Your body thrives within a specific temperature range. At 37 degrees Celsius, you are on top of the world, crushing goals and routines. But what happens when the internal thermostat goes rogue? A fever sets in. It throws your whole system out of whack. It hurts to move, your mind is cloudy, and even the simplest tasks are hard.

Our planet is in the same situation. Like a fever, climate change is increasing the Earth’s natural temperature range. If global temperatures were to rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels, according to scientists, a chain reaction of disasters would occur. This reaction will cause economic and ecological collapse.

But hold on a second—what exactly is this 1.5°C, and why is it so important?

1.5°C, a Science-Based Line in the Sand

1.5% is not just a random number. It’s a scientifically derived limit established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. The climate change puzzle is being solved by hundreds of scientists from all over the globe who are part of this prestigious organization. They run complex climate models and analyze the data with great care. 

After much deliberation, the IPCC has come to the conclusion that the risks and adverse effects of climate change would be substantially amplified if global warming were to exceed 1.5°C.

Why 1.5°C?

The Earth’s climate has always fluctuated naturally. However, human activities since the Industrial Revolution have rapidly increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Thanks to this, heat has been trapped in the atmosphere, leading to a rise in global temperature. 

Although some degree of warming is unavoidable, experts have pinpointed 1.5°C as the crucial threshold. Here’s the logic:

Any increase in temperature is significant: The frequency and severity of heatwaves, droughts, floods, and storms are increasing as the global temperature rises. For instance, a study that was published in Nature Climate Change indicated that the likelihood of heatwaves surpassing historical extremes is already 2.8 times higher as a result of climate change. Moreover, this risk will only increase with each additional degree of warming.

Possible permanent alteration: If global temperatures rise above 1.5°C, the planet’s climate system is more likely to undergo permanent changes. Here are some scenarios:

  • Due to the rapid melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, sea levels are rising, posing a threat to coastal cities and communities.
  • Ocean currents are involved in regulating global climate patterns, and their disruption is a major concern.
  • The escape of permafrost-trapped methane, a powerful GHG, hastens the warming process even more.

A Manageable Target (for now): The goal of 1.5°C is ambitious. Still, we can get there if we significantly reduce emissions of GHGs, particularly CO2.

The Importance of the Threshold

Worldwide accords such as the Paris Agreement and state climate action plans are guided by the 1.5°C objective. It tells governments, businesses, and people that they need to cut their emissions quickly to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

It’s Not Set in Stone:

1.5°C is the ideal goal. Nevertheless, even keeping warming below 2°C would be significantly better than a higher increase. However, every fraction of a degree matters. As global warming progresses, action becomes increasingly urgent.

The 1.5°C mark is a boundary established by science, not a silver bullet. After this point, the dangers of climate change will be substantially greater. Armed with this information, we can work towards a greener tomorrow.

A Feverish Planet Beyond 1.5°C

Continuing with the idea of a fever, anything above 1.5°C is like a much higher fever. The body’s natural defenses struggle to cope. Hence, the risk of serious complications increases dramatically. Here’s a glimpse into what our planet might face if we cross that threshold:

  • Worsening Weather Conditions: Hot spells, droughts, floods, and storms will become more common and intense. Imagine that there is not enough water to fill up large areas, making them useless. Extreme heat can be fatal, especially for those already at risk. Extending global warming beyond 1.5 °C could cause certain areas to have summer temperatures that are too high for humans to survive, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Wildlife and Climate Change.
  • Elevated Ocean Level: Rising sea levels are already scary. Going beyond 1.5°C would hasten the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers. This will flood coastal towns and force millions of people to flee their homes. Iconic landmarks and cultural heritage sites could be lost forever. Environmental Research Letters published a study that warns coastal communities around the world that sea levels could rise by 3.3 feet (one meter) by 2100, even under a 1.5°C scenario.
  • Ecosystem Collapse: Climate change disrupts the delicate balance of ecosystems. Rising water temperatures are already bleaching coral reefs, and now, many of them could die off. Forests may face increased danger from pests and wildfires despite their vital role in sequestering CO2. The entire food web and Earth’s biodiversity would be devastated by the domino effect. If global warming were to surpass 1.5°C, many species would face an even greater threat of extinction, according to the IPCC report.
  • Food Safety at Risk: Scarcity of water, destruction of farmland, and other natural disasters might cause food prices to skyrocket and supply shortages to worsen. Just think of the social turmoil that could occur if grocery stores were to run out of stock. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), going beyond 1.5°C would make the already serious risks associated with climate change to world food security much worse.
  • Mass Migration: A worldwide humanitarian catastrophe could happen if millions of people are forced to flee their homes as a result of increasing sea levels, severe weather, and food insecurity. Under a 2°C warming scenario, the World Bank predicts that by 2050, climate change could force the displacement of up to 143 million people.

It’s Not Too Late

Fortunately, there is still time to prevent the worst-case situation. We can limit warming to less than 1.5°C if we reduce emissions of GHGs aggressively and in multiple ways. Here’s what we can do:

  • Governments: Increase funding for renewable energy and green technology while enforcing stronger limits on emissions. Important global accords like the Paris Agreement must be upheld.
  • Businesses: Invest in energy efficiency, switch to renewable power, and embrace sustainability practices. Adapting to a shifting market requires a sustainable business strategy.
  • Individuals: In order to lessen your impact on the environment, try taking the bus, riding your bike, or walking instead of driving. Use less energy when you are at home, buy eco-friendly items, and eat more plant-based foods. Big or small, every step helps the cause.

We must act swiftly to prevent global warming. The 1.5°C mark serves as a sobering reminder of this. It’s not just about numbers on a graph. It’s about the future of our planet and the well-being of generations to come. A healthy and sustainable future for all can be achieved if we join forces to keep Earth from getting a fever.

Remember, the fight against climate change is a marathon, not a sprint. The stakes are high, but the payoff—a sustainable world for all—could not be higher. Let us step up to the plate, welcome change, and create a future where people and the environment can coexist peacefully. Let’s keep our planet healthy and keep the fever down!

Find out how we can help at https://www.clima.com.au

By Clima