Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Forgotten U.N. Climate Goal:  1.5°C

Haiti is among the nations at severe risk from rising seas. (Credit: Marco Dormino, UNICEF/Flickr)  Click to Enlarge.
While much of the attention on a historic Paris climate meeting in the coming weeks will focus on the confounding task of trying to keep global warming below 2°C, or 3.6°F, a battle over another goal — one that has been forgotten by many — will be playing out in the negotiating halls.

Delegates representing island states and others whose homelands are most threatened by rising seas will be pushing for the formal adoption of a long-overlooked goal, one that limits warming to less than 1.5°C, or 2.7°F.

Such a goal would be an ambitious one.  Some negotiators and onlookers already seem to have given up hope of limiting warming to less than 2°C, much less 1.5°C.  Fossil fuel burning, deforestation and other climate-changing hallmarks of industrialization have elevated temperatures 1°C since the 19th century, pushing tides up more than 8 inches.  Pledges submitted by nations ahead of the meeting to take steps to slow climate change could yet allow warming to soar to 3°C or more.

The longing by low-lying nations to limit warming to 1.5°C has been overshadowed since 2010 by a preoccupation by many with the less ambitious goal.  On Wednesday, the U.N. released the latest report to confirm that goal — to limit warming to 2°C, compared with preindustrial times — could be reached through massive globally cooperative efforts that overhaul energy supply chains and reform farming and forest management.

“We definitely think that staying below 2 degrees is still very possible,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters as the report was released.  “Getting down to the range of 1.5 should not be taken off the table either.”

Read more at The Forgotten U.N. Climate Goal:  1.5°C

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