February 24, 2024

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Opinion |  What no one at COP28 wanted to say out loud: prepare for 1.5 degrees

Opinion | What no one at COP28 wanted to say out loud: prepare for 1.5 degrees

This came with the IPCC’s “1.5°C Special Report on Global Warming”, published in 2018, which gave rise to climate strikers and the protest group Extinction Rebellion and breathed oxygen into the Sunrise and Deal movement. New green. . Even those concerned on the sidelines had a clearer sense of how short the timeline really was: avoiding truly dangerous global warming would require cutting global emissions nearly in half by 2030. We are now halfway through that period, and emissions are higher than ever. on it before. When the report was published.

The report also compiled the entire scientific literature on the two levels of warming, which has increased since then. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius could lead to the premature death of more than 150 million people due to air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels responsible for this level of global warming. Across the world, once-in-a-century flood events, which typically characterized local cultures or even entire civilizations for generations, are instead striking annually – and in some places more often. Most scientists believe that moving from 1.5 degrees to 2 degrees would be a death sentence for the world’s coral reefs. Many believe that, at this scale, the planet will permanently lose many of its ice sheets, which over the course of centuries could lead to sea levels rising enough to reshape the world’s coasts.

If warming exceeds these levels, its effects will also increase. For example, at 3 degrees, New York City could experience three 100-year flood events each year, and more than 50 times as many people in African cities would face dangerous heat conditions, as Bloomberg recently summarized. Forest fires will burn twice as much land globally, and the Amazon will no longer be rainforest but grassland. Potentially fatal heat stress, which is almost unheard of at 1.5°C, will become routine for billions at 2°C. According to a recent studyAnd above 3 degrees will affect places such as the American Midwest.

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In some ways, these forecasts may seem like old news, but as we now find ourselves adjusting to the possibility of a future shaped by rising temperatures of this kind, it may be telling to remember that, almost certainly, is when you first heard these forecasts. I was terrified. The age of climate reckoning was also, to some extent, a period of normalization, and while there are certainly reasons to move beyond apocalyptic politics toward something more realistic, one cost is a loss of perspective in technocratically negotiated events like these.

It may be somewhat fanciful to think that it is possible to limit temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But as writer and activist Bill McKibben says… It was recently suggestedThe mere mention of the goal has greatly shaped the work in the years since—including by asking us all to look squarely at what science has told us about what failure means. Five years later, despite all the progress that has been made, those risks are still the risks.