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.
The 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.
“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.
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.
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.“
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.
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.
“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
“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.