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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

On Sunday evening eastern time, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release its special report on the risks and benefits of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, above preindustrial levels.

Why it matters: The report is expected to contain sobering findings about how difficult it will be to meet the 1.5-degree target, which is an aspirational goal contained in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Every country in the world — except the U.S. — intends to honor the 2015 agreement, and the report will help inform negotiators in the next round of climate talks, set for December.

By the numbers:

  • We are currently on track for global warming of between 2.7 to 3.7°C by 2100, according to Kelly Levin, a scientist with the nonpartisan World Resources Institute.
  • To meet the 1.5-degree target, we'd need to reach net zero emissions by mid-century, and negative emissions thereafter, using carbon removal technologies.
  • Emissions in 2030 would also need to be about 50% less than 2010 levels.

Yes, but: Current emissions projections show the world is on track to increase emissions through 2030.

Between the lines: Some climate scientists are making clear that the 1.5-degree target, which is seen as low-lying island nations' best hope for long-term survival, is effectively out of reach. For example, the report is expected to call for a scaling up of carbon removal technologies, such as direct air capture, in order to reach negative emissions as soon as possible.

That alone will be a heavy lift, since these technologies are currently in their infancy.

"Overall, the idea that we can limit warming to 1.5°C is so ridiculous that it doesn't seem to even merit thinking about it," said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

"It is technically feasible for me to fly to the moon in the next 10 years, but it is clearly not feasible in a broader sense. With 1.5°C it is potentially feasible from a technical perspective, but unless the political, social and technical aspects of feasibility are aligned, it is not going to happen."
— Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway

Tom Damassa, climate program director at Oxfam America, told Axios that even 1.5 degrees of warming will cause hardships for millions.

We're already seeing widespread changes due to the nearly 1-degree of warming experienced so far. "1.5 [degrees] was never going to be some sort of magical threshold. I hope what the report makes clear is there is no safe level of climate change,” Damassa said.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
45 mins ago - Technology

Israel's new PM Naftali Bennett made his name as a millionaire tech founder

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Naftali Bennett yesterday became prime minister of Israel, succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu, after his power-sharing government survived a vote of confidence.

Why it matters: Bennett becomes Israel's first new prime minister since 2009, and he takes office as Netanyahu stands trial for corruption.

2 hours ago - World

Biden at NATO summit: Collective defense is "a sacred obligation"

President Joe Biden is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO summit. Photo: Patrick Semansky/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed the United States' commitment to NATO during a sit-down with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the president's first meeting of NATO's 2021 summit in Brussels.

Why it matters: Biden has used his first international trip as president to reassure allies of his administration's commitment to multilateralism and to NATO's Article 5, which stipulates that the entire alliance will respond to an attack on any member nation.

Climate reality collides with rhetoric at the G7 summit

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Leaders of the G7 agreed to a sweeping new agenda over the weekend. But while the communique they issued is lofty in goals, it lacks crucial details on climate.

Why it matters: The G7's paucity of specifics on climate finance and domestic coal consumption, in particular, calls into question the ability of the wealthiest nations to take sufficient action on global warming.