IPCC set to warn that 2 degrees is no longer a “safe” degree of global warming

June 29, 2018

Posted by: Frances Lawson

In a revised version of the draft earlier mentioned in this blog, details of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest analysis of the impacts of different degrees of warming have just been leaked into the public domain.

The past few months seems to have resulted in a hardening of the IPCC’s views on the differences between a 1.5 degree warmer world and a 2 degree warmer. The previous version, leaked in January, stated that every additional 0.5 degrees of warming over the 1 degree that the earth is already experiencing would increase the risks of various impacts. That has now been beefed up to a “substantial increase” in the risks.

By way of illustrative example, a study published in April this year has allowed the IPCC to assess that at 1.5 degrees of warming, there is a high likelihood of one ice-free Arctic summer per century. At 2 degrees of warming, this is predicted to occur every decade.

While further changes to the IPCC report are likely before it finally sees the light of day, the essential premise – that 2 degrees of warming is no longer a “safe” scenario – seems now to be set in stone. With the Paris Agreement designed to deliver either 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees of warming, the message from the world’s leading scientists that the latter target, and indeed the official temperature target of the Paris Agreement, will have damaging and dangerous climatic impacts, with significant societal, humanitarian, economic and ecological effects, will inevitably call into question the adequacy of the Agreement. While the report will strengthen the hand of small-island states and other vulnerable nations, it remains to be seen the level of persuasion it will exert on those parties with the power in their hands.

As demoralising as the IPCC report is, on the domestic front, there is news that could, if it goes ahead, provide a faint glimmer of hope of achieving a “2 degree” or even a “1.5 degree” world. After a sustained campaign by ShareAction and others, the UK Government has just announced a consultation on new pensions regulations that would require pensions providers and their agents to reveal to customers their approach to managing climate risks and other ethical concerns. Given that there is perhaps no greater truism than “money makes the world go around”, a legal requirement to disclose how climate change risks are factored into decisions about how and where the vast sums held in pension funds are invested could mark a major shift in re-directing those sums away from climate damaging investments into those that support the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

To take part in the Government’s consultation, click here