UN Climate Body Convenes to Discuss Possible 1.5 Degrees Celsius Temperature Increase
Representatives of 195 countries meet this week at the 48th session of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) in South Korea to vet and validate the Special Report on the expected temperature rise of 1.5°C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The report is expected to provide guidance for policymakers worldwide in keeping carbon emissions at the level necessary to avoid crossing the 1.5°C boundary.
This week’s Special Report was requested during negotiations of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and was produced in three years — a record period of time. The 400-page document was written by a team of 86 authors and summarizes the key findings of more than 6,000 scientific studies. A shorter version of the document, the 20-page Summary for Policymaker, is due to be published October 8.
The IPCC, an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva, produces a broad review on the issue of global warming once every five to six years: the most recent review was presented in 2014 with the next scheduled for 2022. The reports of the IPCC are designed to update countries’ policymakers on the latest science on global warming in a politically neutral way.
IPCC chairman Hoesung Lee promised to “produce a strong, robust and clear summary for policymakers that responds to the invitation of governments three years ago while upholding the scientific integrity of the IPCC.”
The recent report predicts a 1.5°C increase in mean surface temperature by 2040.
Countries with large fossil fuel industries, such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Australia would be expected to contribute the most to avoid the temperature hike. There are also countries that treat the implementation of the anti-warming rule with paramount urgency – small island nations, such as Fiji, risk finding themselves under water in the near future.
However, few believe it is feasible to stay below the 1.5°C boundary. To have at least a 50% chance of not crossing the limit, no additional CO2 emissions can be released into atmosphere starting 2050. Moreover, the maximum emission level should be reached no later than 2020 and rapidly decrease afterwards. Such a scenario seems unlikely considering a new carbon emissions peak was reached last year.
WMO deputy secretary general Elena Manaenkova summarized the general concern: “Global mean temperatures in 2017 were about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, we are already well on the way to the 1.5°C limit and the sustained warming trend shows no sign of relenting”.
Indeed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported last July that 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. “Long-term climate change indicators highlight the need for urgent climate action,” added Manaekova.