A species that goes extinct at 2°C will still be extinct if you come back down to 1.5°C.

– Dr Stephen Cornelius

Our planet's dire challenge!

Amidst the global climate conferences, conventions, and agreements, the world has heard a figure several times, each time with a different sense of urgency: 1.5°C. Several nations, to cope with their lack of global environmental responsibility argued to raise this target to 2°C. However, this half a degree is more than just a number. It holds the power to shape the future of our only habitat planet.

In recognition of potentially irrecoverable threats of climate change, several nations signed Paris Agreement in 2015 to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C compared to that of pre-industrial levels. IPCC, in their 2021 report alerted that the world might hit 1.5°C by 2040. Where does the world stand if this materializes?

What will happen if we hit 1.5°C?

Coral reefs will disappear completely!

Coral reefs provide an underwater ecosystem for marine life and the cease of the coral reefs would result in the extinction of marine life. The shoreline will be at risk of erosion and sea levels will rise. Coral reefs are projected to decline by 80% at 1.5°C but if the global temperature rises higher than that, they will be completely lost.

What If Earth Lost All Its Coral Reefs?

Melting of ice

Melting glaciers will rise up the sea levels, which will, in turn, cause excessive storms and coastal erosion. The animals dependent on ice (polar bears, reindeer, etc) will perish and it will disturb the interlinked food chain. Permafrost melting will result in the emission of entrapped methane, thus worsening the climate even more.

NASA Climate Change: Disappearing Arctic sea ice

Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem

Plants and marine life will be the most strained species if we hit 1.5°C or higher. The extinction of these species will in turn disturb the entire food chain causing an imbalance in the ecosystem. It is projected that 25% of global biodiversity will be lost if the global temperature rise is not maintained under 1.5°C.

WWF: Wildlife in a warming world

Extreme heat waves and storms

Excessive heat waves and storms will cause a social imbalance by straining the limited water, power, and transportation resources. Drought, wildfire, and economic distress are a few of the common consequences of heat waves. Humans will have an increased rate of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Extreme droughts

Warmer temperature will result in drying out of water bodies, straining the soil and vegetation. Furthermore, the population migration resulting from drought will aggravate the societal resource imbalance.

Compromised human health

The increased heat waves, drought, and economic distress will result in extreme poverty and ill-health. Vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue will be widespread and the average life span will reduce.

We could have done better. We still can!

In the year 2000, it was forecasted that an annual reduction in emissions by 3% would suffice to keep up with the 1.5°C target. However, we did worse every year. Climate Brief in their study has concluded that the world will exhaust its 1.5°C carbon budget if the emissions fail to drop.

To still limit the global temperature below 1.5°C, the emissions shall reduce by an average of 15% annually until 2040. Every year passed without any reduction will only make the situation even grimmer. Be it Climate Brief, IPCC, or several scientists who have been yelling blue in the face, the political and personal zeal to turn the wheel never arose, and nor did it happen until the world saw the Chernobyl disaster. There shouldn’t be any difference with this comparison given the scale of destruction the climate change brings along.

Human-induced climate deterioration has already resulted in a 1°C rise since pre-industrial levels. Another half a degree is a challenge that can only be tackled with global climate awareness and a sense of responsibility we owe to this planet.

The eventual changes to save the planet can only begin if the national policies are climate-friendly but there are several actions that can be done on a personal level.

Check Out United Nation’s “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”

Act Now!