In 1996, the European Union recognized 2°C as the maximum allowable temperature rise by year 2100. Since then, most developed nations have insisted on the 2°C target. But a new study reveals that the 2°C is ‘utterly inadequate’ for protecting us and other species from climate change. According to a study published in the journal Climate Change Responses, this target is still too high. The governments should aim for only 1.5°C increase through 2100 compared to the pre-industrialization times.
1.5°C target is the best bet
The study presents an inside view of the consequences of accepting 2°C as the average global warming target instead of 1.5°C. Petra Tschakert, a climatologist at the Pennsylvania State University, said that the 2°C target would carry a much higher risk of sea level rise, shifting rainfall patterns, and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heat waves.
Tschakert said a lower temperature rise target was the “best bet to prevent severe, pervasive, and potentially irreversible impacts” of climate change. While developed countries fully support the 2°C target, more than 100 low- and middle-income nations and island states have repeatedly voiced concerns. They insist on keeping the target below 1.5°C.
Climate change causing uneven distribution of risks
Climatologists are now re-evaluating the 2°C target. But there was no reference to 1.5°C target in the 2014 Lima Call for Action. The impacts of climate change are already visible. Recently, a group of researchers found that the Antarctic ice shelves have melted 18% in 18 years, and the pace is accelerating. Tschakert said that heat waves, floods and hurricanes would cause an alarmingly high risk in a 2°C warmer world.
Such extreme events would pose a threat to megacities like Shanghai, New York, Mexico City and Lagos. Recently Ethiopia emphasized the uneven distribution of risks in the African continent. Researchers said that climate change leading to only 1.5°C rise in global temperatures would keep sea level rise below one meter, saving almost 50% of the world’s corals. It would also leave some of the Arctic summer ice intact.