1.5C isn't much... or is it?
Have you been wondering what global temperature increases mean? We’ve been seeing "2°C increase by the middle of this century" splashed around social media, along with 1.5-2°C, but what does it really mean and why should we be worried?
Well, first of all these temperature projections are based on the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continuing as they are. Emissions from transport, factories, agriculture, etc., and we’ve been told in the 2021 IPCC report that we need to reduce emissions NOW because if we don’t then we could see catastrophic impacts well before 2040 (hello 2030 targets, not 2050!). The projected 1.5-2°C increase is the global average temperature, not your local area.
The global average in September this year was 0.90°C higher than the 20th century September average. Dangerously close to the 1.5°C we’ve been warned of, but some areas have already broken this limit and are baking.
While the average global temperature increases, hot places are getting even hotter – much more than a 1.5°C increase. The heatwaves we saw sweep around the world (Britain’s weather office released its first ever ‘extreme heat warning’ this year) will not only continue, but will increase in both duration and temperature. The increase in global average temperature is already causing humanitarian issues, with people dying in heatwaves, severe weather, mudslides, and food shortages from drought. While this is all happening before we’ve even reached the 1.5°C tipping point, the pressure is on because once we move beyond that point, the scale of disaster jumps massively. At 1.5°C, 132.5 million people are suffering from drought; at 2°C it becomes 194.5 million.
History tells us it’s POC and marginalised communities who will be most affected, and these are the communities who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. While “leaders” from around the world joined with delegates from the fossil fuel industry to make tokenistic pledges, people were suffering. We must use our voices and our votes at upcoming elections globally and elect members who understand the economic and humanitarian value of a strong response to the climate crisis. Our lives depend on it.
Refs: National Centers for Environmental Information, Climate Reality Project, WWF, BBC Science, CBC News, Climate Action Tracker.