The climate clock counts down the time left to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The bad news is that we have a few years only, not decades, before the clock runs down. The good news is that we have the power to add more time to the clock – but only if we act together with much greater urgency on reducing greenhouse gases.
Why is 1.5 degrees such a big deal?
Higher temperatures worsen droughts and wipe out crops. Warmer air holds more water that causes heavier downpours and flash flooding. Winter storms become more extreme and devastating. Summer heatwaves drag on and threaten more lives. The list goes on… Exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius global average warming makes these repercussions significantly worse and throws some natural systems off balance, permanently, impacting millions of lives and devastating livelihoods.
Deeds, not words
In the 2016 Paris climate accords, nations committed to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” To accomplish this, nations agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pledged to limit their emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050.
Despite the promises, it’s not happening fast enough. We only have a few years left on the climate clock before global warming reaches 1.5 degrees. Based on the current lack of speed in moving to net zero, in all probability we will exceed this global red line by the end of the decade.
1.5 degrees is an average, not a limit
The average temperature rise is a general indicator of where many of the natural systems that sustain us reach a dangerous turning point. However, global warming is not a uniform process and some areas, such as the poles, are warming much faster than others. Closer to home, temperatures in Europe have increased at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years. Some places have already crossed the 1.5 degrees red line.
The climate crisis does not begin at 1.5 degrees global average warming – as we know, it’s already here. Neither does the world end when we exceed 1.5 degrees. But we want to act in time, while we still have the chance at limiting the temperature rise below this threshold, and keep what is already a climate emergency from becoming a catastrophe.
Ready to take the next step?
Most of the solutions already exist; what’s really needed is more people to join in right now. Changes in personal behaviour make a difference but collective action makes a much bigger difference.
We believe in the power of local action, in an integrated approach to tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. We can address carbon consequences faster if more people join the kinds of climate-related initiatives that also help strengthen their local communities and make better places to live.
Nothing big happens by thinking small, so check out these 23 community actions for ideas and inspiration about what you can do next.
Degrees of Global Warming. The solid line shows 5-year average of global land and ocean temperature anomalies (NOAA). Dotted lines show different percentiles of warming predictions according to Raftery et.al, 2017.