Transform Alaska's Boreal Forest, More Aspen And Birch Are Coming In And That Can Slow Fires And Their Climate Impact
As Extreme Fires Transform Alaska's Boreal Forest, More Aspen And Birch Are Coming In And That Can Slow Fires And Their Climate Impact
by Jill Johnstone, University of Saskatchewan et al
Fire is a hot topic these days, particularly when it comes to the boreal forest, the vast expanse of trees that…
Would A Carbon Tax On Imports Be The Climate Solution Officials Expect?
Would A Carbon Tax On Imports Be The Climate Solution Officials Expect?
by Timothy Hamilton, University of Richmond
The European Union is considering a new tax on imports as it tries to fight climate change, and the U.S. is raising…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.