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Why is the Limit of 1.5C Global Warming Important? 

30 January 2024

Global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other vegetation removal, is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity today. Based on the science and extensive modelling, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set a goal of keeping global warming to 1.5C or less above pre-industrial levels, to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.   

The primary reason to limit warming to 1.5C or less is the potential for irreversible damage to the planet’s ecosystems. As temperatures rise, coral reefs, rainforests, and other vital habitats are at risk of dying off, leading to the loss of biodiversity and the collapse of entire ecosystems. These ecosystems provide vital services to humanity, such as pollination, water purification, and climate regulation. Losing them would have a devastating impact on our planet and on our ability to sustain human life. 

The impacts of global warming on the world’s economy and food supply are also a major concern. As temperatures rise, crop yields are expected to decline, and extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and altered growing season temperatures, are likely to become more common. This would lead to food shortages and increased prices, which would hit developing countries the hardest. Additionally, the economic costs of climate change on infrastructure, such as the cost of rebuilding after extreme weather events and the cost of adapting to rising sea levels, are expected to be enormous. 

Another vital reason to keep global warming to 1.5C or less is the impact it would have on the world’s most vulnerable populations. Rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events, would have a disproportionate effect on low-lying island nations, coastal communities, and developing countries. These populations are already struggling to adapt to the effects of climate change, and a warming of more than 1.5C would exacerbate their difficulties. 

The health and wellbeing impacts are also of great concern, not just through obvious extreme weather events, but the spread of infectious diseases, stress on health services, air pollution, and mental health issues.    

In recent years global temperature rise has hovered around 1.2C above preindustrial levels. The  World Meteorological Organization predicts a 66% chance of breaching 1.5C by 20281. Effects of climate change are already apparent, e.g. disrupted weather patterns, collapsing ice sheets, coral bleaching. We urgently need to adapt to a climate-changed 1.5C world and reduce greenhouse gas emissions if climate catastrophe is to be avoided, or at least postponed. 

There are many compelling reasons to strive to keep global warming from exceeding 1.5C. The impacts of a warming planet on vulnerable populations, ecosystems, and the economy will be devastating, and  is already becoming apparent. It is crucial that we take urgent and decisive action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Only by working together, can we hope to achieve this goal and ensure a stable and habitable planet for future generations. 






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