Society would have to enact “unprecedented” changes to how it consumes energy, travels and builds to meet a lower global warming target or it risks increases in heat waves, flood-causing storms and the chances of drought in some regions as well as the loss of species, a UN report said on Monday.
Keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to only 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than the 2°C target agreed to at the Paris Agreement talks in 2015, would have “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems,” the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday in a statement announcing the report’s release.
The IPCC report said at the current rate of warming, the world’s temperatures would likely reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1°C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s.
Keeping the 1.5°C target would keep the global sea level rise 0.1 metre lower by 2100 than a 2°C target, the report states. That could reduce flooding and give the people that inhabit the world’s coasts, islands and river deltas time to adapt to climate change.
The lower target would also reduce species loss and extinction and the impact on terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems, the report said.
“There were doubts if we would be able to differentiate impacts set at 1.5°C and that came so clearly. Even the scientists were surprised to see how much science was already there and how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2,” Thelma Krug, vice-chair of the IPCC, told Reuters in an interview.
“And now more than ever we know that every bit of warming matters,” Krug said.