Head of Climate Science & Impacts
In 2015, the Paris Agreement established the Long-Term Temperature Goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
The Paris Agreement requires governments to put forward 2030 pledges and targets to cut carbon emissions to limit warming (called Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs). Almost all countries have submitted their own NDCs. The best available science tells us that we must, and we can, reach the 1.5°C goal – but with every passing year of delayed or insufficient action, this becomes a harder task.
How to interpret the Paris Agreement Temperature Goal?
The Long-Term Temperature Goal of the Paris Agreement is one goal, establishing 1.5°C global mean temperature rise above pre-industrial levels as the long-term warming limit.
To achieve the Paris Agreement Temperature Goal, net zero CO2 emissions need to be achieved globally around mid-century and net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases shortly thereafter. In the near term, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be halved by 2030.
The importance of 1.5°C
Science from the IPCC is clear: limiting warming to 1.5°C can avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Many changes become larger in direct relation to more warming, and every fraction of a degree makes a difference. Every avoided increment of warming would reduce extremes such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall, and droughts, as well as long-term impacts and the risk of crossing tipping points of the Earth System.
Can the Paris Agreement 1.5°C temperature limit still be achieved?
The short answer is yes. Limiting warming to 1.5°C is still possible and there are emission reduction pathways in the scientific literature and from the IPCC that illustrate what is required to do so. But the window is rapidly closing.
Limiting warming to 1.5°C critically depends on stringent near-term emission reductions and halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and net-zero CO2 emissions globally by 2050 as well as stringent emission reductions in all greenhouse gases. Further warming will likely stop soon after net zero CO2 emissions are achieved globally.
Increasing evidence suggests that climate change impacts are already observed around the world. Global environmental assessments face challenges to appraise the growing literature. Here we use the language model BERT to identify and classify studies on observed climate impacts, producing a comprehensive machine-learning-assisted evidence map.
New paper finds that children are to face disproportionate increases in lifetime extreme event exposure – especially in low-income countries.
The impacts of climate change on the food system are a key concern for societies and policy makers globally. Assessments of the biophysical impacts of crop productivity show modest but uncertain impacts. But crop growth is not the only factor that matters for the food production. Climate impacts on the labour force through increased heat stress also need to be considered. Here, we provide projections for the integrated climate-induced impacts on crop yields and worker productivity on the agro-economy in a global multi-sector economic model.
Constraints and limits to adaptation are critical to understanding the extent to which human and natural systems can successfully adapt to climate change.
Effects of climate change on combined labour productivity and supply: an empirical, multi-model study
Although effects on labour is one of the most tangible and attributable climate impact, our quantification of these effects is insufficient and based on weak methodologies. Partly, this gap is due to the inability to resolve different impact channels, such as changes in time allocation (labour supply) and slowdown of work (labour productivity). Explicitly resolving those in a multi-model inter-comparison framework can help to improve estimates of the effects of climate change on labour effectiveness.
The study calculates the impact of an additional half degree of warming between 1.5°C and 2°C for hundreds of millions of people in South Asia, a region that is already experiencing lethal heat events. It finds that governments can virtually halve exposure to potentially lethal temperatures if global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C are successful.
This study, led by scientists from Climate Analytics, an international climate science and policy institute, is first to show that just half a degree of extra warming between 1.5°C and 2°C makes a big difference in terms of heat stress risk posed to Muslims carrying out religious rites in Saudi Arabia during summer, where the mercury frequently climbs over 45°C even now.
Explore 1.5°C national pathways for countries and sector-specific decarbonisation benchmarks derived from global IPCC pathways compatible with the Paris Agreement.
This tool shows how the severity of climate change impacts will increase over time in continents, countries and provinces at different levels of warming, starting with 1.5°C, the limit in the Paris Agreement. It also allows access to the underlying data.
How are we tracking against the Paris Agreement 1.5°C limit?
For more than a decade, the Climate Action Tracker, a collaboration between Climate Analytics and the New Climate Institute, has been assessing governments’ targets and climate action and measuring these against the globally agreed Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
On targets, there has been progress. According to its latest update, published just ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, if all national governments meet their 2050 net zero emissions targets, warming could be as low as 2.1˚C by 2100, putting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C limit within striking distance.
On real world action there has been less progress. Whilst ‘current policies’ warming projection have fallen from 3.6˚C in 2015 to 2.9˚C today, the gap between targets and action remains huge. The improvements have come from governments implementing new policies, increased use of renewable energy, a downturn in the use of coal, and lower economic growth assumptions (both prior to, and because of, the pandemic), but this all by far insufficient. Current NDCs imply not much further increase of greenhouse gas emissions until 2030 at best. But to limit warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut in half over this period.
Closing this gap and achieving the Paris Agreement goal requires urgent and comprehensive action by all governments and across all sectors. In addition to evaluating the effect of current pledges and policies, the Climate Action Tracker also shows concrete steps governments can take to align their policies with 1.5°C.