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What if global warming passes 1.5°C?

What will happen if humanity fails to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations pledged to keep warming “well below” 2°C (compared to pre-industrial levels) this century, and promised efforts to keep it under 1.5°C.

But this target is getting “harder and harder to meet”, according to Professor Richard Betts, of the University of Exeter and the Met Office.

Professor Betts will speak at the COP24 climate conference in Poland on Wednesday, alongside Prof John Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who proposed the original 2°C ‘guardrail’ in 1995.

“Global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, and the world’s countries’ current pledges of emissions reductions are not enough to limit warming to 1.5°C,” Professor Betts said.

“Therefore it is ever more important that we understand consequences of missing the target and the risks that climate change above 1.5°C will bring.”

Professor Betts led the HELIX project, an international research programme examining the possible impacts of various levels of global warming.

The project’s findings suggest:

  • At global warming of 2°C, roughly an additional 43 million people per year could be affected by river flooding.
  • At 4°C, the extra number of people flooded could be around 157 million per year.
  • Some areas may see an increased risk of drought. Southern Europe, the Mediterranean and southern Africa are among the places expected to become drier overall.
  • At 2°C warming, 4-13% of developing countries were calculated as having a higher vulnerability to food insecurity than seen in any country in the world under the current climate.
  • At 4°C, unprecedented levels of food insecurity were calculated in one tenth - one third of developing countries.

Discussions at Wednesday’s event will focus on heat stress, water resources, river flooding and coastal flooding.  Dr Katy Richardson from the Met Office will discuss the implications for vulnerability to food insecurity.

Prof Schellnhuber will discuss the risks of tipping points in the climate system, including a perspective on the “Hothouse Earth” concept that was proposed in a widely-publicised paper earlier this year.

The event is from 11.30 - 13.00 in the Katowice conference centre, Area G, Room 6 and is open to all conference attendees.

You can watch a live broadcast of the event here and follow Helix Climate on Twitter at @helixclimate

Date: 11 December 2018

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