What if we miss the target of 1.5°C? This is the question that opened the side event at the COP25 whose aim was to analyze the scenario that will inevitably come if we overcome the limit established by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above the pre-industrial levels. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2050 if it continues to increase at the current rate. This means that we must do something!
As Richard Betts (researcher at the University of Exter) said, “We evolved to be in a determinate range of temperature”. He focused the attention on the percentage of summer days with maximum Wet Bulb Globe Temperature above 32°C, which has been taken as the threshold for “extreme risk”. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is important because it takes into account also humidity, which is an important risk factor combined with high temperature. Studies show that, in some areas, “deadly” summer days and heat stress conditions will rise from 5-10% to more than 80% if, at the end of the century, we reach +4°C of global warming above the pre-industrial levels.
The second important change concern rainfalls. We can not say exactly how their distribution could be modified by global warming, they could either increase or decrease between 20% and 40%, or more in many areas, thus, determining a challenge for adaptation, especially where economic resources are limited.
Ros Cornforth, of the University of Reading, spoke exactly about adaptation: “We need not only science, but a knowledge about the relationships among people in order to face crisis and build resilience”. She argued that climate emergency could be an important opportunity for sustainable development, creating the conditions to reduce vulnerability of communities. To do that, data on the links between climate and livelihoods are necessary, and so “governments, with donors’ support, need to invest in decentralized data collection”, underlined the speaker.
A few examples were given to explain what the effects of global warming are. Lincoln Alvez (National Institute for Space Research of Brazil, INPE) described the Brasilian situation: Brazil is susceptible to hazards depending on its geography and climate conditions. Extreme events are becoming more intense and they are increasing in frequency. It is necessary to enhance civil society engagement and knowledge, also to contrast non-sustainable policies.
A similar scenario can be seen in Bangladesh, where the sea level rise is causing permanent inundations in some parts of the coastal area and long term meteorological droughts will increase in the future. These situations will potentially lead to migrations because of the high population density of some areas.
So what if we miss the target? We can not miss the target! “We have the tools and the technology, we need the political support that the world pretend”, said Antonio Guterres (Secretary-General of the United Nation) during the COP25 opening ceremony. We have to be ambitious and create a future where a frightening environmental scenario would exist only in science fiction films.