The Latest IPCC Report

The Latest IPCC Report Laser Talk

Question:  What have we learned from the latest IPCC report?

Answer: In 2016, the 195 nations who signed the Paris Agreement asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to study the implications of a 1.5°C global temperature target. Their report, entitled Global Warming of 1.5°C, was released in October 2018. [1]

This report clarifies the benefits of holding the modern-day rise in global average temperature to 1.5°C rather than 2.0°C. It also explores possible pathways to stay within these limits, including the role of carbon pricing.

Some key takeaways:

  • We now can assess the risks of warming beyond 1.5°C, because some regions have already reached that level and experienced “profound alterations to human and natural systems … linked in turn to rising migration and poverty.”[2]
  • If warming exceeds 1.5°C, climate risks will increase in magnitude and could possibly set in motion irreversible changes like polar ice sheet collapse and the loss of all coral reefs. [3]
  • Staying below 1.5°C requires cutting fossil GHG emissions at least 40 percent by 2030 and near 100 percent by 2050, and will likely also require some removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through extensive reforestation, large-scale agricultural changes, and bioenergy with carbon capture. These measures carry the risk of land use conflict, but the more we overshoot 1.5°C, the more of them we will need. [4,5]
  • Under any circumstances, high prices on GHG emissions will be necessary to cost-effectively stay below 1.5°C – prices 3 to 4 times higher than those required to stay below 2°C.

The IPCC report underscores the importance of quickly adopting strong carbon pricing. Most importantly, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act [6] would cut emissions 50 percent by 2034, a level consistent with the IPCC recommendation for staying below 1.5°C.

In a Nutshell: Science now tells us that if average global temperature rises more than 1.5°C, the consequences for nature and our civilization will be dire. Strong, effective carbon pricing must be a part of any plan to achieve this.

  1. Global Warming of 1.5°C. Special Report SR1.5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018).
  2. Allen, M., et al. “Chapter 1: Framing and Context.” Part of Special Report SR1.5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018).
  3. Hoegh-Guldberg, O., et al. “Chapter 3: Impacts of 1.5°C global warming on natural and human systems.” Part of Special Report SR1.5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018).
  4. Allen, M. et al. “Technical Summary.” Part of Special Report SR1.5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018).
  5. “Characteristics of Four Illustrative Model Pathways.” Part of Special Report SR1.5 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Oct 2018).
  6. “Carbon Fee and Dividend Bill Would Help Reduce Climate Pollution, Protect Americans.” Environmental Defense Fund. (1 Apr 2021).

This page was last updated on 05/01/2021 at 12:30 CDT.

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