IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC

The IPCC issued a Special Report in November 2018 entitled Global Warming of 1.5 ºC which reported on “the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.”  This report made clear that ecologic systems would fundamentally collapse and likely be unable to recover if we failed to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and by greater than 80% by 2050. Needless to say, even after decades of warnings from IPCC reports about global impacts of climate change, this report was a wake-up call to the world’s polical leaders and policymakers.

The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s premier body for assessing the science related to climate change and advising the leaders of the world’s nations about what should be done about climate change. Through the auspices of legions of volunteer scientists and experts around the world, the IPCC has been studying the causes and the impacts of climate change since1988.  They alternate between working on Assessment Reports and convening global leadership in conferences, called “COPs,” for “Conference of the Parties,” the parties being the nations of the world.  It is at these conferences that the nations meet to agree on steps to take to address climate change, with the Paris COP being the most recent conference at which an agreement was reached to try to limit warming to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and aspirationally to no more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

The IPCC prepares comprehensive, multi-faceted Assessment Reports about knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response options. The IPCC also produces Special Reports, which are an assessment on a specific issue, and Methodology Reports, which provide practical guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories.

The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC is available online and is something that everyone should read. They have broken it up into chapters, which make it much easier to find key pieces, however, as a scientific publication, it is not easy to read, largely because of the large number of scientific references cited.  Even the Summary for Policymakers is rather dense but is possibly the best way to review why it is so important to try to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC rather than 2.0 ºC.

Embedded in this huge report, in Chapter 2, the purpose of which is “Showing how emissions can be brought to zero by mid-century stay within the small remaining carbon budget for limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” the IPCC covers a range of alternative energy pathway scenarios.  Chapter “Evolution of primary energy contributions over time” starts out with this sentence:  “By mid-century, the majority of primary energy comes from non-fossil-fuels (i.e., renewables and nuclear energy) in most 1.5°C pathways (Table 2.6).”

If you have not read the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC but care about your future and the future of the world, you probably should.