Breaching 1.5°C Threshold Across One Year Running out of time.

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Humans have caused major climate changes to happen and extreme weather is now a part of our lives.

For the first time, average global air temperature across the entire year was 1.53°C hotter than before industrialisation, the world’s sea surface was at its highest ever recorded average temperature and the extent of sea ice in the Earth’s polar regions was the lowest on record, according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

January 2023 to February 2024 was a year filled with more extreme droughts, searing heatwaves, intense rainfall, rising sea-levels, loss of wildlife and deadly disasters worldwide.

WHY IS 1.5°C A VITAL THRESHOLD?

In the last 200 years, scientists say that humans are responsible for almost all global heating. The surge in temperatures from 2023 is caused by humans burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – for energy. Greenhouse gasses are the primary cause supercharged by El Niño, a natural climate pattern with unusually warm surface waters, resulting in large-scale, long-lasting climate anomalies that can affect much of the globe.

This does not mean the limit set by the Paris Agreement has been exceeded. Francesca Guglielmo, senior scientist at C3S explained, “Nevertheless, having reached this level for such a sustained period – and rather abruptly if one considers the progression of global mean temperatures in the past at least three quarters of a year – may imply that the time between now and when the Paris Agreement limit is breached is shrinking.”

WHAT ARE WORLD LEADERS DOING?

The Climate Change Performance Index (CPPI) monitors the climate mitigation progress of 63 countries and the European Union since 2005, together responsible for more than 90% of global emissions.

As in previous years, the CPPI 2024 report revealed that not a single assessed country has acted in line with the 1.5°C limit, even though governments claim to put climate action on their agenda and renewable energy is booming in many countries.

There are big differences in ambition: Denmark is at the top of the index again (4th), followed by the climbers Estonia and Philippines (5th and 6th). China, the largest emitter, remains in 51st place, while the US has even dropped five places since last year (now 57th). The host of COP28, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran, and Saudi Arabia form the bottom trio (ranked 65th to 67th).

THE FINAL WARNING

March 2024 marks one year since the world’s leading climate scientists at Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report delivered a “final warning” that boiled down to one message: act NOW, or it will be too late. It reported that half of the global population experiences severe water scarcity for at least part of the year and more than 3bn people already live in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to weather extremes, “increasingly driving displacement” of people in Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America, and the south Pacific.

The 2023 IPCC report warned that to limit warming to 1.5°C or even 2°C  – countries will need to peak carbon emissions before 2025  – drop carbon  by 48% and methane by 1/3 before 2030. Reducing the use of fossil fuels should account for most of that, but this will not be enough with greenhouse gas emissions still accumulating in the atmosphere which drives extreme weather and devastating warming.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres proposed to the G20 group of highly developed economies a “Climate Solidarity Pact” through an Acceleration Agenda, which involves leaders of developed countries committing to reaching net zero as close as possible to 2040 and developing countries as close as possible to 2050.

“If governments just stay on their current policies, the remaining carbon budget will be used up before the next IPCC report [due in 2030],” said Kaisa Kosonen, a climate expert at Greenpeace International. This budget is the net amount of CO2 humans can still emit into the atmosphere to stay below 1.5°C.

ACTIONING SDGs

Every increase in temperature matters and humanity will find it more difficult and expensive the longer full decarbonisation is delayed.

The only way to help create a just, regenerative and sustainable future would be to action the Sustainable Development Goals.  Achieving SDG13 Climate Action and Net Zero emissions or better will help slow global warming.  Some call “better” as Climate Positive. The IPCC calls avoiding, reducing or removing more carbon emissions than we emit as Net Negative Emissions. It is vital to achieve them all by 2030.

It must be NOW!

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