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The Stark Reality of the IPCC’s 1.5-Degree Climate Report―Should Congress Act?

by Axios | 10.5.18

On Sunday evening eastern time, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release its special report on the risks and benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, above preindustrial levels.

Why it matters: The report is expected to contain sobering findings about how difficult it will be to meet the 1.5-degree target, which is an aspirational goal contained in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Every country in the world — except the U.S. — intends to honor the 2015 agreement, and the report will help inform negotiators in the next round of climate talks, set for December.

By the numbers:

  • We are currently on track for global warming of between 2.7 to 3.7°C by 2100, according to Kelly Levin, a scientist with the nonpartisan World Resources Institute.
  • To meet the 1.5-degree target, we'd need to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, and negative emissions thereafter, using carbon removal technologies.
  • Emissions in 2030 would also need to be about 50% less than 2010 levels.

Yes, but: Current emissions projections show the world is on track to increase emissions through 2030.

Between the lines: Some climate scientists are making clear that the 1.5-degree target, which is seen as low-lying island nations' best hope for long-term survival, is effectively out of reach. For example, the report is expected to call for a scaling up of carbon removal technologies, such as direct air capture, in order to reach negative emissions as soon as possible.

That alone will be a heavy lift, since these technologies are currently in their infancy.

"Overall, the idea that we can limit warming to 1.5°C is so ridiculous that it doesn't seem to even merit thinking about it," said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

"It is technically feasible for me to fly to the moon in the next 10 years, but it is clearly not feasible in a broader sense. With 1.5°C it is potentially feasible from a technical perspective, but unless the political, social and technical aspects of feasibility are aligned, it is not going to happen."

— Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway

Tom Damassa, climate program director at Oxfam America, told Axios that even 1.5 degrees of warming will cause hardships for millions.

We're already seeing widespread changes due to the nearly 1-degree of warming experienced so far. "1.5 [degrees] was never going to be some sort of magical threshold. I hope what the report makes clear is there is no safe level of climate change,” Damassa said.

Andrew Freedman

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Axios

Written by Axios

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(32)
  • Chickie
    10/05/2018
    ···

    This scientific report of the state of our world due to global warming will fall on deaf ears. Soon the US, (with ‘I like beer’ Kavanaugh added to the Supreme Court), will have all three branches of our government decidedly Republican. An unbiased Supreme Court has become a part of our history. As long as our government ignores scientists, engineers, etc., and instead endorses ignorant statements such as ‘clean coal’, the U.S. (as a country), cannot contribute to diminish positively to reversing global warming. Yet, there is hope that in state governments, cities, towns and boroughs, we will do what our current government hasn’t the intelligence to do. We will recycle, we will lessen our carbon footprint, we will participate in clean ups on our roads/highways/beaches, we will plant trees, we will protest to stop oil pipelines that will destroy our National Parks, lands and homes of Native Americans and wildlife habitats. We will unite to do what we can do to leave this country, this world, a better place for our children, grandchildren and beyond.

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  • Hulagurl1
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    It is pathetic to see with all the disasters that have been happening in this world people still have the mentality “oh well nothing we can do” attitude. Global warming is happening people wake the heck up. We need to start taking care of our planet. Stop polluting, littering and cutting corners with illegal dumping in our oceans. You fill your vehicles up with gas and they furnish trash cans, but I still see people throwing trash out their car windows. If you don’t care about the planet. Why should we care about you!

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  • Brian
    Voted No
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Their report has always been seriously off. We should only support a mild approach to minimizing our impact on the environment, and only one that is fair to all countries.

    Like (3)
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  • Will
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Gee whiz... it sure would be a YUGE waste of time if we ended up with a cleaner planet to pass down to the following generations... I fail to see the downside to preparing ourselves as a species for the INEVITABLE realization that yes, if there’s enough people, we can damage and hurt our home planet. You know what organism consumes all resources to the detriment of the host? A virus. Congratulations people, we have devolved.

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  • S.
    10/05/2018
    ···

    The white house recently released a report projecting a greater than 7° increase. Their take is that there's nothing we can do about it, so why even try. It's sad that the people with all the power claim to be powerless. We're all going to die horribly and it's the fault of developed nations like the United States for taking more than their fair share for decades, emitting more and more emissions and then leaving the Paris Accord. On this one issue alone, the US government has invalidated it's authority.

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  • TexasTRex
    Voted No
    10/05/2018
    ···

    The Earth is going through a warming cycle and then will go through a cooling one. I do think it is wise to always be mindful, but excessive regulations, especially those directed at limited countries just aren’t fair. As a scientist, the methods of data collection are questionable and data is always interpreted with one’s worldview bias.

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  • Nancy
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    We must take care of our planet. By ignoring science, we are destroying our children’s future. Without our planet, we have nothing!! We must do whatever we can to reverse climate change: or else, nothing else will ever matter again! PLANET FIRST!

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  • stoc1173
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Global warming is getting out of hand. Just look at the intensity of the recent weather patterns. We are moving towards the substantial loss of coastal areas and an increasing risk of flooding and other natural disasters. Please support legislation to bring sanity back to the worlds industries and governments. Endorse the carbon tax and block imports from those short sighted countries that are rapidly making Earth a less friendly place to live.

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  • Milan
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    We have one planet - one home. what is the discussion?

    Like (4)
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  • Diane
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Please support bills that will monitor and reduce carbon emissions to meet the goals set.

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  • Sharknader
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Of course congress should act on this. If we have nowhere to live or nothing to eat, how can we enjoy the partisan circus? /// or maybe not, let’s just sit and wait and get rich off people’s declining health and declining environment. Yeah, let’s do that. I’m sure we can take all that money with us when we die and it’ll make a huge difference for your kids who will be coughing up their lungs as there will be no clean air to breathe. Yeah, good plan.

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  • Sharknader
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Whatever we can or cannot control with respect to the climate is an open question. But if I go dump a ton of oil and other shit in your backyard, you would not like it.

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  • ConservativeGuy
    10/05/2018
    ···

    We can not control the climate. I can’t believe we are still discussing this hogwash.

    Like (3)
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  • Joelc67
    Voted Yes
    10/05/2018
    ···

    Science is not fiction or fake news. We really need our representatives to step up an act for our country, not just vote along party lines. I’m getting really tired of tribal extremist politics. We need equal representation on both sides of the aisle.

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  • winterweather61
    Voted Yes
    10/06/2018
    ···

    If something is not done it will get worse. It is real and it will affect so many people.

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  • Lena
    10/06/2018
    ···

    It’s time to make a change! Climate change is real and if we don’t act quicker than we have been, it will be too late to create a safe space for the generations after us! - New York

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  • David
    Voted No
    10/05/2018
    ···

    No!

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  • Ann
    Voted Yes
    10/06/2018
    ···

    Just a few years ago the majority didn’t think climate change would affect them. I think the many in the paths of tropical storms, horrendous fires may have changed their minds. We are now the only country in the world NOT in the Paris agreement (technically still in but ..) it makes us look really stupid and scientifically challenged. Time to push back on trumps nominees pushing “alternative science facts” we need to listen to scientists in 97-98% category and have them involved in so many things.

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  • Suzanne
    Voted Yes
    10/06/2018
    ···

    We need to act now!!!

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  • Judith
    Voted Yes
    10/07/2018
    ···

    ONLY WHEN DEMS TAKE BACK THE SENATE AND HOUSE IN NOVEMBER WILL ANYTHING POSITIVE HAPPEN WITH CLIMATE CHANGE. EARTH HEATING EQUIVALENT TO FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND NUCLEAR BOMBS EVERY DAY ! VOTE BLUE TSUNAMI IN NOVEMBER !! 🌊🌊🌊🌊

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  • Joseph
    Voted Yes
    10/06/2018
    ···

    We need to do more to curb climate change globally this is about our children and grand children

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