A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines the projected impacts of climate change following a predicated increase of 1.5°C global warming. This is the first in a series commissioned by the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Research by scientists including Dr Sally Brown, lead author, at the University of Southampton has provided information upon which the report draws, including protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels. Critically, they show that if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, sea levels will only rise by 40cm; 38cm lower than the ‘no action’ model. Other findings among their work conclude that an area three times the size of the UK could be exposed to flooding without any climate change mitigation action.
It is clear from their study that there is an ‘extremely narrow window’ for us to act. Dr Philip Goodwin states, “A carbon-neutral society is required by the 2040s, to prevent warming exceeding 1.5 °C, or else we must prepare for the increased impacts of climate change on the coasts.”
“Climate change mitigation will make a substantial difference to the inevitable impacts of sea-level rise over very long time scales, with between 1.5% and 5.4% of the world’s population exposed to flooding in 2300 depending on how well we mitigate for climate change.” – Dr Sally Brown, lead author on the study.
The main issues highlighted by the team based at Ocean and Earth Sciences are affecting those who live on small islands or low-lying densely populated areas such as the South-East coast of America, and will also affect fragile environments such as mangroves, which often provide natural protection for coastlines.
Other findings include, but are not limited to: 70-90% of coral reef loss with a 1.5ºC increase in temperature, in contrast to an almost 100% loss with 2ºC, and that many animals and plants, including important pollinating insects, would lose half their habitat with a 2ºC increase. It also highlights that is a risk to bank on the development and improvement of carbon sequestration technologies, as it is unlikely that it will allow us to keep warming below 1.5ºC.
The report itself, ‘Impacts of 1.5ºC global warming on natural and human systems‘, is very easy to read so the general public are able to make sense of it and hold the policy makers accountable.