Remember the Science: 2°C is Not Safe

When working at a microscopic level, we know there is a danger of delegates losing perspective. In June, the presentation of the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) results saw intensive exchanges on new science, the impacts of climate change and how to keep warming at 1.5/2°C. But the end saw Saudi Arabia and others sideline an agreement to inform the ADP on their work and conclusions.

The SED found that the ‘guardrail’ concept, in which up to 2°C of warming is considered as relatively safe, is in fact inadequate due to the severe risks and potential irreversible impacts. Instead, the long-term goal should be defined as a ‘defence line’ and efforts should be made to put the line as low as possible. It’s important to note that more than 100 Parties already support limiting warming to 1.5oC, a group only likely to gain members in the run-up to Paris.

From the 10 key SED messages, ECO wants to reiterate three:

1) Warming of 2°C would lead to catastrophic impacts, slow down economic growth and hinder poverty reduction efforts considerably.

2) The world is not on track for a path towards a 1.5/2°C scenario. Past and recent global GHG emissions have accelerated, the emissions gap is growing, and the current Cancun pledges are more consistent with pathways limiting global warming to 3-4°C.

3) Keeping warming at 1.5/2°C is still achievable. Deep emission cuts are needed to keep warming at 1.5°C and below 2°C levels. This would require full decarbonisation of energy systems. Achieving this would not significantly affect global gross domestic product growth.

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