Are we already locked into warming if 1.50C?


By John Gale

29 March 2016

 The World Bank recently published its latest report in the series; Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal which makes for grim reading. 

This latest report focuses on the risks of climate change to development in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and parts of Europe and Central Asia. It looks at the likely impacts of present day (0.8°C), 2°C and 4°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures on agricultural production, water resources, ecosystem services, and coastal vulnerability for affected populations.

Some of the stark conclusions from this report are:

  • There is growing evidence that even with very ambitious mitigation action, warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century is already locked into the Earth’s atmospheric system, and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable
  • Dramatic climate changes, heat, and weather extremes are already impacting people, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting food, water, and energy security at risk.
  • Across the three regions studied, record-breaking temperatures are occurring more frequently, rainfall has increased in intensity in some places, while drought-prone regions are getting dryer.
  • The poor and underprivileged, as well as the elderly and children, are found to be hit the hardest.
  • if the planet continues warming to 4°C, climatic conditions, heat, and other weather extremes considered highly unusual or unprecedented today would become the new climate normal—a world of increased risks and instability. The consequences for development would be severe as crop yields decline, water resources change, diseases move into new ranges, and sea levels rise.
  • The task of promoting human development, ending poverty, increasing global prosperity, and reducing global inequality will be very challenging in a 2°C world, but in a 4°C world there is serious doubt whether this can be achieved at all.

The one piece of good news many of the worst projected climate impacts could still be avoided by holding warming to below 2°C.The report coming as it does after COP21 is an important reminder of this need for early action on climate change and justifies the Paris Agreement outcome to go below 20C.

To me it is very disappointing, but not unsurprising, to find that we are already locked in to warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century and climate change impacts such as extreme heat events such as those reported recently by NOAA recently may now be the norm and if we continue to emit greenhouse gases at our current rates even more extreme events can be expected.


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