Why a Half Degree Rise in Global Temperature Would Be Catastrophic

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising,
droughts are more frequent, extreme weather events more common– This is climate change
in action, and you’ve heard it all before. But a major report just came out that looks
at how close we are to this irreversible damage, and it’s looking bad. Real bad. Back in 2015, the world’s leaders came together
to solidify a plan to combat climate change. The resulting Paris Agreement set a goal to
hold “the increase of global average temperature to well below 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial
levels” and added the intent of “limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C. But now,
in October of 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or the IPCC, compiled
the results of over 6,000 scientific studies and released a new report. The main takeaway? At our current rate, global average temperature
is likely to rise 1.5°C between as early as 2030.This means, we only have 12 years
to make drastic changes, or we’ll miss our target. The difference between 1.5 and 2 may seem
small, and and it’s hard to imagine how half a degree could make much of an impact. But using climate models, scientists can predict
what that half a degree actually means for our planet. And, well, it means a lot. First there’s the arctic. At 1.5 degrees warming, arctic sea ice will
still last through most summers, but at 2 degrees, ice-free summers become 10 times
more likely. This would not only be devastating for arctic
wildlife, but would reduce the albedo, or the amount of light being reflected away from
earth, causing even more warming. Ice melt coupled with rising temperatures
means sea level rise. At 1.5 degrees warming, average sea level
rise could be somewhere between 26 and 77 centimeters. At 2 degrees, that range could go up a whole
10 centimeters. That change could expose about 10 million
more people to harmful flooding than if warming stays at 1.5. A warmer world also means that fresh water
will become even more scarce. At 1.5 degrees, severe drought will likely
affect 350 million people, but at 2 degrees, that number grows to about 411 million people. Heatwaves get worse, too. At 1.5 degrees, about 14% of the world’s
population will be exposed to severe heat waves, and at 2 degrees that number more than
doubles, raising to a whopping 37%. Then, there’s the coral reefs. At 1.5 degrees warming, 70-90% of coral reefs
die. At 2 degrees, that number grows to greater
than 99%, meaning virtually all coral reefs will disappear. This would be devastating to marine biodiversity
and affect nearly 500 million people who rely on them for storm protection, food, jobs and
recreation. If none of this phases you, a separate study
published in Nature looked into how many people could die from that half degree rise. They found that due to air pollution alone,
an additional 150 million people could die if we hit 2 degrees. And that’s not even including the likely
deaths by heat wave, drought, and famine. So what can we do? Well, the report makes it clear that the pledges
made in the Paris Agreement will not be enough. It not only states that these goals won’t
keep us under the 1.5 degree mark, but that they could result in a warming of THREE DEGREES
by 2100. A whole degree higher than what the world
decided should be an upper threshold. To prevent this, the report states that we
have to drastically reduce CO2 emissions well before 2030, and at faster rate than we ever
have before. And while highly unlikely, scientists are
stressing that keeping warming to 1.5 degrees is still possible. Projections suggest it would require CO2 emissions
to take a nosedive and then operate in the negatives towards the end of the century. While there’s no definitive plan yet, it
would likely involve steep, across the board investment in renewables, the electrification
of huge energy sectors that currently run on fossil fuels, and rapid advances in negative
emission technologies that can suck carbon out of the air. Among other things– like a carbon tax, a
world-wide reduction in meat consumption, a decline in population growth, and maximized
global energy efficiency. So yeah, it will take quite literally everything
we’ve got, but it’s possible. So what do you think, can we do it? Negative emission technologies could be a
big player in our fight against climate change, but how feasible are they? We’ve got a video coming about about that
soon. And to stay up to date with all the latest
climate news, make sure to subscribe. Thanks for watching Seeker.

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