Last year on December 12th, 2015, 195 countries came together during the United Nations climate change conference and agreed by consensus, to a final global pact meant to curb global warming and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Agreement was created to make sure that global temperatures remain well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, recognizing that this would greatly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
The agreement was met with a lot of enthusiasm, and many scientists were pleased to see a more ambitious target being pursued. However many fail to realize that curbing global warming to 1.5°C is nearly impossible with the current rate at which change is being implemented.
There are a lot of misconceptions around global warming, and the perceived threat to life on earth is disconnected between the public and climate scientists; partly due to the medias reluctance to treat this as a true crisis.
In 2015, we saw the global average temperature already reach above 1°C and 2016 will be even hotter. February and March of this year have already reached 1.38°C, however this is largely due to this years strong El Niño which increases global temperatures. What should be taken from this is that we are already well underway to reaching temperatures of 1.5°C.
If the current world tempo continues as is, we will likely reach a global temperature of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2024, while the 2°C above pre-industrial levels range will follow closely by 2036. The 1.5℃ and 2℃ targets are designed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. What needs to be realized is that when these temperatures are reached, world environments will change greatly. We are already experience great environmental stress and ecological changes that are effecting many people and wildlife around the world.
Also, research has shown that the warm seas associated with the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in March 2016 would have been almost impossible without climate change.
Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, from heatwaves in Australia to heavy rainfall in Britain.
These events are just the beginnings of the effects of climate change. Worse is almost certainly set to come as we continue to warm the planet.
It’s highly unlikely we will achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, but that doesn’t mean governments should give up. It is vital that we do as much as we can to limit global warming.
The more we do now, the less severe the impacts will be, regardless of targets. The simple take-home message is that immediate, drastic climate action will mean far fewer deaths and less environmental damage in the future.