Every bit, every year, every choice we make matters, say climate change experts


Science reveals that maintaining global warming at 1.5°C is not impossible, but it isn’t just the responsibility of certain parties, it must be a concerted effort, and everyone needs to play their part. Photo: Pixabay

Since pre-industrial times, human activities have contributed to 1°C of global warming and the consequences towards people, nature and livelihoods are already apparent.

“At the current rate, we will reach 1.5°C in the very near future, between 2030 and 2052," says Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II vice chair Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira who was speaking at the “Climate Change: Challenges for Asian Nations” media webinar jointly organised by China Daily, University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai International Studies University, and Asia News Network.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II vice chair Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira. Photo: Dr Joy PereiraIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II vice chair Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira. Photo: Dr Joy PereiraThe difference of 0.5°C between 1.5°C or 2.0°C may seem small but its impact is great and can lead to serious implications on the lives of several hundred million people, according to Pereira.

Increased temperatures and drought leading to water shortages, increased precipitation leading to floods, and other climate change impacts can be reduced if global warming is maintained at 1.5°C instead of being allowed to increase to 2.0°C, she says.



“If we limit global warming to 1.5°C, several hundred million fewer people will be exposed to climate related risks and be susceptible to poverty,” says Pereira.

“It will mean less extreme weather where people live, including extreme heat and rainfall; lower sea level rise (10cm lower) by 2100, and 10 million fewer people being exposed to the risk of rising seas. There will be lower impact on biodiversity and species, smaller reductions in food crop yields like maize, rice and wheat, and half the amount of water shortages as well as lower risk to fisheries and livelihoods depending on them, ” she adds.

IPCC, the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, was jointly established by the World Meteorology Organisation (a specialised agency of the United Nations which looks after weather, climate and water resources) and the United Nations Environment Programme in 1988. In 2007, the work of the IPCC was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Its first findings have resulted in the establishment of UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) where the discussions on climate change are currently held.

Its latest report – the Fifth Assessment Report – has provided inputs into the Paris Agreement and IPCC is now in the cycle for the Sixth Assessment Report. In the Sixth Assessment Cycle, four reports have been released, with the remaining core reports from the working groups as well as the synthesis reports scheduled for release in the next two years.

A concerted effort

The majority of the emissions come from the energy (35%), agriculture (24%), industry (21%), transportation (14%) and building (6.4%) sectors.

"But, the good news is that it’s not too late to do something about the effects of global warming, ” says Pereira.

Keeping global warming at 1.5°C is not impossible, but it isn’t just the responsibility of certain parties, it must be a concerted effort, and everyone needs to play their part.“

Science reveals that it’s possible to control global warming, keeping it at 1.5°C, but political and societal will is needed to accelerate transformation, ” she says.

Since pre-industrial times, human activities have contributed to 1°C of global warming and the consequences for people, nature and livelihoods are already apparent. Photo: PixabaySince pre-industrial times, human activities have contributed to 1°C of global warming and the consequences for people, nature and livelihoods are already apparent. Photo: Pixabay

Climate change mitigation will also not adversely affect the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly to be achieved by 2030, namely: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, clean and affordable energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reducing inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

“IPCC has made an assessment of all the 17 goals and the results reveal that by carrying out climate change mitigation, we can still achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as it doesn’t deter their progress, ” says Pereira.

Different impacts

Pereira highlights that the impacts of climate change are different, depending on the geographic setting.

“For example, in Tropical Asia, the 1.5°C Report indicates that there are projections for heavy precipitation, net reduction in food crops, highest increases of the number of hot days, as well as the largest impact on economic growth, ” says Pereira.

“Differentiated impacts are manifested in the Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere for Tropical Asia, including marine heat waves, increase in wave heights, decline in fisheries' catch potential and reduced net primary production of oceans.

Increased temperatures and drought leading to water shortages, increased precipitation leading to floods, and other climate change impacts can be reduced if global warming is limited to 1.5°C. Photo: PixabayIncreased temperatures and drought leading to water shortages, increased precipitation leading to floods, and other climate change impacts can be reduced if global warming is limited to 1.5°C. Photo: Pixabay

“In the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, differentiated impacts are also evident, including land degradation, increased vegetation growth with higher rainfall, but with an opposite effect in drier areas.

“Most importantly, the temperatures will depend on the context: if there is increased forest cover, there is a cooling effect, and vice-versa, ” she says.

Pereira adds that dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require changes on an unprecedented scale, including deep emission cuts in all sectors, deploying a range of technology, behavioral changes, and an increased investment in low carbon options.

“We need to take urgent and far reaching actions in order to have a pathway compatible with 1.5°C global warming, ” she says.

"Global carbon emissions must peak before 2030 and carbon dioxide emissions should fall 45% by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050, with deep reductions in emissions.

“And, this calls for ethical and fair transitions, ” she adds.

Every bit, every year, every choice matters

Where global warming is concerned, every bit, every year and every choice matters. Photo: PixabayWhere global warming is concerned, every bit, every year and every choice matters. Photo: Pixabay

“Every bit of global warming matters. If we can limit it to 1.5°C, there is tremendous positive impact, as compared to 2°C, ” says Pereira.

“Also, every year matters, because the faster we take action, the lower the cost later, ” she says.

“And every choice matters, whether it’s the choice of a nation or an individual, it can change the pathway of global warming, ” she concludes.

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