Earlier today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5℃. Dubbed by the IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee as “one of the most important and most awaited report” in IPCC history, this report outlines what a 1.5℃ warming means and what it will take to meet this target.
So why does half a degree matter?
The report outlined the differences between a 1.5℃ and 2℃ warming targets. As it turns out, the differences are stark. In addition to fewer extreme weather events, lesser intensity or frequency of heat and heavy rainfall events, the impact on future sea levels would be significant. Half a degree less warming means about 1 cm (0.1 m) less increase in sea level on average by the end of the century (2100). As a result, at least 10 million fewer people would be exposed to sea level rise and associated impacts like flooding, salt water intrusion, and inundation.
Another key finding of the report is the significant difference in terms of the number of lives and livelihoods at risk, especially those that are dependent on fisheries. A half a degree less warming would mean up to several hundred million fewer people exposed to climate change-related risk and susceptible to poverty by the middle of the century (2050). Another striking difference is that the number of people exposed to water shortages will be cut to half (50%).
In addition, the report also highlights the undeniable linkage between climate change, sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Every bit of warming (half a degree or more) would mean a world of difference for the Philippines
The Philippines has long been vulnerable to climate-related challenges or more particularly extreme weather events. It is one of the many countries that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. The country is also among those that will be affected by sea level rise due to its archipelagic nature.
In recent years, the country has been affected by many intense tropical cyclones like Ompong, Lawin, Yolanda, and Pablo. In addition to the increasing losses and damages from these events, an increasing number of people and ecosystems are being affected by climate variability and changes such as drought, flooding, landslides and forest fires. If the world continues to warm, we might see more of these extreme weather events and changing magnitude of climate variability in the future.
While there is no specific study on what a 1.5℃world means for the Philippines, previous studies show that a certain degree of warming will result in a reduction in yield of rice (10% per 1℃ increase in nighttime temperature) and corn (up to 34-41% in 2020 in Isabela, for example). Future increases in sea level could affect the coastal communities, which make up to about 60% of the Philippine population, not to mention that a majority of our coastal population is highly dependent on fisheries. In addition, changes in climate would lead to increasing vulnerabilities and changes in our forest, water resources, biodiversity, food security, infrastructure, health and many other sectors.
The IPCC report further stresses the country’s need to take action in building climate resilience and sustainable development that would reduce climate change-related risks and impacts on ecosystems, human health, and well-being.
What will it take to achieve the 1.5℃ target?
According to the report, limiting warming to 1.5℃, while possible, is no easy task. As the IPCC puts it, “avoiding warming of more than 1.5 deg C would require changes on unprecedented scale”. The report mapped out four pathways that could be taken to limit global warming to 1.5℃. These present combinations of deep emission cuts from all sectors, a range of technologies, behavioral changes, and approaches to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
So, what now?
The scientific community, through the IPCC, has made it clear that half a degree would mean a huge difference in terms of risks and impacts of half a degree of warming for the world and among different regions, extremes and livelihoods. A 34-page “Summary for Policy Makers”, approved by all representatives from 195 nations, is available.
It is now up to governments not just to fulfill their long-term commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement, but to take unprecedented action to drastically and urgently cut carbon emissions and limit global warming.
For more information on the report, visit the IPCC website.
To know more about the Philippine climate and the potential impacts of climate change, visit the OML Center website and check out the State of the Philippine Climate and Philippine Climate Change Assessments.