Ahead of the publication of a major report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees, a ’themed issue’ consisting of 20 papers has been published.
Commissioned by the Royal Society, the issue entitled ‘The Paris Agreement: Understanding the physical and social challenges of a warming world of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels’ has been edited, and contributed to, by Dr Dann Mitchell (@ClimateDann) from the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences and Cabot Institute.
It is published today in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A and is the culmination of an international conference hosted by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI) in 2015 which explored the challenges for science and society.
Dr Mitchell said: “The papers in this Issue demonstrate that it is still statistical possibility for warming to be limited to 1.5C in the context of sustainable and equitable development, but it remains to be seen whether the likelihood of avoiding negative impacts by stabilizing the climate will be sufficient to motivate action on the scale and pace required to meet the Paris goals.”
Co-author and guest editor, Professor Myles Allen, from the Oxford ECI, added: “The Paris Agreement laid down a very specific challenge to the academic community, to assess the impacts of 1.5 degrees of warming and associated emission pathways, and it is heartening to see how many groups have stepped up.”
The papers are broadly grouped to explore the feasibility of the Paris Agreement goals; the trade-offs for stabilizing climate at 1.5°C; and the lessons learned. Highlights include:
- Millar and Friedlingstein provide a best estimate of 920GtCO2 for the remaining carbon budget - the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in order to have a 50 percent chance of emissions remaining below 1.5°C. They suggest this is statically achievable but that strategies to reduce carbon emissions need to hedge against the possibility that their estimates are too low and any action required may need to go further.
- The transition to a carbon-free system needs to expand beyond the current focus on technical solutions, to include social change at all levels, bringing in citizens, business models and governance (Eyre et al). Large-scale removal of carbon dioxide will be required but it will need to be made commercially viable through policy intervention and industrial mobilization on a scale far greater than currently evident (Haszeldine).
- Strong policy measures to keep within 1.5°C will be essential to share the burden of inequality (Shu). Small island states are already committed to feel the effects of sea level-rise to at least 2300, for example, which at best, will only be slowed if climate is stabilized at 1.5°C (Nicholls). Long-term adaptation remains essential for small island states, cities and other vulnerable populations to adapt.