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Apr 14 2023

The 1.5-degree, Simplified | Why, What and How of 1.5 degree challenge for climate action?

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The 1.5-degree, Simplified | Why, What and How of 1.5 degree challenge for climate action?

Is there a globally accepted plan to meet the 1.5-degree target?

What framework do most countries and organizations follow to fulfill the requirements of the 1.5-degree pledge?

Are there specific regulations or guidelines in place for industries to support the 1.5-degree commitment?

What are the strategies and best practices for companies to align their operations with the 1.5-degree target?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a significant report called the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15) on October 8, 2018. This report, which was prepared by 91 authors from 40 countries and includes over 6,000 scientific references, was requested during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Its purpose was to provide governments with a comprehensive and authoritative scientific guide to address climate change.

The main finding of the report is that it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), but it would require substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and unprecedented societal changes. By achieving this target, we can mitigate the negative impacts on ecosystems, human health, and overall well-being. On the other hand, if global temperatures were to increase by 2 °C, we would face more severe consequences such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, melting Arctic ice, coral bleaching, and the loss of crucial ecosystems.

According to the report's models, in order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to decrease by approximately 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, ultimately reaching a state of "net zero" emissions around 2050. The challenge of reducing emissions by 2030 and implementing the necessary changes for rapid decarbonization was a major focus of the report, receiving widespread attention and discussion worldwide.

Why does below 1.5 degree emissions matter for planet?

Limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is a critical goal for the planet because it represents a threshold beyond which the impacts of climate change become much more severe and potentially irreversible. The goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees was set by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

Here are some of the key reasons why staying below 1.5 degrees of warming matters:

Climate-related Disasters: As temperatures rise, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires increase. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would help mitigate these disasters and reduce their impacts on communities and ecosystems.

Sea Level Rise: Higher temperatures lead to the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, causing sea levels to rise. Staying below 1.5 degrees would help slow down the rate of sea-level rise, reducing the risk of inundation for low-lying coastal areas and island nations.

Biodiversity Loss: Warmer temperatures and changing climate conditions threaten many plant and animal species. Staying below 1.5 degrees would provide a better chance for ecosystems to adapt and reduce the risk of widespread species extinction.

Coral Reefs: Coral reefs, which are vital marine ecosystems, are highly sensitive to temperature increases. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees would increase the chances of survival for many coral reefs compared to higher temperature targets.

Food Security: Climate change affects agriculture and food production. Staying below 1.5 degrees would help reduce the negative impacts on crop yields and food security for vulnerable populations.

Water Resources: Many regions are already experiencing water stress due to changing precipitation patterns. Staying below 1.5 degrees would help preserve freshwater resources and reduce water scarcity.

Health Impacts: Rising temperatures can exacerbate heat-related illnesses and the spread of infectious diseases. Staying below 1.5 degrees would help protect human health and reduce the strain on healthcare systems.

Social and Economic Impacts: Climate change can lead to displacement and migration as people are forced to leave areas affected by extreme weather events or changing environmental conditions. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees can help reduce social disruptions and economic losses associated with such migrations.

It's important to note that achieving the 1.5-degree goal requires substantial and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This involves global cooperation, strong climate policies, technological advancements, and changes in individual behaviors to transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future. The longer we delay in taking action, the harder it becomes to limit warming and avoid the most severe consequences of climate change.

What would happen if we go beyond 1.5 degree temperature rise?

If global warming goes beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the consequences become even more severe and potentially irreversible. The impacts of climate change intensify, affecting various aspects of the environment, society, and the economy. Here are some of the key consequences of surpassing the 1.5-degree target:

Extreme Weather Events: More frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires are expected, leading to a higher risk of weather-related disasters that can cause significant damage to communities and infrastructure.

Sea Level Rise: As temperatures rise, polar ice caps and glaciers melt, leading to higher sea levels. Beyond 1.5 degrees, the rate of sea-level rise accelerates, resulting in increased coastal flooding and the potential displacement of millions of people living in low-lying areas and small island nations.

Ecosystem Disruption: Many ecosystems become more vulnerable to disruption, leading to shifts in plant and animal distributions, loss of biodiversity, and potential ecosystem collapses.

Coral Reefs: Beyond 1.5 degrees, the majority of coral reefs are at risk of severe degradation or dying off, impacting marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions of people who rely on coral reef ecosystems.

Food and Water Security: Agricultural productivity may decline in many regions due to changing climatic conditions, affecting food availability and prices. Additionally, water resources may become scarcer, further challenging food production and availability.

Health Risks: Rising temperatures can lead to increased heat-related illnesses and the spread of infectious diseases, putting a strain on healthcare systems and public health.

Economic Consequences: The increasing frequency and severity of climate-related disasters can result in significant economic losses and disrupt global supply chains.

Climate Migration: As the impacts of climate change worsen, people may be forced to migrate from regions that become uninhabitable due to extreme weather events, water scarcity, or rising sea levels.

Tipping Points: Beyond 1.5 degrees, there is a higher risk of triggering tipping points in the Earth's climate system, such as the release of large amounts of methane from thawing permafrost, which could lead to further warming and runaway climate change.

Social and Political Instability: Climate-related challenges, such as resource scarcity and migration pressures, can exacerbate existing social and political tensions, leading to conflicts and instability.

It is crucial to understand that exceeding the 1.5-degree target makes it increasingly difficult to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, global efforts to limit warming and transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future are of utmost importance to minimize the risks associated with climate change and protect the well-being of current and future generations.

How to set a target for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at the corporate level?

Setting a target for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at the corporate level requires a comprehensive and science-based approach. Here are the steps a company can take to establish such a target:

Understand the Science: Begin by familiarizing the company's leadership and stakeholders with the scientific basis for the 1.5-degree target, as outlined in reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other reputable scientific bodies. Understanding the urgency and severity of climate change will build support for ambitious action.

Conduct a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory: Assess the company's greenhouse gas emissions across its entire value chain, including direct emissions (Scope 1), indirect emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2), and other indirect emissions from sources like transportation and waste (Scope 3). This inventory will serve as a baseline to measure progress and identify areas for emissions reduction.

Set Science-Based Targets: Collaborate with reputable initiatives like the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to set emissions reduction targets in line with the 1.5-degree goal. Science-based targets are based on the best available climate science and ensure that the company's contribution aligns with the global effort to limit warming to a safe level.

Adopt Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Transition to renewable energy sources for electricity and other energy needs. Improve energy efficiency across operations to reduce overall energy consumption and emissions.

Decarbonize the Supply Chain: Work with suppliers and partners to reduce emissions in the company's supply chain. Encourage suppliers to set their own science-based targets.

Innovate and Invest in Low-Carbon Technologies: Encourage research and development of low-carbon technologies relevant to the company's industry. Invest in innovative solutions that can reduce emissions.

Promote Sustainable Practices: Implement sustainable practices throughout the organization, such as waste reduction, circular economy initiatives, sustainable transportation options, and eco-friendly product design.

Report and Track Progress: Transparently report the company's progress toward the 1.5-degree target. Regularly track emissions data, achievements, and challenges, and communicate this information to stakeholders.

Engage Stakeholders: Engage with employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders to build support for the company's climate goals. Seek input and feedback on sustainability initiatives.

Collaborate and Advocate: Partner with other companies, industry associations, and NGOs to amplify the collective impact. Advocate for supportive climate policies and regulations at local, national, and international levels.

Ensure Accountability: Integrate climate and sustainability considerations into corporate governance structures. Hold executives and decision-makers accountable for achieving climate targets.

Continuous Improvement: Recognize that sustainability is an ongoing journey. Continuously reassess and update climate targets and strategies as new information and technologies become available.

By taking these steps, companies can play a crucial role in the global effort to limit global warming and contribute to building a sustainable and resilient future for both their business and the planet. Additionally, adopting ambitious climate targets can enhance a company's reputation, attract socially conscious consumers and investors, and create a more motivated and engaged workforce.

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