Why 1.5 C ?

I’m 16. As a teenager, the climate crisis is going to seriously impact my future. This is why I was concerned when on October 8, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report about the dangers of a 1.5 C rise in temperature, entitled The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C. This spawned countless news articles heralding the end of the planet in 12 years. What did the science of the report actually say?

There were three main conclusions:

  1. This crisis is happening now. Our planet has already warmed 1 C since pre-industrial times, which translates to around +0.2 C per decade since mainstream science first understood anthropogenic climate change, in the 1970s. We are seeing the affects of this warming in the form of longer and more severe wildfire seasons, more destructive hurricanes, droughts, salmon die offs and myriad other abnormal weather phenomena.

2. We must keep warming below 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, not the 2 C previously emphasized. This extra .5 degrees of average warming, while seemingly minor, would have significant repercussions across the planet. For example, it would mean 10 cm of sea level rise by 2100 and a twice as bad decline in marine fisheries.

An extra .5 C of warming spells near extinction for corals: it would result in 99% of corals dying, instead of 70-90% Coral Outcrop Flynn Reef (c) by Toby Hudson CC BY-SA 3.0 

3. The report also reminded us that keeping the rise in temperature below 1.5 C is scientifically possible, but politically difficult. To achieve it, we would need global greenhouse gas emissions to reduce by 45% by 2030, and 100% by 2050. From solar panels to electric cars, smart grids to agroecology, we have the technology needed to make this transition; all that is needed is political will.

On climate, the scientists have clearly spoken. For the sake of my future and that of my entire generation, we need the politicians to respond.

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