The 2018 IPCC Special Report

The 2018 IPCC Special Report

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

Answer:  In 2016, the 196 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 relative impacts of global temperatures rising to 1.5°C versus 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels. It also explores pathways to stay within these limits, including the essential role of strong 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. [2] If warming exceeds 1.5°C, climate risks will increase in magnitude – for example, warming to 2°C would expose 10 million more people to sea level rise and 420 million more to extreme heatwaves. [3]
  • High prices on GHG emissions will be necessary to cost-effectively meet a 1.5°C goal. If emissions are cut too slowly, meeting a 1.5°C target will require removal of CO2 from the atmosphere via large-scale biomass pathways. [4,5]
  • To stay below 1.5°C while avoiding dependence on CO2 removal, fossil GHG emissions must be cut 45 percent by 2030 and near 100 percent by 2050. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act pricing structure meets those targets at least out to 2040.

In any plausible scenario to minimize the future costs of climate change, the first step must be to rapidly cut fossil fuel emissions. Carbon pricing is the most economically efficient way to do that. Based on IPCC modeling, the pricing schedule in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is consistent with temperatures well below 2°C and possibly 1.5°C. The annual fee increase can also be raised to further strengthen it if emissions targets are not being met.