The consequences of warming half a degree; and the courage to chart a new future

The recent IPCC report described the consequences of the Earth warming 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.  The Earth has already warmed 1 degree C since the 1800’s.

How big of a problem is half a degree more?  It’s huge!

See this article and graphic for a look at the consequences.

Keep in mind that the Earth will warm more than 1.5 degrees C.  That target was the aspiration of the Paris climate negotiations in 2015.  But, nations won’t meet that target.  “Holding warming to 1.5 degrees C would entail a staggering transformation of the global energy system beyond what world leaders are contemplating today.  Global greenhouse emissions would need to fall in half in just 12 years and zero out by 2050.”  “Virtually all of the coal plants and gasoline-burning vehicles on the planet would need to be quickly replaced with zero-carbon alternatives.”

Current national/international efforts are more consistent with an increase of 3.1 to 3.7 degrees C by 2100.  Keep that in mind when looking at the enormous consequences of 1.5 degrees C.

“Each time the Earth heats up an extra half degree, the effects aren’t uniform across the planet.  Some regions, such as the Arctic, will heat up 2 to 3 times faster.”  “The number of extremely hot days around the world … tends to rise exponentially as the global average temperature increases.”

The bottom line is that changes fueled by climate change are happening now especially in places like the United States.  They will continue to happen and will get worse.  But, we still have an opportunity individually and collectively to mitigate and adapt to the consequences.  That opportunity will require courage and bravery.  We can’t look to and live in the past.  It’s not about making something great again.  It’s about making a new future that is more responsive to the planet we live on.  It’s an opportunity; we need to take it.  It’s happening to us right now.

(Brad Plumer, Nadja Popovich, and Iris Gottlieb, New York Times, October 7, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of climate change and attempts to adapt and mitigate, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.



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