Despite Climate Change Activists’ Demands, 1.5°C Is Already Dead
SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — “We’ll either leave Egypt having kept 1.5C alive, or this will be the Cop where we lose 1.5C,” warned Alok Sharma earlier this week at COP27. Sharma is the former U.K. cabinet minister who chaired last year’s United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. The communiqué issued at the Bali G-20 summit earlier this week confirmed the commitment of the world’s largest economies to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” Actually, 1.5 degrees C is already dead.
First, some background. The 1.5 degrees C figure that Sharma wants to keep alive comes from the 2015 Paris Agreement in which signatories agreed to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” The World Meteorological Organization reports that the global average temperature for 2021 was 1.1 degrees C above the 1850–1900 baseline. Using the same baseline, the independent climate analysis group Berkeley Earth reported that the 2021 global average temperature was 1.2 degrees C higher and that the average over the Earth’s land areas was already 1.7 degrees C higher. Clearly, the world is even now bumping up against the 1.5 degrees C threshold.
So what would it take to keep the world from exceeding this temperature threshold? Only cutting global greenhouse gas emissions by around 45 percent between now and 2030, says the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Instead of falling, global greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase over 10 percent between now and the end of this decade, according to a U.N. asses
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