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IPCC urges governments to limit warming to 1.5°C

General - Dry riverbed ©Shever

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require "rapid and far-reaching" changes in land, energy, buildings, transport and cities, a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded. Humans have until 2030 to avert catastrophic climate change, it warned.

This is the first of three special reports which the IPCC will release over the next twelve months evaluating the impacts and likelihood of 1.5°C warming in advance of the COP24 meeting in Poland in December. With the Paris Agreement committing all parties to keep global warming to "well below" two degrees, the 1.5°C level is seen as the backstop.

Releasing the report, chair of the IPCC Hoesung Lee said: "Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society."  

In a televised conference, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group Jim Skea pointed out the "countries will need to co-operate" to limit warming to 1.5°C given the Paris Agreement is a bottom-up agreement rather than a top-down one.

He concluded by saying: "That’s all I can say, its over to the governments now. We have told you what the science shows, what the evidence is, and what the costs will be - it is up to governments now to decide what to do with this information."   

According to the IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5°C (as opposed to 2°C) will see:

  • Global sea level rise reduced by 10cm by 2100
  • The probability of a summer without Arctic Sea Ice reduced to 1 in 100 years, rather than 1 in 10 years
  • Coral reefs decline by 70-90% rather than 99%
  • The prevention of 1.5-2.5m km2 of permafrost tundra from thawing (an area equivalent to 6-10 United Kingdoms)
  • Global fishery catches reduced by 1.5m tonnes, rather than 3m tonnes
  • The proportion of human population subjected to water stress will be 50% lower

United Nations Development Programme country director Caitlin Wiesen said: "The IPCC report highlights the severe climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, but the time to act is rapidly closing."

Co-chair of IPCC Working Group I Panmao Zhai continued: "One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather and rising sea levels among other changes. At the current rate of warming, the world is likely to reach 1.5° between 2030 and 2052."

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