Will we manage to reach the target of 1.5 degrees?
If emissions go unchecked, the rise in the global average temperature could exceed four degrees Celsius by the end of the century.¹ At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, delegates decided that the global temperature increase should be limited to “well below two degrees Celsius” compared to preindustrial levels – and even to 1.5 degrees, if possible. However, we could exceed this limit in just over a decade if the current warming trend continues.²
If countries around the world are serious about implementing the Paris Agreement, they must quickly and drastically redouble their efforts to protect the climate, as current policies would still result in an increase of around three degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Even with all the commitments to curbing emissions that governments have made so far, they will only be enough to limit warming to around 2.8 degrees.³ The short-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions during the Covid-19 pandemic will not change this, either.⁴
The carbon dioxide that humans emit stays in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very long time. Depending on the amount released, between 15 and 40 percent will remain in the atmosphere for up to 2,000 years.⁵ 71 The warming that has already been caused by greenhouse gas emissions owing to human activity will therefore continue for centuries and millennia to come. It will cause long-term changes in the climate system, such as the further rise in sea levels or loss of biodiversity, not to mention the serious consequences they entail for people.⁶
¹ IPCC 2013, AR5, WG1, SPM E.1 – https://www.de-ipcc.de/media/content/AR5-WGI_SPM.pdf
² IPCC 2018, SR1.5, SPM, A.1 – https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2019/03/SR1.5-SPM_de_barrierefr…
⁴ Tollefson 2020: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01497-0; https://www.newscientist.com/article/2245330-co2-levels-hit-record-high…
⁶ IPCC 2018, SR1.5, SPM, A.2 – https://www.de-ipcc.de/media/content/SR1.5-SPM_de_barrierefrei.pdf