In a series of reports, scientists and climate experts have warned that limiting average global warming to 2°C by the end of this century is not enough to stop extreme weather impacts.
The 2°C threshold was originally set by the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, a document signed by 186 countries. By setting the threshold, the signing countries collectively agreed that they would limit their greenhouse gases enough to prevent the dangerous extremes in weather such a rise would cause. However, countries have since done little to actually limit their greenhouse gas emissions, and some scientists have warned that the two degree figure was never a safe limit anyway.
More scientists have now joined that camp.
In three reports commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an alliance of 20 countries chaired by the Philippines, scientists write that the 2°C limit is “inadequate, posing serious threats for fundamental human rights, labor and migration and displacement.”
The planet has already warmed by about 0.85°C since the 1880s. As Professor Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research told Renew Economy in December, “At one degree, we are already experiencing damages. Sea level rise in the long term…is somewhere in the vicinity of two meters. That puts cities like New York, Calcutta and Shanghai in difficult positions, and they need to protect themselves.”
The rising sea level poses a major risk to the Pacific Island states, which have previously requested a 1.5°C limit. The situation is so dire that the Pacific nation of Kiribati, which is projected to submerge in the next 30 years, has already purchased part of an island in Fiji to relocate its population. The Philippines is also experiencing its share of suffering from the elements, as a series of typhoons has devastated the islands over the last few years.
Typhoon Haiyan making landfall in 2013. (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Satellite Services Division).
“The reports underscore just how much difference even half a degree of additional heat makes for people’s lives, for working conditions and for the movement of people,” Mary Ann Lucille Sering, who heads the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said in a statement. “How can we possibly subscribe to more than double current warming given what less than one degree Celsius has entailed?”
The three reports specifically examine how global temperature increase will affect human rights, workers and migrations, respectively.
“Policymakers need to be made aware, in particular, of the significant negative repercussions of more hot hours and hot days on workforce productivity and therefore also GDP,” wrote Professor Tord Kjellstrom, who led the labor study. “Going up from 1.5 to 2.0 °C actually doubles impacts of this type. Tropical countries are worst affected, including most of the member states of the Climate Vulnerable Forum.”
“Even moving from one to two degrees of warming negatively affects the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights,” said John Knox, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment who led the human rights report.
The CVF hopes that this evidence will convince nations to lower the global warming limit at COP21, the major climate summit that will convene in Paris later this year.